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Brewing and Fermentation

Brewing, the longest and most successful fermentation process in Saskatchewan, began in 1883 in Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, in 1887 in Regina, and in 1915 in Saskatoon. The most enduring ventures were the Moose Jaw Brewing and Malting Company (1906–36); Prince Albert Breweries (then Sick’s Prince Albert Brewery, Molson Saskatchewan Brewery) (1924–86); Regina Brewery (then Sick’s Regina Brewery, Molson Regina Brewery, Molson Saskatchewan Brewery) (1907–2002); Adenac Brewing Co. (then Drewry’s Regina Brewery, Blue Label Brewery, Carling Breweries, Carling O’Keefe Breweries) (1928–80); the Saskatchewan Brewing Co. (then Labatt’s Saskatchewan Brewery) (1915– 93); and Hub City Brewing (then Western Canada Brewing, Drewry’s Ltd., Western Canada Breweries, O’Keefe Brewing Co., Carling-O’Keefe Breweries of Canada, Molson Breweries, and finally Great Western Brewery) (1928–present). The latter is the only “large” brewery existing today in Saskatchewan—in part due to the elimination of provincial boundary restrictions on production of beer. Since 1989–90, more than nineteen brew pubs operate in Saskatoon, Regina, Moose Jaw, Humboldt and Swift Current following changes in provincial legislation.

Brewing begins with a good source of water which is filtered to remove particulates and any bacteria. Activated charcoal is applied to remove residual chlorine and phenolics. The water is demineralized to remove salts, and the resulting softened water is adjusted by addition of food grade salts to enhance flavour.

Malted barley such as that manufactured by Prairie Malt in Biggar is the primary raw material for brewing. Malt is carefully dried to preserve the activity of the enzymes formed in malting that convert starch to sugars, proteins to amino acids, and facilitate dissolution of cell walls and other complexes in the malt. Because malt is high in starch-degrading enzymes, it is possible to use non-malted grains in brewing as a secondary source of starch. For this, milled corn, wheat, rice, unmalted Barley, other grains or syrups replace some of the malt. Cereal adjuncts are heated in water in a cereal cooker in the presence of about 10% of the milled malt. Temperatures rise from ~40°C to close to 100°C to gelatinize the starch making it more soluble. Viscosity is reduced by enzyme action. Hot cereal is added slowly to the rest of the malt in water in a mash cooker where the temperature is allowed to rise to 50°C followed by an increase to near 67°C which provides optimal degradation of starch to sugars by the alpha and beta amylases. The temperature is then raised to 75–80°C and the “wort” can then be clarified and separated from the barley husks in a unique vessel called the “lauter tun” (slotted false bottom) where the malt husks create a filter bed. Residual grain components are then rinsed, and taken for animal feeding. The mashing process results in the dissolving of low molecular weight salts, sugars, protein derivatives, and production of fermentable sugars. Large proteins are denatured and removed from the wort. Clear wort is taken via the “grant” to the kettle where it is boiled one to three hours to inactivate enzymes, concentrate the wort to fixed sugar levels, denature proteins, increase and standardize colour, lower wort pH, extract hops, and remove volatile materials. The prepared wort is then clarified removing precipitated “trub,” cooled, analyzed and pumped to sterilized fermentors.

Specially selected yeasts are then added. Fermentation initiates as the yeasts grow in the wort using the nutrients provided by malt. Yeasts ferment the sugar to ethanol and carbon dioxide. The level of initial sugars dictates the level of ethanol which can be attained. At the end of fermentation, the yeasts are removed by sedimentation or centrifugation. Primary aging then occurs followed by clarification and a secondary storage. The beer matures during this time, and is then given a final filtration so that it is brilliantly clear. Packaging and in most cases pasteurization then takes place to provide a longer product shelf life.

It should not be forgotten that the McGuiness (Central Canada) distillery in Weyburn operated until 1987 and a winery, Growers Wine Company (then Jordon’s Ste. Michelle), operated in Moose Jaw from 1964 until 1981. Today, two cottage wineries located near Regina (Aspen Grove) and Battleford (Bannach) make wines out of local berries and rhubarb. Co-op Dairy (now Saputo Foods) and Palm Dairies (then Parmelat, now closed) have produced traditional fermented dairy products. In addition, a white vinegar manufacturing plant (capacity ~5 million L/year) has existed in Saskatoon since 1948. This plant, originally Vinegars Ltd, was acquired by Canada Vinegars, Campbell Soup, Fleischmann’s (Burns Philp), and operates today as Reinhart Foods.

Poundmaker Ag-Ventures at Lanigan began production of fuel ethanol and the feeding of distillers wet grain and thin stillage to cattle in their feedlot complex in 1991. Saskatchewan is poised (January 2004) to foster a significant expansion in fuel alcohol capacity with two major projects: Shaunavon’s Cyprus Agri-Energy and Belle Plaine’s Prairie Sun Energy Products facilities (both on hold and waiting for funding). Other locations considered for fuel alcohol use are Yorkton, Tisdale, Swift Current and the old Weyburn distillery. Most are envisioned to be seven- to tenfold larger than the twelve to 13 million L/yr Lanigan plant. The Applied Microbiology and Food Science fermentation lab in the Agriculture College, University of Saskatchewan has provided research support to this industry.

Fuel alcohol production here begins with slurried ground Wheat using heat and industrial microbial amylases to convert starch to sugars. The fermentation is similar to brewing except that stronger “beer” is distilled to 95% alcohol with the last 5% of water removed by a molecular sieve so that the alcohol is free of water and capable of being blended with gasoline for Automobiles. Ethanol is an octane enhancer, a fuel extender, an oxygenated fuel, and a liquid fuel made via agriculture that enhances farm income. It reduces importation of foreign oil, and is greenhouse gas friendly. These motives and the fact that it can be made profitably and produced with a net energy balance of 1.34 provide the reasons for extensive recent expansions of the industry in North America. The by-products of this process are distillers’ dried grain and carbon dioxide. Residual thin stillage is an animal feed.

Successful use of fermentation technology to produce bioinoculants and bioherbicides is carried out in Saskatoon by Philom Bios Inc. and Becker Underwood. The Saskatchewan Research Council operates a fermentation pilot plant which is available for contract research and for small-scale production of biological products using scale-up propagation.

William Michael Ingledew

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Further Reading

Ingledew, W.M. and D.W. Hysert. 1994. “Brewing Technology.” Pp. 315–26 in Encyclopedia of Agricultural Science; Jacques, K.A., T.P. Lyons and D.R. Kelsall. 2003. The Alcohol Textbook. Nottingham University Press.
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