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Belgian beer landscape mapped using scientific insights

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Dr. Miguel Roncoroni and Prof. Kevin Verstrepen (VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology) have published the very first scientific beer atlas that explains how each beer relates to other beers on the basis of a unique dataset. The scientists analyzed 250 classic and less classic Belgian beers using the latest technologies to measure various aroma compounds. These measurements, in combination with feedback from a trained tasting panel, yielded an unbiased, in-depth description and comparison of Belgian beers.  The results are summarized in a new book, ‘Belgian beer, tested and tasted’, that allows beer enthusiasts as well as novices to understand beer aroma, explore their personal preferences and discover new Belgian brews.

 

Filling a scientific gap

Prof. Kevin Verstrepen (VIB-KU Leuven): “We started this research project out of frustration – as scientists and as beer lovers – with the lack of solid data and figures to objectively describe and compare our famous Belgian beers. Most beer books offer a more or less vague description and assessment based on a short tasting session in which one or a few tasters assess a large number of beers in circumstances that are not always ideal.”

In response to this knowledge gap, Verstrepen and Roncoroni decided about five years ago to fully analyze 250 Belgian brews in their lab at VIB and KU Leuven.  First, they put together a panel of 15 trained and selected tasters for a scientific blind tasting of each beer, where each taster scored 70 specific parameters.  In addition, they used the latest technologies to measure parameters such as alcohol content, color and bitterness, as well as the concentrations of 270 key aroma compounds. 

 

A complete atlas

These measurements allowed the researchers to describe every beer in detail with exact values for various flavors and aromas. The results were summarized for each beer and then all beers were compared and placed on a map. In addition, the authors also provide a brief history of the breweries and their beers, explain how the aroma of a beer is created, and discuss how all beers were analyzed and compared. 

Dr. Miguel Roncoroni (VIB-KU Leuven): “All this information allows us to have a better understanding of beer aromas, to systematically discover different Belgian beers and to better understand what your personal preferences are. Or simply to look at which beer is most like Stella Artois, Duvel, Chimay or Westvleteren 12, of course.”

 

Benefitting future research and researchers

Part of the revenue from this book will be put toward scientific research, and part will go to ‘Science on Tour’, a school program that VIB set up, in which young scientists swap their lab at the university for a school, where they spend a day to set up a real scientific experiment with children aged 8 to 12. It is another way of stimulating the interest in science among young children.

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