Healthy beer from malted corn. Researchers' malted corn beer.

Team malts corn for a healthy new brew

Researchers looked at pre-Hispanic beverage to come up with new beer

A pre-Hispanic beverage has been given new life by researchers at Mexico City’s Autonomous Metropolitan University (UAM), who have brewed a beer out of malted red and blue corn, said to be beneficial to health for its antioxidant properties.

The coordinator of the university’s Wine Studies and Fermented Foods Laboratory, José Ramón Verde Calvo, told the newspaper Milenio that a team of professors and students has been working on the project since 2011.

The team, which includes biotechnology post-graduate students Daniela Flores, Angélica Romero and Nataly Cruz and faculty member Héctor Escalona came up with the idea of working with the regional corn varieties after taking a look at a spirit called sedenchó, which is made from malted corn and characterized by a low alcohol volume.

The Otomí and Mazahua, pre-Hispanic peoples of the State of México, drank sedenchó during their political and religious ceremonies. “We decided to bring [the beverage] into the present,” said Verde.

After comparing the traditional methods of making sedenchó, the researchers found them to be rather similar to those for making beer.

While red and blue corn varieties have already been used by craft brewers in Mexico, the corn has not been malted, being used as an added ingredient. What the UAM team did was bypass the use of the more expensive barley and brew beer with the malted corn as the main ingredient.

The researchers also used guajillo chiles — a variety of chile pepper of the species Capsicum annuum — during the brewing process.

The team has filed for a patent on the process and this particular use of corn, which is now before the Mexican Intellectual Property Institute.

Pigments present in both corn varieties contain phenolic compounds known as anthocyanins, which give the beer its antioxidant properties.

The trial-and-error brewing process took the team from using desiccated malted corn grains — which gave the resulting drink unpleasant strong notes — to using toasted malted grains, which gave their product a pleasant sensory profile.

The years-long project has also had a beneficial educational aspect, said Verde, with the creation of courses in which small producers have been taught the brewing process.

The team of researchers will now work on consolidating its confection process and in introducing the beer into the domestic market, including students in all stages of the processes.

While the red and blue corn beer has yet to have a brand name, one team member said that it will probably be called A la mexicana, or The Mexican Way.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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