Beer lovers may soon be seeing a new variants of their favorite drink in stores as researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) have successfully created the first probiotic beer.

The brainchild of Ms. Alcine Chan, a 22-year-old student at the NUS Food Science and Technology Program, the new alcoholic beverage now comes infused with the probiotic Lactobacillus parasei L26 which brings with it the ability to neutralise toxins and viruses, on top of boosting the immune system.

Researchers, dietitians and nutritionists have long known the benefits of probiotics – and now, will have the chance to realise its complementary benefits in beer.

Healthy beer

Of course, the path to creating a probiotic beer was not an easy one for Ms. Chan who concocted the beverage as part of her final year project in university. Being an avid drinker of probiotic drinks, Ms. Chan thought up the idea of incorporating probiotics in beer, having noticed that there were no such products in the market.

Her biggest challenge would be finding a probiotic strain that could thrive in beer’s alcoholic and acidic nature which would render most probiotics strains inactive. In order to succeed, Ms. Chan and her team would have to find a strain of probiotics resilient enough to survive the hop acids yet, maintain its health benefits upon consumption.

"While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics," Ms. Chan added.

After nine months of trial, experimenting with five different probiotic strains, one month of brewing and with the help of Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan from NUS’s Food Science and Technology Programme, the final product was perfected, a sour beer with 3.5% alcohol content and a slightly fruity taste.

In accordance with the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics’ recommendation, every 100 ml of the probiotic beer contains one billion probiotics and remains unfiltered and unpasteurized to allow the drink to retain its live probiotic count.

Future and market implications

With the final product now complete, Ms. Chan and Associate Professor Liu are now looking towards bringing the unique product to the consumer market.

While there are no specific plans mentioned, the team has already filed a patent on the recipe of the probiotic beer. The team is keen on working together with industry professionals to refine the product and a Japanese company has expressed interest in the beverage.

Associate Professor Liu said, “The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine's invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends.”

“I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well-received by beer drinkers, as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy.”

Nevertheless, it is important not to forget that beer is indeed an alcoholic beverage and not a health drink. Despite the addition of probiotics, the benefits would better serve as a complementary factor for existing beer drinkers rather than a promotional point for non-beer drinkers.

"I think it's an interesting choice that they would pair probiotics with beer," said Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a dietitian from Aptima Nutrition and Sports Consultants.

"But alcohol is something that is definitely not a daily requirement, so I wouldn't recommend that you drink this beer more than beer without probiotics." MIMS

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