Monday, 16 June 2014

Heineken and pure yeast cultures (part two)

Here's more about the forgotten contribution of Heineken to pure yeast cultures. This time in the form of a book review.


Attention is drawn in an interesting article by E. Elion (Ann. Brass. Dist., 1932, 30, 275-8 and 291-4) to a recently published monograph on the history of pure yeast culture by H. Lüers and F. Weinfurtner. The monograph is considered to be incomplete and in some respects inaccurate. It is contended that the production of pure yeast had its inception at the beginning of 1886 in the installation of the Hansen-Kuhle apparatus in Copenhagen, since Hansen's earlier method of working with small open vessels could not be considered to give a pure product. The new process met with much opposition in brewing circles, but had strong supporters in Aubry, of the brewing research station in Munich, where the open-vessel process was in use, and H. Elion, of the Heineken Brewery in Rotterdam. Elion designed and had made an apparatus of his own based on that of Hansen and Kiihle, and it was a facsimile of this apparatus which, in 1887, was the first to be introduced into Germany. Records show that the amount of yeast distributed from Rotterdam during the next few years was greatly in excess of that sent out from Munich, many breweries in Germany and other parts of the Continent being supplied from the Heineken Brewery. This information goes to prove that the process of pure yeast production, conceived in Denmark, owed its rapid development to Holland and not to Germany, and that the work of Elion at Rotterdam did not, as has often been stated, follow along paths already prepared by the station at Munich. Hansen himself, in 1888, subscribed to the erroneous belief that the introduction of the pure yeast system into Germany was due to Aubry, and Lüers and Weinfurtner have omitted almost all reference to the work of Elion in their mono graph. Michel, director of the school of brewing in Munich, in 1897, acknowledged the Heineken brewery to have been foremost in the industrial development of pure yeast culture."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 39, Issue 1, January-February 1933, page 2.
Elion, the chemist at Heineken Rotterdam had only died a couple of years before this article was published. I know that because an obituary appeared in the Journal. They hadn't forgotten about his achievements. Then again, he was an honorary member if the Institute.

Dr. H. Elion, from 1894 honorary corresponding member of the Institute of Brewing, died at the Hague, Holland, on April 13, 1930, at the age of 77 years.

Dr. Elion, who was born in Rotterdam in. 1853, obtained the degree of chemical engineer at Delft Technical University and continued his studies at Leiden University, from which he received the degree of D.Sc, in 1884.

From 1886 to 1921 he was the technical adviser of Heineken's Brewery, Rotterdam. In this sphere of action, he exerted a great influence on the development of the brewing industry both in Holland and abroad, especially by his successful industrial application of pure culture methods. The pure culture yeast and the apparatus, introduced by Dr. Elion in Heineken's Brewery, found their way in to many of the greatest breweries in Austria, France, Switzerland, Belgium and above all in Germany, and contributed mainly to the rapid development of this new process of manufacturing. In 1906, at the 6th International Congress of Applied Chemistry in Rome, Dr. Elion reported that the yeast, which he introduced in 1886, was still cultivated in Heineken's brewery in pure state, without any alteration of its properties. He then stated that it would be possible to maintain its good condition as long as desired, and when he retired 15 years later, this prediction proved to be confirmed. Even at that time the Rotterdam yeast was still used in several foreign breweries.

Although much of Dr. Elion's research work could not be published, he wrote a number of interesting chemical and biological subjects. Mention may be made of an extensive study on the estimation of the dry substance in maltwort and beer by the aid of dry air under diminished pressure at a temperature of 97° C, which method has proved useful in many directions. He constructed a table on reference to which the dry material can be derived from the specific gravity. He published work on the determination of salicylic acid in beer, the gravimetric estimation of sugar, the partial decomposition of beer, maltwort and hop by boiling, the detection of preservatives in beer, and a biochemical method for the determination of maltose, dextrose and dextrin in maltwort and beer, based on a fermentation of the sugar by a pure culture of Saccharomyccs cerevisiae.

Dr. Elion's knowledge of yeast fermentation and yeast culture not only advanced the development of the brewing industry, but also the manufacture of bakers' yeast. Indeed, more than 35 years ago, he succeeded in devising a process for producing a yeast of high quality for baking purposes from a new raw material, namely molasses. At that time a good pressed yeast could be made only from cereal products, and the new mode of procedure was an advance from a technical as well as from an economical standpoint. The process is employed industrially on a large scale and was of especial use during the War. At present, bakers' yeast is manufactured principally from molasses and in some countries the use of cereals in the fermentation industry is not allowed.

Dr. Elion was one of the oldest honorary corresponding members of the Institute of Brewing, a compliment which he acknowledged by sending a paper to this Journal. By his decease the brewing industry loses one of its most distinguished representatives."
Journal of the Institute of Brewing, Volume 36, Issue 4, July-August 1930, page 334.

I think that's me done with pure yeast for now.

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