A taste of science in VIB’s hypermodern brewery

Kevin Verstrepen’s team (VIB-KU Leuven) use yeast cells to study how cells adapt to their environment. With that understanding of genetics and molecular biology, the scientists also develop novel yeast variants for a wide range of applications: from beer, wine and chocolate to bioethanol, biofuels and pharmaceuticals. For instance, the team optimizes yeast strains to give beer more flavor and to ferment beer faster and better.

Many collaborations have been established with breweries and companies both at home and abroad. 

In 2017, with support from about 20 industrial partners, Professor Verstrepen has set up his own experimental brewery at the Kasteelpark Arenberg in Leuven. The brewery and its large-scale fermenters help bridge the gap between the lab and industry, allowing to study fermentation in depth and test how their newly developed yeasts behave in an industrial setting.

Several novel yeasts developed in the lab are already used for commercial beer production. In addition to that, Kevin Verstrepen and Miguel Roncoroni (VIB-KU Leuven) published the very first scientific beer atlas. It explains how each beer relates to other beers on the basis of comprehensive chemical analyses and blind tastings by a trained panel. Sales of the book, named ‘Belgian beer, tested and tasted’, immediately went through the roof.

The book maps 250 of the best Belgian beers on the basis of a scientific analysis by a large, trained panel of tasters. Kevin Verstrepen and Miguel Roncoroni tested the beers in their lab at the University of Leuven’s Institute for Beer Research and the VIB-KU Leuven Center for Microbiology.