Historic Beer Birthday: Morton Coutts

Today is the birthday of Morton W. Coutts (February 7, 1904-June 25, 2004) who was a “New Zealand inventor who revolutionized the science of brewing beer,” and “is best known for the continuous fermentation method.”


Here’s a basic biography from the DB Breweries website:

Morton Coutts (1904-2004) was the inheritor of a rich brewing tradition dating back to the 19th century. Like his father, W. Joseph Coutts and grandfather, Joseph Friedrich Kühtze, Morton Coutts was more an innovator and scientific brewer than a businessman. He was foundation head brewer of Dominion Breweries Ltd under (Sir) Henry Kelliher and became a director of the company after his father’s death in 1946. He and Kelliher formed a formidable team-Coutts, the boffin-like heir to a rich brewing heritage, obsessed with quality control and production innovation, and Kelliher, a confident, entrepreneurial businessman, able to hold his own with politicians and competitors.


Morton Coutts’ most important contribution was the development in the 1950s of the system of continuous fermentation, patented in 1956, to give greater beer consistency and product control. The continuous fermentation process was so named because it allows a continuous flow of ingredients in the brewing, eliminating variables to produce the ideal beer continuously. The system achieved this by scrapping open vats-the weak link in the old system-and replacing them with enclosed sealed tanks. Continuous fermentation allows the brew to flow from tank to tank, fermenting under pressure, and never coming into contact with the atmosphere, even when bottled. Coutts’ research showed that his process could produce consistent, more palatable beer with a longer shelf life than under batch brewing. A London newspaper described it as a “brewer’s dream and yours too”. Coutts patented the process, and subsequently the patent rights were sold worldwide as other brewers recognised the inherent benefits of continuous processes. Although many attempted to implement the technology, most failed due to their inability to apply the rigorous hygiene techniques developed and applied by Coutts. Eventually, in 1983, Coutts’ contribution to the industry was honoured in New Zealand.

And DB Breweries also has a timeline with key events in the brewery’s history, including dates from Coutts’ life.

The Waitemata Brewery in 1933, after it became part of DB Breweries.

As for his most influential invention, continuous fermentation, here are some resources, one from New Zealand’s Science Trust Roadshow with Morton Coutts — Continuous Fermentation System. And after I visited New Zealand, I wrote a sidebar on it for an article I did for All About Beer, and also later when a German university announced something very similar a few years ago in Everything Old Is New Again: Non-Stop Fermentation.


Coutts later in life.

Also, here’s the story of him creating DB Export The Untold Story, featuring this fun video.

Historic Beer Birthday: Louis Camille Maillard

Today is the birthday of French physician and chemist Louis Camille Maillard (February 4, 1878-May 12, 1936) who was the Doogie Howser of his era, joining the faculty of the University of Nancy when he was only sixteen. He rose to prominence thanks to his work on kidney disorders and later taught medicine at the prestigious University of Paris.


But his biggest contribution, especially to brewing, was an accidental discovery he made in 1912, which today we call the Maillard Reaction, or Browning Reaction.

Here’s the basic description, from Wikipedia:

The Maillard Reaction a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives browned food its desirable flavor. Seared steaks, pan-fried dumplings, biscuits (widely known in North America as cookies), breads, toasted marshmallows, and many other foods undergo this reaction. It is named after French chemist Louis-Camille Maillard, who first described it in 1912 while attempting to reproduce biological protein synthesis.

The reaction is a form of non-enzymatic browning which typically proceeds rapidly from around 140 to 165 °C (284 to 329 °F). At higher temperatures, caramelization and subsequently pyrolysis become more pronounced.

The reactive carbonyl group of the sugar reacts with the nucleophilic amino group of the amino acid, and forms a complex mixture of poorly characterized molecules responsible for a range of odors and flavors. This process is accelerated in an alkaline environment (e.g., lye applied to darken pretzels), as the amino groups (RNH3+) are deprotonated and, hence, have an increased nucleophilicity. The type of the amino acid determines the resulting flavor. This reaction is the basis of the flavoring industry. At high temperatures, a potential carcinogen called acrylamide can be formed.

In the process, hundreds of different flavor compounds are created. These compounds, in turn, break down to form yet more new flavor compounds, and so on. Each type of food has a very distinctive set of flavor compounds that are formed during the Maillard reaction. It is these same compounds that flavor scientists have used over the years to make reaction flavors.

