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East Japan students use math-devised hops chart to brew craft beer

A student from Chiba University pours wheat into a pot to create the craft beer, in the Chiba Prefecture city of Narashino on Jan. 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Nobuyuki Mashimo)

NARASHINO, Chiba — A group of volunteer students headed by a professor in the east Japan prefecture of Chiba has created a craft beer with a method to visualize the aromas and characteristics of different hops using mathematics and informatics.

On Jan. 25, the team headed by Chiba University Graduate School of Science professor Manabu Hagiwara began making beer using recipes based on the method at the brewery “Narashino craft beer mugi no ie” in the Chiba Prefecture city of Narashino. The beer is expected to be completed in February, and in addition to selling it at the brewery they also intend to enter it in national craft beer contests.

In 2021, professor Hagiwara came up with the idea of ​​creating a craft beer for the 100th anniversary of the city of Chiba’s establishment. The beer sold in July 2021 was brewed by specialists based on the views of students. This time though, he took on the challenge of having the students come up with the recipe, too.

Amid the work, Hagiwara turned his attention to the hops that dictate a beer’s bitterness and aroma. Based on data regarding hops’ characteristics, he developed a chart that uses mathematics to analyze each one. Rather than just separating them by major characteristics like fruitiness and spiciness, it goes further into what kind of flavors they resemble, including nuts, white pepper, mint and other ingredients. The chart then makes all these flavors visible at once.

Chiba University professor Manabu Hagiwara explains the hops in the Chiba Prefecture city of Narashino on Jan. 25, 2022. (Mainichi/Nobuyuki Mashimo)

“Even people who have not devoted themselves to the practice of beermaking can now easily choose the hops they want to go with the beer they want to brew. In the future, perhaps it could be used in places that are commissioned to produce original craft beers ,” Hagiwara said.

Through talks between students on how to approach the brewing, it was decided the beer should be made with a view to create something that is easy to drink and not too bitter, among other characteristics. Based on the chart, they opted for a recipe based on “El Dorado” hops, which have a flavor like mango and watermelon.

While receiving advice from experts on Jan. 25, they made the wort that will become the beer. They introduced the hops, and the preparation was completed. Shoichi Nakade, a 22-year-old fourth-year student at Chiba University’s Faculty of Science, said, “I got to feel up close how mathematics can be used in what’s around us. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of beer we made. I hope it’s one that even students who don’t like beer can drink easily.”

(Japanese original by Nobuyuki Mashimo, Chiba Bureau)



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