A Belgian lab is trying to make brew better beer with new strains of yeast. The four ingredients that usually influence the flavor of beer are grains, water, hops, and yeast. Barley is usually used as the grain; it is moistened and allowed to germinate and then it is dried and roasted. Depending on how long the malt is roasted, it can make the beer taste like biscuits, coffee, or chocolate. The malted grains are then milled, cooked in water, and rinsed to produce a brother called wort. The amount of water used can change the acidity and therefore the taste of the beer. The wort is then boiled and hops are added; worts contribute to beer’s bitterness, but it also gets citrusy, fruity and floral notes from them. After the broth is cooled, yeast is added to produce alcohol and bubbles. Different yeasts can change the beer to make it crisp or sour.
Carlsberg brewery in Denmark established one of the world’s first yeast-biology labs in 1875. Here, Emil Christian Hansen isolated the first pure culture of brewing yeast in 1883. Dr. Kevin Verstrepen wanted to change the way yeast is used in beer so he began researching. He tried at a few places before he went to Harvard, where he focused on the roles of repetitive DNA sequences in generating diversity. He left in order to work on research with wine and beer. He had 30,000 types of yeast including 1,000 strains used by brewers and another 1,000 isolated from fruit, flowers, insects, and people because he knew that many of them had genes known to influence the taste and other traits that brewers like. Dr. Verstrepen and his team made new strains by mating different strains of yeast and screening their offspring; the whole idea behind this was that if the two known yeast mate, it will create a completely new strain that has unique traits. They have made many new strains and are using them to make beer, and a few craft breweries have asked to use the new strains of yeast, but the team is not ready to release the new strains yet. It is so crazy to think that changing one thing in beer can change it so much. I think that this is what keeps the industry going; this is what keeps the consumers on their toes. Without new discoveries like this, the industry would stay boring and the job of brewers would be tedious, but with new techniques advancing, they are kept on their toes as well.