Probiotics – those “good bacteria” that supposedly benefit digestion alongside plenty of other health claims – are one of the hottest trends in food today. Probiotics are being touted in everything – from the obvious, like yogurt and kombucha, to the unexpected, like oddly probiotic-enhanced foods such as butter, granola bars and brownie mix. Now, a group of scientists from the National University of Singapore claim they have created the ultimate in trendy health foods – a probiotic beer!
Probiotics tend to prosper in fermented foods, which certainly includes beer. However, though bacteria in beer isn’t uncommon – they can be added on purpose to give sour beers their distinctly tart and funky flavors – getting active probiotics to survive in a beer is a different story. “While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics,” said Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, a fourth year student from the Food Science and Technology Programme who came up with the idea for the hopefully healthier brew. “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.”
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Working with NUS Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan, Chan took nine months perfecting a recipe that would help her reach her target of a live count of 1 billion probiotics per serving. To achieve that goal, she had to modify the brewing process, which resulted in a slower ferment and a relatively low alcohol content. “For this beer, we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic micro-organism. It will utilize sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavours,” she explained of the resulting sour beer. “The final product, which takes around a month to brew, has an alcohol content of about 3.5 percent.”