February 15, 2020 – The AIChE NDU Student Chapter organized a beer-brewing workshop in the Chemical Engineering Lab. Dr. Ghassan Kraidy, chairperson of the Electrical Engineering Department – and an experienced home brewer – led the workshop and provided the attendees with all the knowledge, equipment and support needed to conduct the experiment. Students from different engineering and non-engineering disciplines participated in the workshop.
The workshop included a presentation that introduced the students to the many genres of beer and gave a brief introduction on each one’s characteristics. In order to deepen understanding of the science and engineering behind beer brewing, links to chemical engineering courses was always drawn by Dr. Elias Feghali advisor of the AIChE-NDU student chapter. The students actively participated in the brewing steps and got hands-on experience on the technique. The workshop was also complemented by a visit to the Almaza Brewing where students were able to compare between the industrial process of brewing beer and its homemade counterpart.
Due to its high fermentation temperatures, ease of maintenance, and variety of flavors, the participants selected an India Pale Ale as their brew of choice. The workshop procured all the equipment and ingredients from The Brew Baron website, a brewing enthusiast website owned by NDU graduate Geoffrey Karaa.
Before the brewing process could begin, all the equipment needed to be sterilized to ensure that no bacteria could contaminate the ale – which would at best have resulted in malt vinegar. As rinsing with water can potentially contaminate the beer, the workshop used “Star San” is a no-rinse sanitizer to keep their equipment clean.
The grain bill consisted of Pale Ale malt and some Caramel malt that gave the beer a darker color. Summit hops were used for bittering, with Amarillo, Cascade, and Centennial for aromas and flavors. The participants mixed the malt with water to 68 oC for one hour in a mixture known as the “mash.” The resulting liquid, the wort, was then boiled before adding the hops for bittering and aromas. The wort was then cooled to 25 oC before finally adding the yeast. The beer was brewed in a plastic bucket with an airlock seal to contact with the surrounding air. Once the fermentation was complete, the participants added priming sugar before bottling: the sugar is eaten by the remaining yeast resulting in carbonation.
The sugar concentration was determined after each step using a refractometer as well as a hydrometer. Finally, the brewing products were left to ferment over 3 weeks in order to obtain the desired beer. The alcohol percentage was determined to be 5 % in volume.
The workshop was able to produce around 50 bottles of a citrusy and fruity IPA that the AIChE NDU student chapter bottled, designed a logo, and named “CHEM-E’s Beer.” The group is currently distributing beer bottles around campus as a welcome back initiative.
“The experience was intriguing,” said Laetitia Malkoun, secretary of AIChE NDU student chapter. “Not only was the workshop educational and exposed students to an industrial field they may join later in their career, but it was fun and exciting to work on a multidisciplinary workshop and come out with such a flavorful beverage!”
With the success of this first workshop, plans for a second one next year are already in the works.