Weird Science: Brewing with Genetically Engineered Yeast

We recently hooked up with Berkeley Brewing Science (BBS) so we could work with one of their genetically engineered yeast strains. These yeasts are created by splicing genes from edible plants into beer yeast, so fermentation produces aromatic terpenes they don’t normally make. The original intent of BBS was to replace hop-derived aromatics with yeast-derived aromatics, so brewers can scale back their hop usage for more sustainable brewing. Hops require a lot of energy and water to grow, around 23 pints of water for every pint of beer produced!

At Drake’s, we see this type of yeast as a compliment to hops, or another ingredient that puts flavor in the customers’ glass. So that’s what we want to do, but first we decided to experiment by making a basic beer that has no flavor or aroma hops. That way we can get a solid idea of what that yeast does by itself.

That beer, Weird Science, is in the tank now, and will be released at Drake’s Barrel House next Thursday, July 25. During the release, from 4-8pm, a representative or two from Berkeley Brewing Science will be on hand to discuss how they engineer yeast. We will also be presenting attendees with hop samples so they can vote on what we use to dry-hop our next experimental batch.

It has not escaped our attention that some people are uncomfortable with the genetic manipulation of organisms. Please note that the yeast from Berkeley Brewing Science will be isolated from our other beers. Also, beers using this yeast will be clearly marked in our tasting rooms and restaurants.

We are very excited to be working with this yeast and the awesome folks at Berkeley Brewing Science. We’re always looking for new ways to fuel our creativity. This will be a little bit of a journey and we look forward to having you coming along with us.

– John Gillooly, Drake’s brewmaster

The Berkeley Brewing Science facility includes rows of small fermentors and a tap system to taste their latest test batches.