STU BREW, the student-run, sustainable microbrewery at Newcastle University, has created a green beer to celebrate St Patrick’s Day using naturally-derived food colouring from university scientists and Scottish Bioenergy.
The aim of the exercise, apart from finding a way to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland, was to highlight advances in developing a technique to produce natural blue dye from Spirulina algae at a greatly accelerated rate. Demand for natural blue colourants has risen exponentially since it was approved by the FDA in 2013, for food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and demand now outstrips supply.
Spirulina is already used to produce natural blue colouring. The research team, led by applied marine biology lecturer Gary Caldwell, found that if the Spirulina is illuminated by a very narrow band of long-wavelength red light, it produces five times as much phycocyanin, the blue colour, than if it was exposed to the full light spectrum.
Scottish Bioenergy, which was founded in 2007 to make biofuels and other biochemicals, is now using the discovery to make blue dye on an industrial scale.
To make the green beer, Stu Brew simply added phycocyanin, an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, to its yellow-coloured pale ale.
“We were approached by the Student's Union to produce a special beer for St Patrick's Day. This collaboration with Scottish Bioenergy gave us an opportunity to integrate some exciting university research with one of our products in a fun and interesting way. Stu Brew is about more than just making beer. We are also conducting our own research into ways to make the brewing process more sustainable and engaging with the local microbrewery community to share best practice,” said Chris O'Malley, a lecturer in chemical engineering who leads research at Stu Brew.
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