PBL Brewing Laboratory: Better beer through research collaboration between competitors

The 60+ year old PBL Brewing Laboratory produces high-quality, pre-competition brewing information in Finland. The research company strives to shorten beer fermentation times and tests new barley varieties.

The projects conducted by Brewing Laboratory cover the entire beer production chain from barley to beer. Quality and product development manager Riitta Saleva-Sjöblom from Hartwall has been part of the brewing and malt research laboratory since the early 2000's. She explains that most research projects deal with raw materials, processing, food safety and the environment.

"We have carried out a wide variety of studies. For example, we have developed brewing process simulation models, and done a lot of research involving yeast. We have also studied new beverage types. The Barley Committee tests and approves new malting barley varieties for cultivation," says Ms. Saleva-Sjöblom, a member of the board of PBL Brewing Laboratory.

With the support of TEKES, the laboratory has been able to launch a number of research projects, including a project aimed at improving the eco-efficiency of malting.

The Brewing Laboratory tends to have two or three large projects running simultaneously, alongside a number of small projects. It is currently exploring topics such as flavour maintenance in beer, and ways of improving flavour.

Cooperating to improve industry know-how

In the Brewing Laboratory, competitors work side by side. The research company is owned by a malting company and four breweries. VTT Technical Research Centre is the main research partner of the laboratory.

Collaboration has been extremely fruitful, says Saleva-Sjöblom.

"It is quite rare to find competitors around the same table like this. For this reason, research must be kept at the pre-competitive stage."

The main advantage of collaboration is gaining a variety of perspectives.

"A broad range of strengths are required for research projects. The unique approach taken by the laboratory allows us to focus on what is most important and what we need more information on," says Saleva-Sjöblom.

The collaboration model also receives high praise from Timo Huttunen, Director, Special Malts at malting company Viking Malt. He is unaware of other laboratories of a similar kind.

"I believe that our approach is one of a kind in the world."

Finnish brewery expertise is top-notch

The Brewing Laboratory celebrated its 60th birthday last year. The laboratory's long history guarantees smooth cooperation.

Saleva-Sjöblom explains that brewing expertise has grown in Finland, due to Brewing Laboratory in particular. Tekes has played a major role in funding the research company's projects.

The laboratory has also benefited from continuous dialogue with Tekes. The fruits of collaboration between Tekes and Brewing Laboratory include ideas for new research projects.

"Our dialogue on the projects has been positive and constructive," says Huttunen.

For further information, please contact

Riitta Saleva-Sjöblom
Quality and Product Development Manager
riitta.saleva-sjoblom (at) hartwall.fi

Timo Huttunen
Director, special malts
Viking Malt
timo.huttunen (at) vikingmalt.com

Text: Elina Kirvesniemi, Kaiku Helsinki

Pia Mörk