“Brewing is an art that needs science as a tool.”
With this one sentence, Dr Guillermina Mendiondo encapsulates the ethos behind the Barry Axcell Fellowships in Brewing Science, our joint initiative with the UK’s University of Nottingham. Dr Mendiondo is one of two fellowship recipients announced this year; the other being Dr David Jenkins.
The fellowships are named in honour of our former Group Chief Brewer, Professor Barry Axcell, who retired in 2012 after almost 35 years of distinguished service. They support talented scientists with relevant PhDs and a proven track record in research, giving them access to the university’s Bioenergy and Brewing Science department, together with our state-of-the-art Brewing Research Facility housed within the university. The Fellows also receive personal mentoring from Professor Axcell, as well as from his successor Group Chief Brewer, Professor Katherine Smart.
Dr Mendiondo completed her PhD at the University of Buenos Aires-Argentina in 2009. Her fellowship research focuses on understanding the biochemistry of how barley senses environmental change, with a view to breeding varieties that can adapt to such changes.
She explains: “If successful, my research could in future lead to the production of crops that have increased drought tolerance and/or require less water during cultivation. Reducing water use in crop growing is a key strategic target in support of agricultural sustainability and increased food security; one that’s shared by companies which rely heavily on agriculture, like SABMiller, as well as by society as a whole.”
Dr Jenkins, after completing his PhD at Nottingham in 2010, became a Brewing Scientist based in our Brewing Research Facility, also at Nottingham, before taking up his Fellowship. As a Barry Axcell Fellow, Dr Jenkins will be investigating the flavour stability of beer, in particular the key flavour changes that occur during the brewing process.
He says: “Packaged beer is not a stable product, and my research is attempting to understand the change in flavour which occurs as beer ages. I hope the findings will influence the methods used in brewing to enable the production of beers which retain their desired flavour quality for longer, so that more consumers can enjoy the product just as the brewers intend.
For both Fellows, becoming more intimately involved with the science behind beer has only served to enhance their enjoyment of the finished product.
“I’ve always enjoyed beer,” says Dr Jenkins. “Since I began my research career in brewing sciences I have developed an increased knowledge of the processes behind many beers and why they taste the way they do. This has added to my own enjoyment, as well as inspiring me to spread the word to family and friends.”
Dr Mendiondo adds: “Through my research activities I can now enjoy drinking a beer with a deeper understanding of how that beer was made, and with more knowledge of which flavours I enjoy most.”