Beer made with gene-edited yeast provides hoppy taste without the hops

Craft beer drinkers love their bitter, hoppy brews, making pale ales and IPAs a big part of the craft brewery bubble. But hoppyness comes at more of a cost than a brewery on every other gentrified corner. It can also be surprisingly unsustainable.

It can take 50 pints of water to grow enough hops for one pint of craft beer, and that’s without even considering the fertilizer and energy needed to grow and transport the crop. But now, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have developed new strains of yeast that can instill a hoppy flavor without the need for hops.

Most beer is made up of four key ingredients: water, yeast, hops, and barley. Varieties like pale ales and IPAs are known for their strong hoppy notes, which gives them refreshingly bitter flavors and aromas, but, as it is with all good things, there’s a catch.

“Growing hops requires a lot of natural resources,” Rachel Li, a UC Berkeley doctoral candidate who co-led the research, told Digital Trends. “Water for irrigation and energy for processing, transporting, storing, and refrigerating.” With the aim to lessen the environmental impact of growing hops, Li and her team landed on a genetically engineered yeast with hoppy flavors. “By using these yeast strains, hoppy beers can be produced more sustainably than they currently are.”

In a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers describe how they used the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to engineer yeast that contains hop-like characteristics. They then had Charles Bamforth, a brewing expert from the University of California, Davis, use three of their best strains to craft a few beers, only using hops at the initial stage to add bitterness without flavor.

CRISPR works like a DNA scissor, snipping out a precise part of the genome and allowing new genetic information to be introduced. The tool has already been used to develop drought-resistant crops and cattle. Now, Charles Denby, Li’s colleague and business partner, said it’s helping make hoppy beer without the hops.

“By inserting genes from mint and basil, genes that are also found in hops and that are responsible for the production of molecules that impart hoppy flavor to beer, we have developed a strain of yeast that can produce hoppy-flavored beer without hops,” Denby said. “Taste tests of the beer brewed with our strains confirmed that the yeast added hoppy flavor and aroma to the beer. In fact, our beer was rated as hoppier than two beers that were dry-hopped.”

Li and Denby recently launched a startup called Berkeley Brewing Science, through which they aim to market their genetically engineered yeast strains to brewers. Beyond making hoppy yeast, Li said they’re hoping to use gene-editing to add more natural and unique flavors, while “enhancing the performance of industrial brewer’s yeast for more sustainable brewing.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (March 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

Mind-bending model shows Venus isn’t our nearest neighbor — it’s Mercury

Every textbook and table on the internet agrees -- the closest planet to Earth is Venus. But a new mathematical model shows that this is wrong. In fact, the planet closest to us on average is Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Desk lamps take on a new task by converting their light to power

What if we could charge devices using light from indoor sources like desk lamps? A group of scientists working on a technology called organic photovoltaics (OPVs) aim to do just that.
Emerging Tech

A.I.-generated text is supercharging fake news. This is how we fight back

A new A.I. tool is reportedly able to spot passages of text written by algorithm. Here's why similar systems might prove essential in a world of fake news created by smart machines.
Emerging Tech

Body surrogate robot helps people with motor impairments care for themselves

A team from Georgia Tech has come up with an assistant robot to help people who have severe motor impairments to perform tasks like shaving, brushing their hair, or drinking water.
Emerging Tech

New Hubble image displays dazzling Messier 28 globular cluster

Messier 28 is a group of stars in the constellation of Sagittarius, located 18,000 light-years from our planet. Thousands of stars are packed tightly together in this sparkling image.
Emerging Tech

Cosmic dust bunnies: Scientists find unexpected ring around Mercury

A pair of scientists searching for a dust-free region near the Sun have made an unexpected discovery: a vast cosmic dust ring millions of miles wide around the tiny planet Mercury.
Emerging Tech

Take a dip in the Lagoon Nebula in first image from SPECULOOS instrument

The European Southern Observatory has released the first image collected by their new SPECULOOS instrument, and it's a stunning portrait of the Lagoon Nebula, a swirling cloud of dust and gas where new stars are born.
Emerging Tech

Robot assistants from Toyota and Panasonic gear up for the Tokyo Olympics

Japan plans to use the 2020 Olympics to showcase a range of its advanced technologies. Toyota and Panasonic are already getting in on the act, recently unveiling several robotic designs that they intend to deploy at the event.
Emerging Tech

Racing to catch a flight? Robot valet at French airport will park your car

Hate searching for parking at the airport when you need to catch a plane? Startup Stanley Robotics recently unveiled a new outdoor automated robotic valet system. Here's how it works.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.