Engineered Yeast Makes Hoppy Flavors

Can you brew a hoppy beer without hops? Beer purists might regard the idea with suspicion, but researchers at UC Berkeley, with some help from UC Davis’ “Pope of Foam,” have shown that you can brew a tasty hoppy beer using gene-edited yeast to replace hop flavors.

According to Charles Denby, a former postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, growing hops uses a lot of water – 50 pints of water to grow enough hops (the crumbly flowers of the hop vine) for a pint of craft beer.

Denby and Rachel Li, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, used CRISPR/Cas9 technology to engineer brewer’s yeast to include genes from mint, basil and hops. Their goal was to create yeast that could make two chemicals, linalool and geraniol, that produce hoppy flavors.

They brought their most promising yeast strains to Charles Bamforth, professor of malting and brewing science at UC Davis and an authority on all things beer-related, and asked him to test them out in some brews.

Bryan Donaldson, Innovations Manager at Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, Calif. and a former student of Bamforth’s, organized a blind taste testing with Lagunitas employees. The testers found the beer made with engineered yeast to be more hoppy than a beer made by conventional means.

Denby originally came to Berkeley to work with Professor Jay Keasling on biofuels and stumbled into the brewing project through home brewing with other lab members.

The work, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, was supported by the National Science Foundation. Additional coauthors are Van Vu of UC Berkeley, Weiyin Lin, Leanne Jade Chan, Christopher Petzold, Henrik Scheller and Hector Garcia Martin of the Joint BioEnergy Institute in Emeryville (part of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and Joseph Williams of UC Davis.

More information

Brewing hoppy beer without the hops (Berkeley News)

Industrial brewing yeast engineered for the production of primary flavor determinants in hopped beer (Nature Communications)

Charles Bamforth: the Pope of Foam (UC Youtube channel)


One response to “Engineered Yeast Makes Hoppy Flavors

  1. Engineering brewer’s yeast with genes from mint, basil and hops is a great idea. The beer will be more flavorable. But the most important is safety.After fermentation, the yeast can be isolated and make yeast extract powder that can be used as a flavor enhancer in food industry.

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