Healthy Beer from my Alma Mater

By Ray Isle Posted October 16, 2008

I knew there was a reason I went to Rice. Seems a group of students at my alma mater are genetically engineering a beer containing resveratrol, the phytoalexin found in red wine that is lately touted as an anti-cancer, anti-aging wonder-compound. Now, that's a fine use for a biochem degree, I'd say. The team is going to enter their "BioBeer" in the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition in Cambridge, MA—apparently the world's largest synthetic biology competition, though who knows how many other contenders there are—this November. If they don't win, they've promised to bioengineer a giant terrifying lizard to devour all the judges. 

OK. That last part wasn't actually in the press release. 

Anyway, BioBeer hasn't been brewed yet, but when it is later this month, it will use a genetically modified strain of yeast that will drive fermentation and produce resveratrol at the same time. (And dance the charleston while wearing a straw boater, no doubt.) I also love the fact that they borrowed the initial strain of yeast from Houston's Saint Arnold Brewing Company, which is a terrific local craft brewery whose Elissa IPA tends to find its way into my hands fairly often when I'm back home during the holidays (and Saint Arnold was also founded by a Rice grad—man, we're everywhere).

Since there's only one instance of genetically modified strain of yeast that's been approved for use in beer, ever, I wouldn't hold your breath while waiting for a six-pack of BioBeer. Nevertheless, if you're both impatient and intent on being healthy—or sort of—you can always just mix a glass of Cabernet with a Bud in the meantime for the same effect.

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