It was, and is, for food science and understanding how heat and cooking create flavors. If you want to dive deeper, the Warwick Medical School has an article on the Historical Development of the reaction, and NPR’s Food for Thought on the centenary of Malliard’s discovery posted 100 Years Ago, Maillard Taught Us Why Our Food Tastes Better Cooked.

But it was also very important to brewing, too, especially when it comes to malting and roasting malt to get different flavors and colors in the beer. For example, here’s UC Davis professor Charlie Bamforth writing about the Malliard Reaction in his book Grape vs. Grain.


Not surprisingly, John Mallett, in his recent book Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse, mentions Malliard’s contributions to brewing science.


The chemistry website Compound Interest has a good explanation with their post, Food Chemistry – The Maillard Reaction.


And finally, Popular Science’s BeerSci series discusses the Maillard Reaction in How Beer Gets Its Color.

Historic Beer Birthday: James Watt

Today is the birthday of James Watt, not the BrewDog co-founder, but the “Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist who improved on Thomas Newcomen’s 1712 Newcomen steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1781, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.

While working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, Watt became interested in the technology of steam engines. He realised that contemporary engine designs wasted a great deal of energy by repeatedly cooling and reheating the cylinder. Watt introduced a design enhancement, the separate condenser, which avoided this waste of energy and radically improved the power, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of steam engines. Eventually he adapted his engine to produce rotary motion, greatly broadening its use beyond pumping water.

Watt attempted to commercialise his invention, but experienced great financial difficulties until he entered a partnership with Matthew Boulton in 1775. The new firm of Boulton and Watt was eventually highly successful and Watt became a wealthy man. In his retirement, Watt continued to develop new inventions though none was as significant as his steam engine work. He died in 1819 aged 83.

He developed the concept of horsepower, and the SI unit of power, the watt, was named after him.”

186a,James Watt
A portrait of James Watt, by Carl Frederik von Breda, completed in 1792.

Of course, from our perspective his most important contribution was to the industrial revolution, and specifically the improvement of brewery efficiency. While Watt did not invent the steam engine, his improvements made it practical, especially in breweries.

The Watt Steam Engine

The Watt steam engine (alternatively known as the Boulton and Watt steam engine) was the first type of steam engine to make use of a separate condenser. It was a vacuum or “atmospheric” engine using steam at a pressure just above atmospheric to create a partial vacuum beneath the piston. The difference between atmospheric pressure above the piston and the partial vacuum below drove the piston down the cylinder. James Watt avoided the use of high pressure steam because of safety concerns. Watt’s design became synonymous with steam engines, due in no small part to his business partner, Matthew Boulton.

The Watt steam engine, developed sporadically from 1763 to 1775, was an improvement on the design of the Newcomen engine and was a key point in the Industrial Revolution.

Watt’s two most important improvements were the separate condenser and rotary motion. The separate condenser, located external to the cylinder, condensed steam without cooling the piston and cylinder walls as did the internal spray in Newcomen’s engine. Watt’s engine’s efficiency was more than double that of the Newcomen engine. Rotary motion was more suitable for industrial power than the oscillating beam of Newcomen’s engine.


Watt’s most famous steam engine was the one installed at the Whitbread Brewery in 1785, which was known as the Whitbread Engine. Today it’s located in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia.

The Whitbread Engine

The Whitbread Engine preserved in the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Australia, built in 1785, is one of the first rotative steam engines ever built, and is the oldest surviving. A rotative engine is a type of beam engine where the reciprocating motion of the beam is converted to rotary motion, producing a continuous power source suitable for driving machinery.

This engine was designed by the mechanical engineer James Watt, manufactured for the firm Boulton and Watt and originally installed in the Whitbread brewery in London, England. On decommissioning in 1887 it was sent to Australia’s Powerhouse Museum (then known as the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum) and has since been restored to full working order.

Installation of the Watt Steam Engine at Whitbread.

