WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Researchers from the University of California Berkeley have managed to genetically engineer brewer’s yeast to produce same flavors like those in naturally hopped beers.
- Scientists say this technique could reduce the beer industry’s reliance on water-intensive and expensive hops.
- Employees of the Lagunitas Brewing Company, who participated in taste tests, were convinced that the engineered beer tasted even “more hoppy” than a traditionally brewed beer.
Published by the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, scientists from the University of California Berkeley showed in the study how they used “DNA-editing software to manipulate the genome of brewer’s yeast.” They added genes from basil and mint, as well as two from normal yeast, creating boosted flavors without adding the actual flowers.
Jay Keasling, a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at UC Berkeley said: “We were able to use some of the tools others and we developed to accurately control metabolism to produce the right amount of hops flavors.”
After several taste tests, the scientists were told that their engineered beer tasted like “fruit loops and orange blossom,” with no distinguishable “off-flavors”, Charles Denby, one of the report’s authors said.
It was a difficult process because, compared to the strains used in research labs which have only one pair of chromosomes, commercial brewer’s yeast has four.
Researchers had to add the same four genes to each chromosome set so they can create a stable yeast strain that could withstand the brewing process.
Hops are resource-intensive and expensive to grow plants. Imagine, a pint of craft beer needed around 50 pints of water just to grow the hops.
“Further, lots of energy is required for processing, transporting and storing” hops, Denby said.
Engineering hoppy flavors in beer can lead to significantly less production expenses for one perfect pint.
“My hope is that if we can use technology to make great beer that is produced with a more sustainable process, people will embrace that,” Denby added.
“Using the appropriate tools to control [the] production of these flavors can result in a beer with a more consistent hoppy flavor,” Keasling said. “Even better than what nature can do itself.”
The report’s authors said they will continue to develop new yeast strains so that a variety of smells and tastes can be produced.