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Humans have been brewing and drinking beer for millennia. The process of making it roughly goes like this: a fungus feeds on sugars in the barley and the process of fermentation then occurs. The two by-products of barley fermentation are alcohol and carbon dioxide, i.e., the buzz and the bubbles, respectively.
As far as types of beer, there are two main kinds: ales, (the old guard) and lagers, the new kid on the block: Ales are believed to have been first brewed as long as 7,000 years ago, and presumably by accident. An airborne fungus probably infected some barley and water stores. Europeans started brewing lagers much later, in around the sixteenth century. The fungus needed to ferment lager is a hybrid of the ale yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), with a new-world yeast (Saccharomyces eubayanus). This hybrid fungus, Saccharomyces pastorianus, requires colder temperatures for fermentation to occur, and afterwards and it sinks to the bottom, giving lagers their crisper, fruitier flavor.
Geneticists have been studying these fungi. Brewers have been using this strain of S. pastorianus in lagers since the very first one was made. This is a big part as to why lagers taste very similar compared to the wide-variety of flavors available in ales. However, researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium are hoping to change this. They hybridized hundreds of new lager yeast strains. So far, they've tested 31 of these new strains: some tasted terrible, but 10 performed well in terms of flavor and fermentation speed.
This means that, thanks to science, there may be some new lager flavors coming to a bar near you soon. These beers would be the first GMO beers, and many people don't like those three letters in front of their foods. We talked about the pros, cons, and hype around GMO foods in this episode of DNews from 2013. Would you drink a beer that had been made with a genetically modified yeast? Would you be afraid? Let us know your thoughts about GMO beer in the comments down below.
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New diversity for lager beers http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-09/asfm-ndf092415.php "Unlike ales, lager beers differ little in flavor. But now, by creating new crosses among the relevant yeasts, Kevin Verstrepen, PhD, Stijn Mertens, and their collaborators have opened up new horizons of taste."
What's the Difference Between Lagers & Ales?
http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-01/beersci-what-difference-between-lager-and-ale "For the average beer drinker, the difference between an ale and a lager comes down to how the beer looks, smells, and tastes."