Chemical engineers play a vital role in food and beverage production by turning raw materials into commercial products - like a pint of the latest craft beer or a can of VB. Brand new Chemical Engineering student team Monash BrewLab is taking on the challenge of creating a sustainable nanoscale brewery right here on campus, giving students the chance to learn hands-on processing skills while putting Monash newly on the map as makers of well-crafted beers.
Director of BrewLab and PhD student Daniel Rojas Sanchez is leading a team of 30 students currently working hard to get production up and running, with the aim of producing up to 200 litres of beer over the next 12 months. Starting with a pale ale variety, the team is planning to produce a range of different beers, with spirits and kombucha on the menu further down the track.
“One of the benefits of setting up a brewery in a university is having access to great equipment and expertise,” said Daniel. “We’ll be working in established labs that will help us to work on the yeasts and hops in fine detail, and our headquarters are right next door to Monash Food Innovation, who work closely with industry on developing new food products.”
Chief Operating Officer of Monash Food Innovation Dr Angeline Achariya believes that BrewLab is a great initiative that will help students and industry address the global challenges currently facing the future of food. "BrewLab could be an exemplar for the beverage industry to adopt more sustainable practices in the future, offering them the chance to leverage our new expertise,” she said. “I’m also looking forward to sampling a few of the brews.”
BrewLab will also create new opportunities for multidisciplinary student collaboration as the team progresses. “There are so many Final Year Projects made possible through our set-up, particularly for students interested in sustainable waste management,” said BrewLab External Operations Manager Eddie Attenborough. “We’ve also been in discussion with Biotech students, plus the Monash Permaculture Society, about finding alternative uses for our waste. We’ll also be looking to adopt sustainable brewing practices that minimise water wastage, such as the ‘no-chill brewing’ method that was developed in Australia during the drought.”
Already on the radar of the wider brewing industry, BrewLab aims to open up a new talent pipeline of work-ready chemical engineers with direct food industry experience. “The whole point of the team is to give students practical opportunities to learn, whether it’s recipe formulation or finding customers for a new product,” said Eddie. “The beer is the added extra.” The team have already made a solid start in establishing mutually-beneficial industry relationships, including sourcing second-hand equipment and receiving processing advice. “We’ve begun partnering up with breweries and equipment suppliers who’re already showing a lot of interest in BrewLab,” said Daniel. “They’re looking to hire young people with process control experience, while we’re helping to prepare students to be readily employable. It’s a win-win situation.”
Head of Chemical Engineering Professor Mark Banaszak Holl is already a keen BrewLab enthusiast. “I’m really looking forward to enjoying an excellent ale brewed using the latest sustainability practices and the very best of hops!” he said. “This is a great team that will give our students a wonderful new set of opportunities to learn and show off their engineering skills.”
For now, BrewLab is working hard to establish their lab, with a broader plan in mind to showcase their new range at the Good Beer Week festival in 2020. “We’ve even got our first customers already - MESS and CEPA!,” said Eddie. “Now all we have to do is make some beer!”
If you’re a brewing industry professional interested in supporting Monash BrewLab through equipment donations, financial support or mentoring, get in touch via their website - https://www.monashbrewlab.com/