Saskatchewan’s Savior of Suds

26-year old Monique Haakensen, a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan, has spent her years in college obsessed by beer. But not in the way you might think. She’s a doctoral candidate in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and her area of study is beer spoilage.

As she says on her student webpage:

Through my background in microbiology and bioinformatics, and current work with beer-spoilage bacteria within the medical pathology department, I have learned of the many parallels and interconnections that exist between all areas of science and witnessed the synergistic benefits to be gained through interdisciplinary utilization of knowledge. My unique blend of interests and background has given me a distinct advantage in developing diagnostic tools directed towards beer-spoilage bacteria. My current research focus in on the genetic basis for the ability of Lactobacillus and Pediococcus isolates to grow in the inhospitable environment of beer.

Monique Haakensen

Lethbridge Herald is reporting that she’s “helped discover three new methods of detecting beer-spoiling bacteria, including a DNA-based technique, that has big breweries around the globe hoisting pints in celebration.” Her work will help breweries get their beer to market faster and also reduce laboratory costs because based on her work, using DNA methods, it can now be determined in one or two days whether or a particular batch of beer will spoil prematurely. Normally, this process can tale 2-3 months.

“Part of her research also includes the discovery of two new genes involved in beer spoilage and three new groups of bacteria that can ruin beer.” Another masters student working with Haakensen, Vanessa Pittet, has been helping sequence the spoilage genes in beer and they’re “also researching hops and how bacteria can grow in the presence of ethanol. She says the knowledge will also be valuable to the ethanol fuel industry.”

2 Replies to “Saskatchewan’s Savior of Suds”

  1. Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are necessary for Lambic and Oud Bruin. Beer spoilage is not a problem for brewpubs. Of course for industrial brewers, this development is welcome. However, for the discerning drinker, these beers are usually not even considered since they’re not Real Beer to begin with.

  2. “Breweries usually have to keep batches of beer for two to three months to make sure they haven’t spoiled before cases are shipped out on trucks to liquor stores, says Haakensen.”

    Pardon?!? I’m not aware of any brewery, large or small, that keeps beer for two to three months before shipping it. Unless it’s a style that requires aging, beer is shipped fresh from the brewery and typically consumed before its two to three months old (once again, unless its a style that can benefit from aging).

    However, new methods for detecting bacteria that could potentially spoil a beer is a fantastic discovery. And spoilage can definitely be a problem for brewpubs. Just because they don’t package and ship their product, doesn’t mean their equipment can’t get infected and spoil the beer they’re serving. If the new methods are cost affective, it could certainly help smaller breweries and brewpubs save money by preventing loss due to spoilage.

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