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Lockdown reading and the science of beer

Brewing process

This week the Beer Idiots are excited about delving into an online course on the science of beer run by KU Leuven, reading a new beer book by Jan Swerts and checking out the compilation of beer styles by the European Beer Consumers Union.

Get an education on beer science

For more specialised info on beer you can still sign up to edX’s online course, Beer: the science of brewing, hosted by KU Leuven. The course starts on 2 November and is intense.

The course promises to teach you about how the ingredients, different biochemical reactions and process parameters in beer brewing influence the taste and aroma of beer.

The instructors include the always interesting Kevin Verstrepen, KU Leuven’s director of the VIB- KU Leuven Center for Microbiology, and director of the Leuven Institute for Beer Research; and Stijn Mertens, brewmaster at AB InBev.

You can take the course for free, or pay about €85 and receive a certificate of accomplishment. It is the same course that received popular acclaim when it ran earlier this year.

If you want a more formal degree, KU Leuven has also launched a new postgraduate course in malting and brewing sciences.

If you are looking for a first introduction to how beer is made, EDx also has a course by Wageningen University on the Science of Beer, which started on 6 October, but which is still open for enrolment.

Beer styles defined

The newly launched Beer Styles of Europe and Beyond is probably the best online resource for beer in Europe.

Developed over two years by the European Beer Consumers Union (EBCU) and Tim Webb, co-author of The World Atlas of Beer, the guide is a comprehensive list of the beer styles of Europe, and an attempt by the EBCU to mirror the efforts of the American Brewers Association (ABA) and Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP).

EBCU says it is first such document compiled by and for consumers. EBCU was founded as a consumer organisation in 1990 in Bruges, Belgium, by three national beer organisations: CAMRA (UK), Objectieve Bierproevers (Belgium) and PINT (Netherlands). It now includes national organisations from other European countries.

It is intended to list all of the established beer styles in current production in the UK and Europe and is intended as a “living manuscript”, updated monthly.

So if you have any suggestions for factual corrections and additions send them to beerstyles@ebcu.org.

The organisation notes that the last 20 years have seen independent, smaller scale, flavour-driven breweries spring up all around the world.  By spring 2020 the total was nearing 30,000, of which roughly 30% were in Europe.

Good Beer Guide 2021

CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) has published its annual good beer guide to pubs in the UK and the warnings are dire, as expected.

The guide features 4,500 pubs where you can get cask ale, out of an estimated 40,800 pubs in England and Wales. The consumer organisation says Covid-19 will “make or break” the industry.

CAMRA also noted that the number of independent UK brewers fell to 1,816 from 1,823 last year even though 163 breweries opened in the country this year.

Siba, the Society of Independent Brewers, says sales have slumped for its members by 82% during lockdown.

Shades of Beer

Belgium is producing its fair share of beer books, and the history of beer. We reported earlier on Eoghan Walsh’s recently released Brussels Beer City: Stories from Brussels’ Brewing Past.

Now Jan Swerts has released 50 Shades of Beer, a 250 page tome that Swerts bills as a book that tries to “spark curiosity and interest, all in a light and entertaining way, just like having a beer and a chat with friends at the local pub. It does not pretend to be highbrow literature but is a congenial attempt at accounting my very own discoveries and experiences all into one. It tries to explain the history of beer, as well as its traditions and legends.”


The book’s name stems from Swerts’ collection of 50 descriptions about “randomly chosen beers”, which the author has tasted over the last 40 years, along with their history and legends connected to them.

“It could be that the stories are made up or true. He leaves that to the “fantasy of the reader”, according to the blurb. Hmmm…is this self-confession of a sort wrapped inside a mystery?

Swerts, a native of Tongeren, Belgium is also the author of The Soulmatters(s), and co-author of The Solution – Het Ontwaken. 


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