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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Dr. Morten Christian Meilgaard (1928 - 2009)

Dr. Morten Christian Meilgaard (1928 - 2009)

Umami and oleogustus! Today would have been the eighty-ninth birthday of scientist Dr. Morten Meilgaard, a man of good taste.

Born on 11 November 1928, Dr. Meilgaard would become a pioneer of the science of beer flavor identification and nomenclature. In 1979, he created the Beer Flavor Wheel, a landmark organoleptic tool that the European Brewery Convention, the American Society of Brewing Chemists, and the Master Brewers Association of the Americas soon designated as an accepted standard. His book, Sensory Evaluation Techniques, became a textbook for sensory science.

Dr. Meilgaard died on 11 April 2009, at age 80. His Beer Flavor Wheel is still being used today by brewers, beer judges, and sensory scientists. His textbook is now in its 5th (and revised) printing. His influence on brewing (and craft brewing) and on the enjoyment of beers is ongoing and substantial.

Above, Meilgaard is pictured in 1962, sailing in Australia (with beer and cigarette), at age 34. The photo is via Stephen Goodfellow, an adopted son of Meilegard, who wrote the following biography to accompany the photo:
Morten Christian Meilgaard was born on Fyn, Denmark in 1928. His younger siblings, Ida, Jorgen, and Erik, followed in short succession. As their father, Anton Meilgaard, was a country doctor, they were brought up in a rural milieu in Morud. Their school was a considerable distance away, and during some winters, they would ski to pursue their education.

Morten caught the travel bug early, taking a road trip with his friends Finn and Torben, pulling a creaky four-wheeled cart around Jutland in 1944, during the German occupation of Denmark.

After WW II, Morten pursued a degree as a chemical engineer and became a research chemist specializing in yeasts for Alfred Jorgensens Laboratorium in Copenhagen. This dovetailed nicely with his love of travel, and his job took him all over the World. He became the Johnny Appleseed of establishing the [nomeclature of] flavors of beer throughout the world, including in Japan, South Africa, and the Americas.

Morten's contribution to the field of sensory science cannot be underestimated; it was truly extensive. Amongst his many contributions, He is the major contributor to the flavor wheel, a Rosetta Stone of sensory evaluation science.

Morten's publication, Sensory Evaluation Techniques, is the educational standard in this field of science. He was quite possibly the foremost expert in his field.

During his work and travels in England, he met Manon Meadows. They fell in love and remained married for almost fifty years, until her death in 2007.

Justin Meilgaard, Morten's and Manon's son, was born in England, 1966.

In 1967, the entire family, including Manon's mother, Doris Meadows, moved from Denmark to Monterrey Mexico where Morten worked for the Cuauhtemoc Brewery from 1967 to 1973.

In 1973, Morten was hired by Peter Stroh of the Stroh Brewery, Detroit, where he worked as Peter's right-hand man until the brewery was acquired by the Miller Brewing Company in 1999, at which point Morten retired.

Even after retirement, he continued to be active in his profession for many years, doing consulting jobs for the Danish Government, working with his co-editors on a revised edition of his book, and donating his extensive collection of brewing literature to Wayne State University [in Detroit, Michigan].

In 2008 Morten returned to Denmark and Sweden to visit family and revisit the important sites of his childhood and early adulthood.

Morten is survived by his younger brothers and sister, Jorgen, Erik, and Ida, and by his sons, Justin Meilgaard and myself.


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Meilgard's Beer Flavor Wheel

Beer Flavor Wheel

[Beer descriptors in the Beer Flavor Wheel] are divided first into those perceived by sense of taste and those perceived in aroma. The descriptors are then organized into 14 categories, each of which contains between one and six descriptors. Meilgaard's aim in creating this wheel was to establish a standard vocabulary of beer evaluation and to this day many organizations use his Beer Flavor Wheel as a reference tool.
The Oxford Companion to Beer: Oxford University Press, 2012.

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  • A more detailed description of the Beer Flavor Wheel —"Focus On Beer Flavor"— was written in 1997 by Scott Bickham (of the BJCP) for Brewing Techniques, a long defunct magazine whose articles are —thank goodness— maintained online.
  • Physical copies of the Beer Flavor Wheel can be purchased from the Master Brewers Association of the Americas (MBAA).
  • In 2016, scientists Lindsay Barr and Nicole Garneau 'updated' Dr. Meilgaards' wheel with their Beer Flavor Map, a graphic explication of beer flavor rather than of chemical analysis. Among other changes, the new 'map' elevated “umami” (savory) and “oleogustus” (fat) to the subcategory of taste and designated “mouthfeel” as a primary sense.
    We elected to use the common descriptors to make the Beer Flavor Map useful to anyone that picks it up, no matter if they had sensory training. This structure allows more people to speak using a common vocabulary of beer flavors. The map bridges the gap for people to begin to associate the descriptive vocabulary with the chemicals.
    Lindsay Barr works as the sensory specialist at New Belgium Brewing and has her BS in biochemistry and molecular biology as well as an MS in food science and technology. Dr. Nicole Garneau received her BA in Genetics and her Ph.D. in Microbiology, and currently is the curator and department chair of health sciences at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Both are members of the Beer and Food Working Group of the [U.S.] Brewers Association. The team is developing a companion model —to make the technical side of flavor just as accessible as the descriptive —and a mobile app— to combine the descriptive and chemical sides of sensory analysis.

  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of photos taken (or noted) by me, posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always, with a good fermentable as the subject.
  • See the photo on Flickr: here.
  • Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL1.
  • Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

  • For more from YFGF:

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