History of the Whitbread Engine

The engine was ordered by Samuel Whitbread in 1784 to replace a horse wheel at the Chiswell Street premises of his London brewery. It was installed in 1785, the second steam engine to be installed in a brewery, and enabled Whitbread to become the largest brewer in Britain. The horse wheel was retained for many years, serving as a backup in case the steam engine broke down. The drive gear of the engine, still evident today, was connected to a series of wooden line shafts which drove machinery within the brewery. Connected machinery included rollers to crush malt; an Archimedes’ screw, that lifted the crushed malt into a hopper; a hoist, for lifting items into the building; a three-piston pump, for pumping beer; and a stirrer within a vat. There was also a reciprocating pump connected to the engine’s beam, used to pump water from a well to a tank on the roof of the brewery.

In a marketing coup for both the brewer and the engine’s manufacturer, King George III and Queen Charlotte visited the brewery on 24 May 1787. The engine remained in service for 102 years, until 1887.

The engine made its way to the Powerhouse Museum (then known as the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum) through Archibald Liversidge, an English-born chemist, scientist and academic at the University of Sydney, who was a trustee of the museum. Liversidge was in London in 1887, at the time of the engine’s decommissioning, and when he heard that the engine was to be scrapped he asked whether it could be donated to the museum. Whitbread & Co agreed on condition that the engine be set up and used for educational purposes.

Subsequently, the engine was dismantled and shipped to Sydney on the sailing ship Patriarch. For shipping purposes, the large flywheel was divided into two halves. While the flywheel’s rim could be unbolted, the hub with attached spokes had to be drilled through and rejoined after shipping. A shortage of funds meant the engine was kept in storage for several years. Eventually the engine was erected in its own engine house, behind the main building at the museum’s old Harris Street premises. During the 1920s or 1930s, an electric motor was added so that people could see the engine in motion. During the 1980s the Technology Restoration Society was formed in order to raise funds for the engine’s restoration. Restoration took place at the Museum’s Castle Hill site. During the restoration, some parts – including the piston – were replaced to preserve the original parts. The engine, restored to steaming condition, was installed in the new Powerhouse Museum in 1988. Today the engine is sometimes operated as part of the Museum’s Steam Revolution exhibition, steam being provided by the Museum’s central boiler.


Technical specifications

The engine has a 0.64 metres (25 in) diameter piston with a 1.8 metres (6 ft) long stroke, driven by a mean effective pressure of 70 kilopascals (10 psi). Its top speed is 20 revolutions per minute (rpm) of the flywheel. In the engine’s youth, it had a maximum power output of approximately 26 kilowatts (35 hp).[It underwent a series of alterations in 1795, converting it from single-acting to double-acting; it was alleged at the time that this conversion improved its power to 52 kilowatts (70 hp), but the Powerhouse Museum claims this is false. A centrifugal governor, which moderates the level of steam provided if the engine begins to overload was added some years after this, and beam and main driving rod, both originally of wood, were replaced in sand-cast iron.


Apart from its age, the engine is notable in that it embodies the four innovations which made Boulton & Watt’s engines a significant driver of the Industrial Revolution. The first is a separate condenser, which increases the efficiency of the engine by allowing the main cylinder to remain hot at all times. The second is the parallel motion, which converts the up-and-down motion of the piston into the arcing motion of the beam, whilst maintaining a rigid connection. The rigid connection allowed the engine to be double-acting, meaning the piston could push as well as pull the beam. Third is the centrifugal governor, used to automatically regulate the speed of the engine. Finally the sun and planet gear convert the reciprocating motion of the beam into a rotating motion, which can be used to drive rotating machinery.

There’s also another Boulton & Watt engine at the National Museum of Scotland. It “was built in 1786 to pump water for the Barclay & Perkins Brewery in Southwark, London. Made double-acting in 1796, it was then capable of grinding barley and pumping water. At that time, no one else could supply a steam engine that performed both these actions at once. With some minor modifications, it remained in service at the brewery until 1884.”


And this is more from the National Museum of Scotland:

James Watt (1736-1819) was a prolific inventor, surveyor, instrument maker and engineer. His engines dramatically increased the power that could be generated through steam.

By entering into partnership with the Birmingham magnate Matthew Boulton in 1774, James Watt was able to channel the vast resource of Boulton’s Soho Foundry. Their partnership was so successful that the Boulton & Watt firm supplied engines and expertise to countries as far a field as Russia and Greece.

After pumping water and grinding barley for almost eighty-seven years, the engine came out of service in 1883.

