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Student, Steinecker, synergies

When a group of students visits our Steinecker plant, this normally means an excursion from Campus Weihenstephan. After all, it’s quite common for us to welcome visitors from what’s known as the “Oxford of the Brewers” and give our guests some insights into our production operation, including our spectacularly diverse array of production processes.

This time, however, everything’s different, because today there’s only one item on the agenda: the Steinecker Brew Center. At seven o’clock on a dark, drizzly morning, I’m already meeting up with the four students: Alexander Auer, Kilian Lürweg, Christoph Schreieder and Michael Wex.

They’re in their third semester studying Brewing and beverage technology at Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University.

Why are they here? Once a year, there’s what’s called a “Brewing Competition”, organised by the students of the fourth advanced semester. Here, my four guests formed a team, and in a blind tasting won over the jury comprising professors and students with a traditional-style German beer, a Munich Dark brew. As the youngest team in a field numbering many other entrants, they’re the proud winners of the competition – and thus the brewing partners we want. Which is why we invited them to spend a shared day of brewing in the Steinecker Brew Center.

A brew with a difference

As the recipe, the guys chose a rather unusual beer: with a targeted original gravity of 15° Plato, we’re more or less half-way between a traditional-type festival beer and a potent high-strength beer. Using a certain proportion of Munich malt, moreover, lends the beer a gleaming yellow colour that almost shades into orange.

And the hops, too, are something rather special. The meanwhile rarely used and well-nigh forgotten “Northern Brewer” hop variety ensures a spicy, almost herby aroma of hops, without imparting an unpleasant note of bitterness to the beer.

 

 

It’s not only because the brew is something rather special, out of the ordinary, that I had a lot of fun brewing the beer together with my visitors. All four of them arrived here with safety boots and a readiness to get stuck in. From milling the brewing malt, then sampling, all the way through to the final analysis, they insisted on lending a proactive hand, making the brew really into their “own” beer.

“It’s great to be able to work here exclusively with a fully automated brewing system featuring the latest state of the art in the Steinecker Brew Center. Back then, we actually made the brew we entered for the competition on my kit in the cellar at home, which involved quite a bit of improvisation,” reports an enthusiastic Christoph.

Time for talking shop

The four of them quickly familiarise themselves with our experimental brewery: while Kilian, Christoph and Michael trained as brewers and maltsters before going to university, Alexander had qualified as an industrial mechanic beforehand. So it was a group that had plenty of knowledge to draw on, felt visibly at home in the Steinecker Brew Center with all its technical refinements, and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Thanks to the Botec F1 process control system, we were then able to leave the Brew Center for a while, to see a bit more of the facility in Freising. While the mashing program was running automatically, you see, the four guys had an opportunity to take a closer look at the production operation again while touring the plant. Here, I noticed straight away that Alexander has an eye for detail: “The guys in the production hall are real professionals. It’s great to see the perfectionism they display when they work on the vessels. As a mechanic, I take off my hat to them.”

After the tour of the plant, we took a joint look at the further steps of the process, often losing ourselves in technological details. The guys repeatedly drew parallels with their lectures, and I, too, had an opportunity to contribute a few anecdotes from my own time as a student – many of their present-day professors, you see, were contemporaries of mine while I was at university. For me, this day with the students also demonstrated not least that both sides can always benefit from collaborative arrangements of this kind with universities: the students gained valuable insights, put what they’d learned into practice, and were able to work with “proper” brewing equipment – and for me the mutual feedback of new ideas and fresh conceptual approaches was really exciting.

The day passed faster than we expected, and after eight hours we were looking at our result: the wort had the desired colour, and a tasting of the cold wort heightens the pleasant anticipation of a delicious, out-of-the-ordinary beer. “It’s really brilliant that we could brew a beer here today, and in the end everything turned out the way we wanted,” concurred Kilian and Michael.

In six weeks’ time, we shall then be meeting up again for an initial tasting, to see what the bottom-fermented yeast has accomplished in the meantime. Later on, of course, the students can take the beer home with them. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the ongoing exams turn out satisfactorily, and that they can then toast their success …

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