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Annual Report

Marine biology and the (beer-drinking) masses

Thierry Chopin is always looking for inventive ways to use seaweeds.

Dr. Chopin, UNB Saint John biology professor and scientific director of the Canadian Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Network, struck a popular chord when he suggested – dared – a Fredericton-based microbrewery to make beer with the network.

Picaroons Traditional Ales was up to the challenge, creating a limited-edition brew made with sugar kelp, Saccharina latissima, that is grown at an integrated multi-trophic aquaculture site in the Bay of Fundy, and is organically certified. This seaweed, with superior sweetness and flavour, is rich in proteins, trace minerals, phytochemicals and vitamins, and low in fats.

The brewmasters dubbed it Kelp on the Way, a dark, malty, smoky beer with 5.8 per cent alcohol – perfect after a cool brisk swim in the Bay of Fundy.

“It’s exactly what we wanted – a kind of toffee impression mixing the sugar and the salt together,” says Dr. Chopin, who came to Saint John from his native France in 1989.

At UNB – a leader in marine biology research and education across both Saint John and Fredericton campuses – Dr. Chopin has studied seaweeds, specifically the chemistry of their sugars and the nutrition they require.

In 1999, with salmon aquaculture development in full swing in the province, Dr. Chopin began looking at the waste from that industry as a significant source of nutrients for seaweeds and invertebrates.

That led to him introducing the concept of integrated multi-trophic aquaculture, now known internationally within the field. Under this concept, aquaculture farms cultivate species, from different levels in the marine food web, which complement each other: some provide nutrients while others absorb them.

Raising awareness about the marine world is one of the reasons Dr. Chopin challenged Picaroons to put seaweeds in beer.

Evidently it is exactly what some beer lovers wanted, too. The first batch of 600 litres sold out in a matter of three days. Due to popular demand, it is expected to be produced again soon.