You can see a diagram of the engine in action here:

Watt’s Steam Engine


Inside the Engine


Lighting the Fire


Running the Engine


If you want to read more in-depth about Watt’s development of the steam engine, Chapter III of “The Development of the Modern Steam-Engine: James Watt and His Contemporaries” is online, and there’s also various links at Watt’s page at the Scottish Engineering Hall of Fame.


We Do More Than Just Brew Beer

This is a fun piece of illustration, an infographic New Year’s Eve card of sorts, commissioned by Baltika, which is a Russian brewery that’s part of the Carlsberg Group. They hired Anton Egorov to create something like Мы больше, чем просто варят пиво, which is a reverse translation of their English version of the infographic, “We Do More Than Just Brew Beer.” Egorov completed it in December of 2014, so presumably they used it in either 2015 or 2016, since according to the artist’s description, his illustrations were for a corporate calendar. That’s one I would have liked.


Historic Beer Birthday: Michael Joseph Owens

Today is the birthday of Michael Joseph Owens (January 1, 1859–December 27, 1923). He “was an inventor of machines that could automate the production of glass bottles.”


If you’ve ever opened a beer bottle, you’ve probably held something he had a hand in developing, because he made beer bottles cheap and affordable for breweries, and his company has continued to improve upon his designs. Based on his patents, in 1903 he founded the Owens Bottle Company, which in 1929 merged with the Illinois Glass Company in 1929 to become Owens-Illinois, Inc. Today, O-I is an international company with 80 plants in 23 countries, joint ventures in China, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, the United States and Vietnam, with 27,000 employees worldwide and 2,100-plus worldwide patents.

Michael J. Owens in front of one of his bottling machines from a film shot in 1910.

Here’s a short biography of Owens:

Michael Joseph Owens was an inventor of machines that could automate the production of glass bottles.

Michael J. Owens was born on January 1, 1859, in Mason County, West Virginia. As a teenager, he went to work for a glass manufacturer in Newark, Ohio.

During the late 1800s, Toledo, Ohio was the site of large supplies of natural gas and high silica-content sandstone — two items necessary for glass manufacturing. Numerous companies either formed in or relocated to Toledo, including the New England Glass Company, which relocated to Toledo in 1888. This same year, the company’s owner, Edward Drummond Libbey, hired Owens.

Within a short time, Owens had become a plant manager for Libbey in Findlay, Ohio. At this point in time, glass manufacturers in the United States had to blow glass to produce the bottles. This was a slow and tedious process. Owens sought to invent a machine that could manufacture glass bottles, rather than having to rely on skilled laborers, greatly speeding up the manufacturing process. On August 2, 1904, Owens patented a machine that could automatically manufacture glass bottles. This machine could produce four bottles per second. Owens’s invention revolutionized the glass industry. His machine also caused tremendous growth in the soft drink and beer industries, as these firms now had a less expensive way of packaging their products.

In 1903, after Owens had invented his bottle machine but before he had patented the invention, Owens formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in Toledo. Libbey helped finance Owens’s company. This firm initially manufactured Owens’s bottle machine. By 1919, the firm had begun to manufacture bottles, and the company changed its name to the Owens Bottle Company. The company grew quickly, acquiring the Illinois Glass Company in 1929. The Owens Bottle Company became known as the Owens-Illinois Glass Company this same year. In 1965, the company changed its name one final time. It became and remains known as Owens-Illinois, Inc.

Owens retired in 1919. He did not live to see his company grow into such an important manufacturer of glass. He died on December 27, 1923, in Toledo, Ohio. Over the course of his life, Owens secured forty-five patents.

Michael Owens / sally

Here’s his biography from his Wikipedia page:

He was born in Mason County, West Virginia on January 1, 1859. He left school at the age of 10 to start a glassware apprenticeship at J. H. Hobbs, Brockunier and Company in Wheeling, West Virginia.

In 1888 he moved to Toledo, Ohio and worked for the Toledo Glass Factory owned by Edward Drummond Libbey. He was later promoted to foreman and then to supervisor. He formed the Owens Bottle Machine Company in 1903. His machines could produce glass bottles at a rate of 240 per minute, and reduce labor costs by 80%.

