Beer without hops or life without tradition
First, I want to share two real stories that happened to me. Once, when I met him, a well-known Israeli brewer confessed to me: “My dream is to create a beer that is brewed according to a permanent recipe. And during filtration, to dilute it with water and, accordingly, to color it …”. Of course, to call the final product in different names. Needless to say, after these words, every time I met him, I had a persistent feeling of squeamishness …
As you know, it is tradition in Israel not to eat any leavened food on Passover and, of course, not to drink beer. I have dreamed for a long time about creating a beer that could also be drunk on Passover. Our factory rabbi, knowing about my dream, asked me every year before the Holidays, “Did you come up with it?”. And recently our country published a standard that states that beer must contain barley malt, thus killing my dream… Our rabbi, upon meeting me, asked me if I was sad? To this I answered, “Not at all! Something in our lives must stay unchanged…”.
Why the long introduction? – Biologists at the University of California at Berkeley have brewed beer… without aroma hops. Charles Denby and Rachel Li used genetically modified yeast, which not only supported fermentation, but also gave the beer a familiar taste. So familiar, in fact, that tasters from the American brewery Lagunitas recognized the “lab” beer as more “hoppy” than traditional beers and noted light fruity notes during a blind tasting.
The yeast strains were modified using CRISPR-Cas9 genomic cutters, a simple and inexpensive tool that is widely used to edit plant and animal genomes and has also been tested in humans.
In total, scientists inserted four new genes into yeast DNA. Two of them were “borrowed” from mint and basil. They are responsible for the production of enzymes linalolsintase and geraniolsintase, which are involved in the production of common for many plants aromatic substances. Two more genes obtained from other yeast species stimulated the production of precursor molecules necessary for the synthesis of the main components of hop flavor – linalool and geraniol.
Together with the new genes, so-called promoters, which regulate protein synthesis, were inserted into the yeast DNA. Using a specially developed program, the researchers calculated the correct combination of these promoters, which ensured that the linalool and geraniol content in the experimental beer was the same as in commercial beer.
Hops are present in the new beer; they are just added at the beginning of the boil for bitterness. The hop flavor of the beer comes from the modified yeast. And that’s just the first steps. The next step will probably be to create a beer without hops at all. And after, may be without malt….
If the Brewers need this new yeast, I don’t know…. Depends on what kind of brewer, I think… But I do know that beer is the art of flavor creation. Beer made from grain, hops and yeast. And, believe me, it’s not at so easy to create a really Great beer without adding all sorts of modified ingredients, and some people don’t understand that, replacing beer with its surrogates.
Today the entire Jewish people celebrates Passover, the holiday of freedom. It should always stay with us, and the possibility of keeping the age-old tradition of brewing beer is also part of our freedom, our freedom of choice.
P.S. And this are a proof that for these biologists from Berkeley the main thing is not beer, but money. What’s cheaper is better: