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08 December 2020 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Supplied
At the BJCP beer judging competition, Dr Errol Cason won Best of Show with his Belgian Saison. Here he is presenting at the AfricaBrew2020 Brewing conference.

Staff and students from the University of the Free State (UFS) once again proved their skills in beer homebrewing when they walked away with one first place and two second places at the 13th annual Anheuser-Busch Inbev (AB-Inbev) – formally South African Breweries (SAB) – intervarsity beer brewing and tasting competition, and the Beer Judging Certification Programme (BJCP) competition held at the AfricaBrew2020 Brewing conference. Both these events took place over the weekend of 27 and 28 November 2020.

Evil Twin Double and Three Sips German 

Competing in the AB-Inbev/SAB Intervarsity brewing and tasting competition, was a group of students from the UFS Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, consisting of Eduvan Bischoff (PhD student), Elzette van der Walt (MSc student), Culien van der Merwe (MSc student), Gunther Staats (MSc student), and Twyne Skein (MSc student). This team came second in both the Indian Pale Ale (IPA) category with their Evil Twin Double IPA and in the Lager category with their Three Sips German Pils. 

“This is an outstanding accomplishment. Congratulations also go to our fellow Free Stater’s at the Central University of Technology (CUT) for winning the India Pale Ale (IPA) category as well as best overall beer with their New England IPA,” commented Dr Errol Cason, Senior Lecturer in the UFS Department of Animal Science, also representing the liquid yeast company LiquidCulture Yeast.

According to Dr Cason, this SAB-sponsored competition sees students from local universities brew and enter beers for judging, and competing for prizes, including the coveted ‘Best of Show’ trophy. 

“This event also aims to promote beer culture along with responsible drinking, by hosting talks by industry experts where students can interact with commercial brewers, scientists, and marketers,” says Dr Cason. 

The event was hosted by South African Breweries (SAB) and CUT, through the Centre for Applied Food Sustainability and Biotechnology (CAFSaB), in association with the UFS. 

Although the event was moved online in 2020 due to the international pandemic, it did not mean that there was a decline in the quality of presentations, or in the beer entered by universities. – D r Errol Cason

Dr Cason explains that entrants are usually challenged to brew beers according to the 2015 Beer Judge Certification Programme (BJCP) guidelines in lager, IPA, winter warmer, and fruit beer categories. 

“This year included the African Premium Ale and Lockdown Brew categories as well, where teams were mostly left to invent and experiment on their own with a few rules, such as using only indigenous African ingredients or ingredients that were available in supermarkets during lockdown,” says Dr Cason. 

There is also an award for the best bottle dress (label). 

Dr Cason believes that although the event was moved online in 2020 due to the international pandemic, it did not mean that there was a decline in the quality of presentations, or in the beer entered by universities. 

Belgian Saison and Extra Special Bitter

He and Christopher Rothmann, who is busy with a PhD in Biotechnology at the UFS and is co-founder of the company LiquidCulture (LC) Yeast, attended and presented at the AfricaBrew2020 Brewing conference. AfricaBrew is an annual brewing conference specialising in workshops and demonstrations for home and professional brewers. 

Accompanying the conference is a BJCP beer judging competition where all home and professional brewers can enter beers. During this competition, Dr Cason won Best of Show with his Belgian Saison. Rothmann came second with his Extra Special Bitter.

Since LiquidCulture Yeast was found in 2018, this commercial venture has since spun out and are now providing liquid brewing yeast to the homebrewing and commercial brewing industry. Rothmann and Dr Cason are also founding members of the Kovsie Brewery (along with Dr Jan-G Vermeulen and Eduan Hellmuth), which is currently being constructed on the UFS Paradys Experimental Farm facility.

News Archive

Research on cactus pear grabs attention of food, cosmetic and medical industry
2015-02-18

Cactus pear
Photo: Charl Devenish

The dedicated research and development programme at the UFS on spineless cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) – also known as prickly pear – has grown steadily in both vision and dimension during the past 15 years. Formal cactus pear research at the UFS started with the formation of the Prickly Pear Working Group (PPWG) in June 2002. It has since gone from strength to strength with several MSc dissertations and a PhD thesis as well as popular and scientific publications flowing from this initiative.

According to Prof Wijnand Swart from the Department of Plant Sciences, the UFS is today recognised as a leading institution in the world conducting multi-disciplinary research on spineless cactus pear.

Cactus pear for animal feed

Increasing demands on already scarce water resources in South Africa require alternative sources of animal feed – specifically crops that are more efficient users of water. One alternative with the potential for widespread production is spineless cactus pear. It is 1.14 x more efficient in its use of water than Old man saltbush, 2.8 x more efficient than wheat, 3.75 x more efficient than lucerne and 7.5 x more efficient than rangeland vegetation.

“Studies on the use of sun-dried cactus pear cladodes suggest that it has the potential to provide some 25% of the basic feed resources required by South Africa’s commercial ruminant feed manufacturing sector,” says Prof HO de Waal of the Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences at the UFS.

Until recently, research has focused extensively on the use of cactus pear as drought fodder. However, this is now beginning to shift, with growing interest in the intensive production of spineless cactus pear for other types of animal feed. One example is the spineless cactus pear fruit, produced seasonal, yielding large quantities of fruit in a relatively short period of a few months in summer. Unless kept in cold storage, the fruit cannot be stored for a long period. Therefore, a procedure was developed to combine large volumes of mashed cactus pear fruit with dry hay and straw and preserve it for longer periods as high moisture livestock feed, kuilmoes – a high water content livestock feed similar to silage.

Cactus pear and Pineapple juice
Photo: Charl Devenish

Cactus pear for human consumption

“In addition to its use as a livestock feed, cactus pear is increasingly being cultivated for human consumption. Although the plant can be consumed fresh as a juice or vegetable, significant value can be added through processing. This potential is considerable: the plant can be pickled; preserved as a jam or marmalade; or dried and milled to produce baking flour. It can also serve as a replacement of egg and fat in mayonnaise,” said Dr Maryna de Wit from the Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology.

The extraction of mucilage from fresh cladodes can form a gelling, emulsifier, and fat-replacing agent commonly found in food products such as mayonnaise and candy. During an information session to the media Dr De Wit and her team conducted a food demonstration to showcase the use of the cladodes in a juice, chicken stir-fry, biscuits and a salad.

The extrusion of cactus pear seed oil provides a further lucrative niche product to the array of uses. These include high-value organic oil for the cosmetic sector, such as soap, hair gel and sun screens.

The cladodes and the fruit also have medicinal uses. It has anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, pain killing and anti-diabetic agents. It is also high in fibre and can lower cholesterol. The fruit also prevents proliferation of cells and suppresses tumour growth and can even help to reduce a hangover.

In South Africa the outdated perception of cactus pears as thorny, alien invaders, is rapidly disappearing. Instead, farmers now recognise that cactus pear can play a vital role as a high yielding, water-efficient, multi-use crop, said Prof de Waal and the members of the Cactus Pear Team.

Facebook photo gallery
Dagbreek interview with Dr Maryna de Wit  

Research on cactus pear (read the full story)

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za

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