Owens and Libbey entered into a partnership and the company was renamed the Owens Bottle Company in 1919. In 1929 the company merged with the Illinois Glass Company to become the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.


To read more about Owens’ contributions, check out Michael Owens’ Glass Bottles Changed The World, by Scott S. Smith, Owens the Innovator at the University of Toledo, Today in Science, and the West Virginia Encyclopedia has a history of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company.


Patent No. 5077061A: Method Of Making Alcohol-Free Beer

Today in 1991, US Patent 5077061 A was issued, an invention of Christian Zurcher and Rudiger Gruss, assigned to Binding-Brauerei Ag, for their “Method of Making Alcohol-Free or Nearly Alcohol-Free Beer.” Here’s the Abstract:

A method of producing an alcohol-free or low alcohol beer comprising thermally breaking malt draff to obtain a malt draff mash from a substrate selected from the group consisting of a full- or a high-alcohol content beer brewing base or a protein fraction obtained from malt draff by digesting, boiling or autoclaving during the production of edible draff meal in a draff mash. The method homogenizes, extrudes and mechanically removes insoluble chaff from the brewing base prior to thermally breaking up the malt draff, cooling the malt draff mash to about 72° C., emzymatically breaking up the malt draff mash by adding coarsely ground malt, heating the mash to 80°-85° C., adding thereto coarsely ground malt premashed in cold water to produce a wort with a final fermentation degree of at most 60% and a temperature of 70°-74° C., which is maintained until iodine normality is attained and subjecting the iodine normal mash to mashing.

I’ve visited the brewery in Frankfurt, and done several blind panel tastings of N/A beer, and Clausthaler consistently comes in at our near the top. Also, it was our best-selling non-alcoholic when I was the chain beer buyer at BevMo. too.

Patent No. 2919193A: Process Of Preventing Haze Formation In Beverages

Today in 1959, US Patent 2919193 A was issued, an invention of Harry J. Sandell, for his “Process of Preventing Haze Formation in Beverages.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes these claims:

The present invention relates to a method of reducing or preventing formation of hazes in fermented or unfermented beverages produced from cereals, fruits, other vegetable materials or parts thereof, and especially in malt beverages, e.g. beer, and in fruit juices and wines.

The present invention is based upon the surprising discovery that it is possible to prevent the formation of a haze in beverages such as, for instance, malt beverages, fruit juices and wines, by the addition of polyvinyl pyrrolidone or a homologue thereof in an excess over the above-mentioned quantity, i.e. 0 to 8 g. per hectolitre, which is necessary for maximum precipitation of the haze forming constituents. The process of the instant invention thus comprises adding polyvinyl pyrrolidone in a total quantity of at least 1 g. per hectolitre and in any case in an excess quantity of at least 50% over that needed for maximum precipitation. The stated lower limit 0 g. per hectolitre for the quantity of PVP that is needed for maximum precipitation either refers to the case (1) in which PVP having an average molecular weight of below about 15,000 is used and thus cannot form any precipitate or refers to the case (2) in which the kind or quality of beverage, e.g. beer, used does not give any precipitate with PVP even if the average molecular weight of the PVP used is above about 15,000. In the first-mentioned case, i.e. WhenP having a lower average molecular weight than 15,000 is used, it has been found, that a good result is obtained if the treatment with PVP is carried out according to the above-mentioned invention, i.e. by adding at least 1 g. of PVP per hectolitre. In the second case there is also obtained a good result if to the beverage there is added at least 1 g. of’PVP independent of its average molecular weight. While thus an excess of’P-VP of 1 g. per hectolitre might be considered as usable it has been found that when using PVP of an average molecular weight below about 15,000 or above about 15,000 it is suitable to add totally at least 5 grams of PVP per hectolitre provided that there is added at least 50% in excess over the quantity of PVP of’O to 8 grams per hectolitre that is needed for maximum precipitation of the haze forming-constituents with the PVP in question.


Beer Birthday: Michael Lewis

Today is 80th birthday of Dr. Michael Lewis, who ran the brewing sciences department at U.C. Davis beginning in 1962, and became the Professor Emeritus in 1995, when Charlie Bamforth succeeded him, although Dr. Lewis remains active in teaching and in brewing. He was my instructor, along with Charlie, when I took the brewing short course at Davis a decade or so ago. He’s taught countless working brewers over the years and has greatly influenced the industry as a whole. Join me in wishing Dr. Lewis a very happy birthday.

