Last month, a Finnish group reported on their efforts to improve beer by altering the nature of the yeast. They attempted to determine if developing hybrids much like S. pastorianus could eventually lead to better taste and aroma. What they found revealed how we may be able to naturally develop a greater diversity in the future and also how possibly to save time and money for the brewers themselves.
The team decided to focus on the two species, S. cerevisiae and S. eubayanus. Instead of using complex molecular biological techniques, they chose instead to do things the old fashioned way by forcing the two to interact.
Using traditional brewing methods, the new strains were given the opportunity to prove themselves in the wort. The results were fascinating. First, the hybrids were stable at both warm and cool temperatures such that they could survive in environments the parents could not stand. They also reduced the time for fermentation not by hours but days. Finally, and perhaps more interestingly, they produced more alcohol than their parents.
There was one more benefit to these yeasts although this had less to do with the chemistry and more to do with public perception. Because the formation of these new strains was done through an entirely natural process, it would be considered non-genetically-modified. This meant these strains could be used in regular manufacture without any concern from regulatory or other oversight.
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