Editorial Article: How Austria’s Largest Brewer Ensures Quality Control

SelectScience® spoke to Helmut Klein, Laboratory Manager at Brau Union Austria AG, about the technology he uses every day

16 Jun 2016


SelectScience® spoke to Helmut Klein, Laboratory Manager at Brau Union Austria AG, about the technology he uses every day

 

Brau Union Austria AG (BBAG) is the largest brewer in Austria, producing almost 500 million liters of beer a year, and serving around 50,000 customers. Part of the Heineken group, Brau Union produces or sells well-known beverages such as Guinness, Desperados and Strongbow, as well as soft drinks such as Fanta and Sprite. SelectScience spoke to Helmut Klein, a Laboratory Manager in Quality Assurance & Development at Brau Union, about the technology enabling his work.

As lab manager, Helmut explained, he “organizes the workload, as well as the development and introduction of new equipment and new methods”. His lab analyzes both the finished beverage, and the raw materials – in the case of beer, this includes samples such as malt and water. Generally, revealed Helmut, the analysis “is for quality control, apart from a little bit of safety testing. For example, nitrate in water has to be below 15mg/l to comply with regulations”.

 

Analytes of interest

In the case of beer, “we can analyze over 300 different parameters”, explained Helmut, but mostly the focus is on “the pH, color, extract, alcohol and bitterness”. Another area of regular analysis is aroma parameters, such as levels of “different esters and alcohols and diacetyl”. The “total nitrogen in the final product, or nitrogen in raw materials, and the moisture” are also measured.

Quantifying the bitterness of the final beer is very important, as it forms a large part of the beer’s flavor. Analyzing the bitterness by HPLC is “the best method because it gives you the most information, but it is time consuming and you need special equipment”, Helmut explained. However, using a discreet, automated, analyzer, such as the Thermo Scientific™ Gallery™ Plus Beermaster, “saves time in the laboratory, is easy and gives results very quickly”, he revealed.

Other important analytes are still analyzed using HPLC, including sugars and heat load indicators such as 5-hydroxy-methyl-furfural and furfural. Helmut’s lab also uses GC to analyze the aroma parameters of the beer, as well as techniques such as ICP-OES and atomic absorption spectroscopy.

 

Open to change

There is increasing regulation in the brewing industry, published by the European Brewing Convention. However, the main motivation for innovation and change for Brau Union Austria AG is “to control our quality and our process”, Helmut explained. “What’s important isn’t the method used, but that we understand what we are analyzing by different methods.” Therefore, “we are open to change in methods and procedures” in the lab, as may be necessary to keep up with tightening guidelines.

 

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