Michael receiving an award for a lifetime of achievement at the 2008 CBC in San Diego.

Michael with Ruhstaller founder J.D. Paino at Sudwerk (photo from the Davis Enterprise).

Michael (at far left) with the gang at Sudwerk Privatbrauerei in Davis (photo from the Davis Enterprise).

Historic Beer Birthday: Louis Pasteur

Today is the birthday of Louis Pasteur (December 27, 1822–September 28, 1895). He “was a French chemist and microbiologist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and preventions of diseases, and his discoveries have saved countless lives ever since. He reduced mortality from puerperal fever, and created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. His medical discoveries provided direct support for the germ theory of disease and its application in clinical medicine. He is best known to the general public for his invention of the technique of treating milk and wine to stop bacterial contamination, a process now called pasteurization. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of bacteriology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch, and is popularly known as the ‘father of microbiology.'”

Portrait of Louis Pasteur

But, of course, for the brewing industry, he’s best remembered for his “Studies on Fermentation,” which he published in 1876.

In 1876, Louis Pasteur published his ground-breaking volume, Études sur la Bière, soon translated into English as Studies On Fermentation. The book changed the course of brewing during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, representing a huge leap forward in the scientific understanding of the processes involved in beermaking. Brewers around the globe put Pasteur’s findings to work in their breweries, and thus plunged the industry headlong into the modern era.

In tribute to Pasteur’s tremendous contributions to brewing science, BeerBooks.com has reprinted Studies On Fermentation exactly as it appeared when first released in English, complete with all of Pasteur’s illustrations. An original 1879 edition was digitally scanned, professionally enhanced and reproduced in a hard cover format.

In his preface, Pasteur modestly wrote, “I need not hazard any prediction concerning the advantages likely to accrue to the brewing industry from the adoption of such a process of brewing as my study of the subject has enabled me to devise, and from an application of the novel facts upon which this process is founded. Time is the best appraiser of scientific work, and I am not unaware that an industrial discovery rarely produces all its fruits in the hands of its first inventor.”

But, of course, the brewing industry recognized almost immediately the impact that Pasteur’s work would have on the art and science of beermaking. Frank Faulkner, the British brewing scholar who performed the English translation, wrote, “Seeing the vast importance of Pasteur’s work from a practical point of view, after writing a review of it for the Brewers’ Journal, I determined to procure, at any rate for the use of my own pupils, a literal translation, illustrated by photo-lithographic copies of the original plates…It was on the completion of this translation that my views and desires expanded. The more I studied the work, the more I was convinced of its immense value to the brewer as affording him an intelligent knowledge of the processes and materials with which he deals…I determined accordingly to publish the work if I could secure the consent of its distinguished author…The debt which we English brewers owe to M[r]. Pasteur can hardly be over-estimated.”

While I’m sure there are probably many more, he had patents I highlighted last year, Patent No. 135245A: Improvement in Brewing Beer and Ale from 1873, and Patent No. 141072A: Manufacture of Beer and Yeast, in the same year.

A portrait of Louis Pasteur painted by Swedish-speaking Finnish artist Albert Edelfelt, in 1886.

Fermentation and germ theory of diseases

Pasteur demonstrated that fermentation is caused by the growth of micro-organisms, and the emergent growth of bacteria in nutrient broths is due not to spontaneous generation, but rather to biogenesis (Omne vivum ex vivo “all life from life”). He was motivated to investigate the matter while working at Lille. In 1856 a local wine manufacturer, M. Bigot, the father of his student, sought for his advice on the problems of making beetroot alcohol and souring after long storage. In 1857 he developed his ideas stating that: “I intend to establish that, just as there is an alcoholic ferment, the yeast of beer, which is found everywhere that sugar is decomposed into alcohol and carbonic acid, so also there is a particular ferment, a lactic yeast, always present when sugar becomes lactic acid.” According to his son-in-law, Pasteur presented his experiment on sour milk titled “Latate Fermentation” in August 1857 before the Société des Sciences de Lille. (But according to a memoire subsequently published, it was dated November 30, 1857). It was published in full form in 1858. He demonstrated that yeast was responsible for fermentation to produce alcohol from sugar, and that air (oxygen) was not required. He also demonstrated that fermentation could also produce lactic acid (due to bacterial contamination), which makes wines sour. This is regarded as the foundation of Pasteur’s fermentation experiment and disprove of spontaneous generation of life.


