Review: Gram Negative Bacteria in Brewing

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DOI: 10.4236/aim.2016.63020    4,294 Downloads   6,878 Views   Citations


Gram negative aerobic bacteria such as Acetic Acid Bacteria, which include Acetobacter and Gluconobacter, have historically caused significant problems to brewers. Although incidences of spoilage have recently reduced as a result of improvements in beer packaging, these bacteria are still a concern in dispense systems in pub breweries, public houses and cask conditioned beers. Gram negative facultative bacteria of the genus Zymomonas can spoil primed cask conditioned beer and cider. There is a wide range of Enterobacteraeceace which are found within brewery environments and they serve as indicator microorganisms for hygiene and sanitation. Gram negative strictly anaerobic bacteria such as Pectinatus and Megasphaera have recently emerged as a significant threat due to the improvement in reduction of oxygen levels in beer and an increase in production of unpasteurised beer. Pectinatus and Megasphaera are sensitive to routine cleaning agents used in breweries, but they can survive and proliferate in biofilms eventually causing spoilage of beer. This review focuses on Gram negative aerobic, facultative anaerobic and strictly anaerobic brewery related spoilage bacteria.

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Ashtavinayak, P. and Elizabeth, H. (2016) Review: Gram Negative Bacteria in Brewing. Advances in Microbiology, 6, 195-209. doi: 10.4236/aim.2016.63020.

Received 29 January 2016; accepted 19 March 2016; published 22 March 2016

1. Introduction

Beer is microbiologically stable due to several intrinsic microbiological properties. Firstly, it has low pH (pH 3.8 - 4.7) and the ethanol content can vary from 0.5% to 10% (w/w). Ethanol causes cellular membrane damage in addition to denaturation of proteins, interfering with metabolism and causing cell lysis of bacteria [1] [2] . Hop bitterness compounds (iso-α acids) are present at approximately 17 - 55 ppm and they can cross the cytoplasmic membrane of bacteria in their intact form. These compounds act as a protonophores dissipating the transmembrane pH gradient, which inhibits growth of hop sensitive microorganisms [3] [4] . The presence of low oxygen concentration (less than 0.1 - 0.3 ppm) and relatively high CO2 (0.5% w/v), makes beer almost anaerobic [5] . Beer also has extremely low levels of nutrients as most of the fermentable sugars are utilised by brewing yeast during fermentation. All of these factors make propagation of bacterial contaminants difficult in beer [6] .

In addition, hurdles for bacterial contaminants are provided by process conditions such as wort boiling, pasteurisation and sterile filtration [7] - [9] . In some exceptional cases survival of some food spoilage microorganisms such as Bacillus cereus and Bacillus licheniformis has been reported in home brewed beer [10] . However such incidents in commercial brewing have not been reported.

Beer spoilage microorganism can be broadly classified into Gram positive bacteria, Gram negative bacteria and wild yeasts. Gram positive beer spoilage bacteria are regarded as the most hazardous for modern breweries [11] - [13] , which mainly include lactic acid bacteria belonging to the genera Lactobacillus and Pediococcus [14] . Other less significant Gram positive bacteria capable of growth in beer include species belonging to genera Leuconostoc, Micrococcus and some Staphylococcus species [15] [16] .

Gram negative beer spoilers mainly include anaerobic bacteria belonging to genera Pectinatus, Megasphaera, Selenomonas and Zymophilus. Other significant Gram negative aerobic and facultative anaerobe beer spoilers belong to genera Acetobacter, Zymomonas, Selenomonas, and Obesumbacterium. Certain Enterobacteriaceae such as Rahnella and Hafnia have also been reported in brewing environments [15] - [17] . Wild yeasts in brewing are generally described as “yeast strains which are not deliberately introduced and grow uncontrolled in the brewing process” [18] . Microbial contaminants exposed to brewing raw materials and beer at different stages are shown in Figure 1.

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