NUS student develops probiotic beer

By Nichola Murphy
Monday, 23 October, 2017

Beer drinkers may soon be raising a glass to researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) who have created a probiotic beer containing ‘good bacteria’.

A regular consumer of probiotic drinks herself, Chan Mei Zhi Alcine from the Food Science and Technology Programme at NUS thought up the concept of the probiotic beer for her final-year project.

The beer contains the probiotic strain Lactobacillus paracasei L26, which improves gut health and regulates the immune system. While many people rely on dairy to get probiotics, Alcine wanted to develop a dairy-free option for those who are lactose intolerant while also providing a healthier alternative to the popular alcoholic beverage, beer.

“While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics,” she explained.

The International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics recommends consuming a minimum of one billion probiotics per serving in order to achieve the health benefits. After testing six probiotic strains over nine months with various temperatures and different amounts of hops, Alcine and Associate Prof Liu discovered a formula for the beer that balanced the probiotic and hop ingredients. The NUS research team has filed a patent to protect the recipe.

The resulting product takes about a month to brew and has an alcohol content of 3.5%, just under the 4–6% of regular beers. The pale, bubbly drink has similar aesthetics to regular beer but with a more sour taste.

“For this beer, we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic microorganism. It will utilise sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavours,” said Alcine.

However, she stated that the probiotic beer should continue to be drunk in moderation; while the probiotics are not harmful, the beverage still contains alcohol.

“The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine’s invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends. I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well received by beer drinkers as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy,” Liu said.

Liu and Alcine plan to commercialise the product in the future, and the beer has already attracted the interest of a Japanese brewery company.

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