Pasteur’s research also showed that the growth of micro-organisms was responsible for spoiling beverages, such as beer, wine and milk. With this established, he invented a process in which liquids such as milk were heated to a temperature between 60 and 100 °C. This killed most bacteria and moulds already present within them. Pasteur and Claude Bernard completed the first test on April 20, 1862. Pasteur patented the process, to fight the “diseases” of wine, in 1865. The method became known as pasteurization, and was soon applied to beer and milk.

Beverage contamination led Pasteur to the idea that micro-organisms infecting animals and humans cause disease. He proposed preventing the entry of micro-organisms into the human body, leading Joseph Lister to develop antiseptic methods in surgery. Lister’s work in turn inspired Joseph Lawrence to develop his own alcohol-based antiseptic, which he named in tribute Listerine.


This is an ad is for Whitbread, from 1937, showing an illustration of Louis Pasteur working on his fermentation studies in a laboratory at Whitbread Brewing in 1871, nine years after he completed his first test of pasteurization, which took place April 20, 1862.

On his Wikipedia page, under the heading “Controversies, there’s this paragraph about his research into fermentation:

When Pasteur published his theory and experiments on fermentation in 1858, it was not new to science, neither the idea nor the experiment. In 1840 a German chemist Justus von Liebig had noted that yeast could induce fermentation in water. However, he did not know that yeasts were organisms. In 1856 another German, Friedrich Wilhelm Lüdersdorff, reported that yeasts were microorganisms that convert sugar into alcohol. In 1855, Antoine Béchamp, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Montpellier, showed that sugar was converted to sucrose and fructose in a closed bottle containing water and when he added calcium or zinc chloride to it, no reaction occurred. He also noticed moulds developing in the solution, but could not fathom the significance of it. He concluded that water was the factor for fermentation. He changed his conclusion in 1858 that water was not the main factor, in fact, fermentation was directly related to the growth of moulds, and moulds required air for growth. He regarded himself as the first to show the role of microorganisms in fermentation. Pasteur started his experiments only in 1857 and published his findings in 1858 (April issue of Comptes Rendus Chimie, Béchamp’s paper appeared in January issue), which, as Béchamp noted, did not bring any novel idea or experiments that earlier works had not shown. On the other hand, Béchamp was probably aware of Pasteur’s 1857 preliminary works. With both scientists claiming priority on the discovery, a bitter and protracted dispute lasted throughout their lives. Their rivalry extended to ideas on microbiology, pathogenesis, and germ theory. Particularly on the spontaneous generation because Pasteur in his 1858 paper explicitly stated that the lactic acid bacteria (he named them “lactic yeasts”), which caused wine souring, “takes birth spontaneously, as easily as beer yeast every time that the conditions are favourable.” This statement directly implied that Pasteur did believe in spontaneous generation. He condemned the ideas of Pasteur as “‘the greatest scientific silliness of the age”. However, Béchamp was on the losing side, as the BMJ obituary remarked: His name was associated with bygone controversies as to priority which it would be unprofitable to recall. Pasteur and Béchamp believed that fermentation was exclusively cellular activity, that is, it was only due to living cells. But later extraction of enzymes such as invertase by Marcellin Berthelot in 1860 showed that it was simply an enzymatic reaction.

Pasteur’s ground-breaking “Studies on Fermentation” is in the public domain, of course, so you can read the entire work, or just browse through it, at the Internet Archive.

In 1951, the United States Brewers Foundation featured Louis Pasteur in an ad, which was part of a series that used a Q&A format aimed at highlighting different positive aspects of beer and the brewing industry.

Historic Beer Birthday: Gerardus Johannes Mulder

Today is the birthday of Gerardus Johannes Mulder (December 26, 1802–April 18, 1880). He “was a Dutch organic and analytical chemist,” who wrote several technical chemical publications analyzing various substances, including one entitled “The Chemistry of Beer,” in 1856 or 57 (sources vary).

