NEWS

Mathematician discovers winning formula for beer

What connection could there be between beer and mathematics, or between a native German and Rethymnon? And why is beer good for one’s health? Answers to these questions (and others) are given in Kathimerini’s interview with Bernd Brink, Greece’s first organic brewer. It was love that first brought the German to Crete some five years ago, but the small brewery he established outside Armenoi in Rethymnon, an ultramodern unit that produces a wholly traditional beer, was something he had dreamt of since he was a student. Bernd uses ingredients that have been certified as organic by DIO, the certification body for organic products. His beer, too, bears the organic label. «I try to keep to the standards set by the old German law of 1516, which laid down what could be used in the brewing of beer: malt, hops and water. «I’ve added yeast, which was unknown then, and I’ve set my own standards – all my ingredients must be organic. «What would be the point of making a fresh, natural product if, for example, the yeast was genetically modified or the corn grown by conventional methods?» he asked. He had dreamt of becoming a brewer since his studies in Germany, during which he worked in a small brewery and had been enthralled by the process. «Brewing beer is quite different from mathematics. In contrast to the accuracy, logic, and strictness of mathematicians, it is a very personal process. «You stick your fingers in, you taste, smell and taste it; you get tipsy. I nearly forgot my dream for a while, but when I found myself on Crete, I thought it was the ideal place [to realize my dream].» And he certainly does appear to have realized it, dividing his time between the small brewery he set up on Rethymnon and Scotland, where he teaches statistics at university. Production process Despite the modern equipment, the means of brewing beer differs little from that employed in the ancient world, while everything is essentially done by hand. This is why the beer is different each time. According to Bernd, precisely because the beer is organic and is made from pure local water, it contains many proteins and vitamins. «People who say beer is fattening are mistaken; it just stimulates the appetite,» the brewer said. So how is the beer actually made? Malt – wet barley which has swollen and burst open – is ground and placed in a giant cauldron along with water and allowed to simmer. Afterward, it is strained and the liquid separated from the solids – which sink to the bottom. (They do not go to waste but are used as a highly nourishing animal feed.) The liquid is put back in the cauldron and boiled at 100C for one and a half hours, during which time the hops are added, a plant with antiseptic properties that gives beer its bitter taste. After this, the mash is spun at 95C in a centrifuge where any remaining solid matter is separated from the liquid. The liquid is then cooled and placed in tanks, where yeast is added to cause fermentation, and kept there to mature, at a temperature of 9-10 degrees Celsius, until it acquires its final form. Bernd’s small firm produces 6,000 bottles a month, which are sold in Rethymnon at 450 drachmas for a 0.33-liter container. In keeping with his ecological conscience, he bottles his beer in recyclable bottles which the buyer can return and get a discount.