Please tell us about yourself

Dr Mandeep Kaur, a UTAS (University of Tasmania) PhD student, has unlocked the key behind batches of beer lacking in alcohol and flavour.

The problem has been infuriating for the world’s brewers and confusing for consumers, particularly if their favourite brand of beer didn’t taste quite right.

“It is ruining thousands of batches each year,’’ she said.

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Dr Kaur’s work investigated why millions of yeast cells, which drive the beer fermentation process — the conversion of sugar from malted barley into alcohol — would, occasionally and without warning, walk off the job, leaving a dearth of alcohol and flavour in their wake.

For years researchers have been hunting for chemical impurities that triggered the early flocculation of yeast — the clumping together of yeast cells that signalled the end of the brewing process.

Dr Kaur said her project, initiated 10 years ago by the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture’s Evan Evans, had instead hunted for possible mic­roorganisms that produced those chemicals.

They discovered the culprit: a rogue fungi that gets into barley crops.

“The TIA team is now dev­eloping a cost-effective, accurate and rapid DNA test to identify if these fungi are present on barley malt arriving at the brewery,” Dr Kaur said of the work, funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.

The process could be ready for sale to the world’s brewers as soon as next year and could be a significant money spinner for TIA.

Dr Kaur said it would be of interest to many overseas brewers.

“We are also working on ways to modify the conditions that the barley is modified and stored under to suppress the fungi so that even if the barley contains the fungi, it can still be used in brewing,’’ Dr Kaur said.

Please tell us about your work for Australian Poultry & Agriculture

Dr Kaur’s current focus is the shelf life of Australian-produced red meat. Her overall aim is to develop safer meat products with excellent shelf life that are ideal for export. Mandeep is part of the team developing an application that will quickly assess meat quality.

Mandeep’s current research is funded by Meat and Livestock Australia and Grains Research and Development Corporation of Australia. Work includes defining the nature of shelf-life of Australian produced red meat. The goal is to develop safer meat products with reliably excellent shelf-life stability for export. The end goal is to develop a decision based tool app that can be used to rapidly assess meat quality by producers, shippers and retailers, helping to reduce wastage and improve supply chain efficiency. Modelling approaches pioneered at the University of Tasmania and food microbiology team play a large role in the success of this research.

Mandeep is actively involved in research on grain physiology with regard to Pre-harvest sprouting in close collaboration with Professor Sergey Shabala. Pre-harvest sprouting is a serious issue for the grain industry, which results in lowering the grain yield besides having detrimental effects on the quality of grain flour and the storage life of malting barley.

What did you study?

Dr Kaur completed her PhD in Microbiology from University of Tasmania