“He became a professor of chemistry at Rotterdam and later at Utrecht. While at the Utrecht University, Mulder described the chemical composition of protein. He claimed that albuminous substances are made up of a common radical, protein, and that protein had the same empirical formula except for some variation in amounts of sulfur and phosphorus, long before the polymer nature of proteins was recognized after work by Staudinger and Carrothers.

He was the first to use this name, protein, coined by Jöns Jacob Berzelius in a publication, his 1838 paper ‘On the composition of some animal substances’ (originally in French but translated in 1839 to German). In the same publication he also proposed that animals draw most of their protein from plants.”


Here’s a biography of Mulder from Encyclopedia.com:

Mulder studied medicine at the University of Utrecht (1819–1825), from which he graduated with a dissertation on the action of alkaloids of opium, De opio ejusque principiis, actione inter se comparatis (1825). He practiced medicine in Amsterdam and then in Rotterdam, where he also lectured at the Bataafsch Genootschap der Proefondervindelijke Wijsbegeerte and taught botany to student apothecaries. At the foundation of a medical school at Rotterdam (1828), Mulder became lecturer in botany, chemistry, mathematics, and pharmacy. His attention was directed primarily to the practical training of his students. In 1840 Mulder succeeded N. C. de Fremery as professor of chemistry at the University of Utrecht. He applied for his retirement in 1868 and spent the rest of his life in Bennekom. Besides publishing on scientific subjects, Mulder took an active part in education, politics and public health. The works of Faraday and Berzelius exerted a great influence on him; his Leerboek voor Scheikundige werktuigkunde (1832–1835) was written in the spirit of Faraday’s Chemical Manipulation. Mulder edited a Dutch translation by three of his students of Berzelius’ textbook of chemistry as Leerboek der Scheikunde (6 vols., 1834–1845). His difficult character caused problems with some of his pupils and with other chemists.

From 1826 to 1865 Mulder edited five Dutch chemical journals (see bibliography), in which most of his work was published. He worked in physics and in both general and physical chemistry, the latter in combination with medicine, physiology, agriculture, and technology. Most of his work had a polemic character. His most important contributions are in the field of physiological chemistry and soil chemistry, in which he published two extensive works that attracted much attention in translation despite their many mistakes and erroneous speculations.

Studies on proteins led Mulder to his protein theory (1838): he supposed that all albuminous substances consist of a radical compound (protein) of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, in combination with varying amounts of sulfur and phosphorus. The differences among proteins resulted from multiplication of the protein units in conjunction with the two other elements. Thus, casein was formulated as

10 protein units + S,

And serum albumin as

10 protein units + SP2.

In 1843 Mulder published the first volume of a treatise on physiological chemistry, which was translated into English as The Chemistry of Vegetable and Animal Physiology (1845–1849). At first both Liebig and Berzelius accepted Mulder’s analysis of proteins; but Liebig soon opposed the theory vigorously, and a deep conflict with Mulder ensued. In 1839–1840 Mulder investigated humic and ulmic acids and humus substances and determined the amounts of geic acid (acidum geïcum), apocrenic acid (acidum apocrenicum or Quellsatzsäure), crenic acid (acidum crenicum or Quellsäure), and humic acids in fertile soils (1844). The structure of these various brown or black substances is unknown. They are a group of aromatic acids of high molecular weight, which can be extracted from peat, turf, and decaying vegetable matter in the soil. The difference between these acids is the oxygen content. In the decay of vegetable matter ulmic acid is formed. According to Mulder, this has the formula C20H14O6(in modern equivalents). In contact with air and water more oxygen is absorbed, which results in the successive formation of humic acid (C20H12O6, geic acid (C20H12O7), apocrenic acid C24H12O12, and crenic acid (C12H12O8).

His studies on agricultural chemistry led to the treatise De scheikunde der bouwbare aarde (1860). Mulder confirmed Berzelius’ suggestion that theine and caffeine are identical (1838) and was the first to analyze phytol correctly in his researches on chlorophyll. Among his other works are technical chemical publications on indigo (1833), wine (1855), and beer (1856), detailed research on the assaying method for analyzing silver in relation to the volumetric silver determination of Gay-Lussac (1857), and a study on drying oils (1865).


While I can’t find the book itself, Julius E. Thausing mentions it in his “Theory and Practice of the Preparation of Malt and the Fabrication of Beer,”published in 1882.