In a news story for the Inside Science News Service this week, staff journalist and editor Jason Socrates Bardi describes a project by California scientists who genetically engineered yeast with basil and mint genes to give beer a hoppy flavor without the need to add the actual flowers.
Inside Science is an editorially independent nonprofit journalism venture operated by the American Institute of Physics.
Adding hops to beer emerged in Europe hundreds of years ago as a way of cutting the cloying sweetness beers might otherwise have. Hops are added to the boiling brews to impart bitterness, and they are also added late in the brewing process, a process known as “dry hopping” to impart complex flavors.
In the story, Bardi describes how hops, a prized floral flavoring of ales, has an oversized water bill, with cultivation of the plants requiring 100 billion liters of water per year in the United States alone. Hoping to offer a way to greatly reduce the environmental impact of making beer, scientists in California conducted blind taste tests of their new brews against a traditional American pale ale and found that people ranked the beer produced with the genetically modified yeast as “hoppier.”
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