Microbiologists Have Created a Better Tasting Beer

Man Holding Beer

The researchers believe that their method will also be effective in discovering genetic factors necessary for the generation of rose flavor by yeast in alcoholic beverages.

Belgian researchers improve the taste of beer.

Researchers in Belgium have enhanced the taste of modern beer by identifying and genetically modifying a gene that contributes significantly to the flavor of beer and several other alcoholic beverages. The study was recently published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

For many years, beer was brewed in open, horizontal vats. However, the industry transitioned to using large, closed vessels in the 1970s because they are simpler to fill, empty, and clean, allowing brewing in greater volumes while also incurring lower expenses. However, because of insufficient flavor production, these modern techniques produced lower-quality beer.

During fermentation, yeast transforms half of the sugar in the mash into ethanol and half into carbon dioxide. The issue is that the carbon dioxide pressurizes these tight containers, reducing flavor.

Johan Thevelein, Ph.D., an emeritus professor of Molecular Cell Biology at Katholieke Universiteit, and his group had previously developed technology for identifying the genes in yeast responsible for commercially important traits. They used this technology to find the gene(s) responsible for flavor in beer by screening a large number of yeast strains to see which performed the best job of retaining flavor under pressure.

Thevelein, who founded NovelYeast and works with other companies in industrial biotechnology, said they concentrated on a gene for a banana-like flavor since it is “one of the most important flavors present in beer, as well as in other alcoholic drinks.”

“To our surprise, we identified a single mutation in the MDS3 gene, which codes for a regulator apparently involved in the production of isoamyl acetate, the source of the banana-like flavor that was responsible for most of the pressure tolerance in this specific yeast strain,” said Thevelein.

Thevelein and coworkers then used CRISPR/Cas9, a revolutionary gene editing technology, to engineer this mutation in other brewing strains, which similarly improved their tolerance of carbon dioxide pressure, enabling full flavor. “That demonstrated the scientific relevance of our findings, and their commercial potential,” said Thevelein.

“The mutation is the first insight into understanding the mechanism by which high carbon dioxide pressure may compromise beer flavor production,” said Thevelein, who noted that the MDS3 protein is likely a component of an important regulatory pathway that may play a role in carbon dioxide inhibition of banana flavor production, adding, “how it does that is not clear.”

The technology has also been successful in identifying genetic elements important for rose flavor production by yeast in alcoholic drinks, as well as other commercially important traits, such as glycerol production and thermotolerance.

Reference: “Polygenic Analysis of Tolerance to Carbon Dioxide Inhibition of Isoamyl Acetate “Banana” Flavor Production in Yeast Reveals MDS3 as Major Causative Gene” by Ben Souffriau, Sylvester Holt, Arne Hagman, Stijn De Graeve, Philippe Malcorps, Maria R. Foulquié-Moreno and Johan M. Thevelein, 8 September 2022, Applied and Environmental Microbiology.
DOI: 10.1128/aem.00814-22

9 Comments on "Microbiologists Have Created a Better Tasting Beer"

  1. GMO beer! Is nothing sacred?

  2. You know, you don’t have to ferment under pressure. In fact, it’s more common not to ferm under pressure. Further, you can ferment in a horizontal closed fermenter with a blow off to reduce pressure from CO2 and osmotic pressure.

    Also, the reason we changed to closed fermenters is because they are more Sanitary, not because everything is easier to move and clean. This article was written by someone who truly doesn’t understand brewing

  3. What a load of rubbish. I make beer from grain and some styles work great when fermenting under pressure and it’s a lot tastier than most beers. The truth is that any large scale process diminishes the quality of smaller scale production. That’s a reality. Playing with genetics to achieve better tastes without natural processes won’t be enticing me and I’m sure a lot of other people to drinking that product. There are many ales in Australia that taste just fine. Also I agree the author has no clue about making beer ha ha

  4. A Better Tasting Beer?
    That’s just great. Now there will be more drunks doing stupid things after they say “here, hold my beer” and more drunks on the road.

  5. I’m seriously concerned to see CRISPR used here before it’s full potential in the medical world

  6. What a wonderful article about the potential use of new yeast strains for the improvement of beer quality. Many homebrewers and those in the ignorant masses might cast a hateful shadow, but this article is a finely simplified explanation of a microbiological development in the beer industry. Well done.

  7. The comments here about “playing with genetics” and GMO fear mongering are laughable. We’ve been manipulating yeasts into new strains for 1000’s of years already.

  8. Lol we have GMO fearmungerers and reactionary people that should spend more time practicing their reading comprehension.

    Some comments say that beers aren’t brewed under pressure…. But they miss the fact that ALL beers sold (except for certain specific beers sold in certain specialty bars) are sold in bottles/cans/barrels that ARE under pressure.

    The GMO yeast is lab-engineered because spending way too much money and time hoping that one of these days a certain culture of yeast in a lab develops the desire mutation would be astronomical.
    They aren’t putting fish skin 6G emitters in the yeast’s gene.

    So, in all, it’s a pretty good development.

    • Just noting that final product is under pressure yes, and in fact mostly force carbonated. But fermentation under pressure is a different thing, difference stage and one basically has nothing to do with the other.

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