Science! Genetically Engineered Yeast and the Future of Beer

Beer science!

Via Popular Mechanics… Would-be Frankensteins at Johns Hopkins University are creating an entire organism from the ground up—a yeast. “Yeasts have 16 chromosomes, and we’ve just completed chromosome 3,” notes team head Jef Boeke. Halfway there! Wait… no. Anyway, yeast is of course responsible for turning malt water into the beer we love, converting sugar to alcohol. So there are implications for the brewing world, you see.

“It depends on what style of beer you’re brewing, but I would say the yeast is responsible for at least half that flavor, though less so in beers like IPAs where the yeast’s flavor can be overpowered by hops,” [Chris Baugh, research scientist at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company] says. “Right now, the issue brewers face is that a lot of yeasts will produce these amazing flavors, but they may not ferment right”—for example, they’ll produce too low of an alcohol level, he says. “But if you could tailor-make your yeasts, with the understanding of what genes code for the different flavor molecules, well, that opens the doors to the mass production of beer with totally untasted characteristics.”

“Totally untasted characteristics,” eh? Tantalizing, I’ll admit, but what if this leads to the inadvertent creation of a diabolical super-yeast? I’ve watched enough movies to know about these things.