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A whale of an ale

Faculty of Science, Landwash Brewery partner on unique new beer

By Kelly Foss

Everything is science … including making beer.

Before that first delicious sip is ever tasted, a complex series of biochemical reactions must take place to convert barley to fermentable sugars, and to get yeast to grow and multiply, converting those sugars to alcohol.

A mash of sugar and grain spins in a machine.
Mashing-in, a process that sees crushed grains mixed with water to form a porridge-like mixture called the mash, allows brewers to extract fermentable sugars from the grain.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Memorial University’s Faculty of Science got first-hand insight into that process recently, following a partnership with Mount Pearl’s Landwash Brewery, which saw a special beer created to promote the faculty.

A far-out idea

“It all started with a conversation between me, Dr. Tom Chapman, the head of Biology, and Dr. Mark Berry, the head of Biochemistry,” said Dr. Travis Fridgen, acting dean, Faculty of Science.

“We were chatting and one of them said, ‘We should brew a beer for the university.’ The more I thought about it, the better it sounded. We have a brand-new building on campus, the Core Science Facility, with a big, blue whale skeleton in the atrium, and I thought what a great way to promote the building and all of the amazing science that will come out of it.”

When he approached Landwash with the idea, the brewery jumped at the chance.

Christina Coady wears a plaid shirt over a black t-shirt, blue toque and a black mask while talking to Dr. Travis Fridgen in a yellow t-shirt, black pants and mask. They are in a brewhouse and are surrounded by vats, hoses and pipes.
From left, Christina Coady, co-owner of Landwash Brewery, and Dr. Travis Fridgen, acting dean, Faculty of Science, at Landwash in Mount Pearl.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Dry, fruity and spicy

Christina Coady, who co-owns Landwash along with Chris Conway, says they love collaborative opportunities.

“We talked about what kind of beer we could brew and saisons are super dry,” said Ms. Coady.

“Since the beer is inspired by a giant skeleton of a whale, a bone-dry beer just made sense. The French saison yeast gives it a very dry character and a little bit of spiciness. We also used an experimental hop that is not fully available on the market yet. So, it was really cool to use an experimental hop with the Faculty of Science.”

President Vianne Timmons starts the mashing-in process at Landwash Brewery.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

On Oct. 5, Landwash began production of the beer with a mashing-in.

President Vianne Timmons; Dr. Florentine Strzelczyk, provost and vice-president (academic); and Lisa Browne, vice-president (advancement and external relations); as well as Science faculty members Drs. Fridgen, Berry, Chapman, Lourdes Pena-Castillo, Computer Science; and Darlene Skinner, Psychology.

From mashing-in to canning

The beer, named Whale of a Time, became available Nov. 3 at Landwash’s facility in Mount Pearl.

Four pint-sized beer cans with a whale skeleton and "Whale of a Time" on the dark blue labels.
The can features an image of the blue whale skeleton that hangs in the Core Science Facility on the St. John’s campus.
Photo: Submitted

It will be distributed to Marie’s Convenience stores across the Avalon. The can features an image of the blue whale skeleton along with facts about blue whales.

“It was great to see the entire process from start to finish, from mashing-in to canning,” said Dr. Fridgen. “My colleagues in Biochemistry and Biology, whose departments recently moved into the new Core Science Facility, are also excited about bringing the beer-making process into their classrooms as a contextual way of teaching science.

“It’s also a really, very good beer,” he continued. “It has a dryness and a mild fruity taste and I can taste the hops, but it’s not overly hoppy. Not that there is such a thing as overly hoppy, in my opinion.”

The Faculty of Science will host a social event to recognize Research Week 2021 on Thursday, Nov. 25, from 5-7 p.m. in the whale atrium of the Core Science Facility (CSF-1301). Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase, including a limited supply of Whale of a Time. RSVP science@mun.ca by Monday, Nov. 22, at 9 a.m. to attend. Proof of vaccination (e.g. NLVaxPass) will be required, as well as a photo ID.

A long line of beer cans are pushed along a length of machinery.
Beer makes its way down the production line at Landwash Brewery.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

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