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Students use STEM skills to brew the perfect pint

Saveurs de génie brings together student microbrew clubs, microbreweries and beer enthusiasts.


For decades, university students have been reputed to consume vast quantities of beer. Of course, some students might drain a pint or two, but others just want to take a closer look at what actually goes into the glass. That’s what sparked the start of Saveurs de génie, in 2015, an inter-university competition that has since grown into a practical collaboration between students and microbreweries.

Saveurs de génie (which translates to “engineering tastes”) is a yearly get-together in Montreal where beer lovers can sample microbrews. Beers concocted by university brewing clubs are included in the mix, greatly expanding the range of tastes to choose from.

Along with all the socializing (and drinking) that takes place, three prizes are awarded during the event: best innovation to brewing practice, best brew as selected by an expert jury and the people’s choice.

In order to participate in the competition aspect of the event, each university team has to submit an innovative idea, says Marie-Pierre Desjardins Larocque. “For example, GéniALE, the brewers’ group from the École de technologie supérieure, has come up with a prototype for a fermentation analysis system,” she says. That innovation was the grand prize winner at this year’s competition.

The 2018 Saveurs de génie, the fourth edition of the event, took place at the beginning of November and attracted close to 1,500 people – double the number from the previous year. While the event is hosted by ETS, a degree-granting engineering school, as well as a member of the Université du Québec network, not all participating clubs have to be attached to engineering programs.

At Université Laval, students from the food science and technology program founded the Brassta club nearly a decade ago. “They wanted to brew more regularly and make the activity popular among other students,” says Julien Légaré-Turcotte, Brassta’s vice-president for external affairs. “Ultimately, our association has expanded, and people [from other disciplines] have gotten involved.”

In the brewing innovation category of this year’s contest, Brassta submitted an idea for replacing malt as an ingredient in beer. “Climate change may lead to barley and malt shortages, so we are replacing them with bread that is past its ‘best before’ date. We have been told it’s a good idea and that it’s being discussed in the industry,” adds Mr. Légaré-Turcotte. Although Brassta didn’t take home the trophy in that category, it did take home the jury prize for its “Faculthé” beer.

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