Would You Pay to Find Out the DNA of Your Favorite Beer?

By Mike Pomranz |

© Shotshop GmbH / Alamy

Is the craft beer boom leaving you a bit confused?  In the olden days, picking a beer was about as easy as picking which country you wanted a lager from.  But nowadays, the beer scene is overrun with ridiculous styles like “imperial milds” and “session double IPAs” (whatever either of those really mean).  People keep trying to find ways to make navigating beer easier.  A new project thinks that the answer might be in beers’ literal DNA.

BeerDeCoded wants to sequence the DNA of different beers.  The idea is that they could use this information to map a “genomic tree” of beer – one that is theoretically more accurate than just assessing beer by whatever style the brewer says it is.  In the long-term, they believe they could create “an app that compares the biochemistry of the beer you like with the other 1,000+ genomes, proteomes, metabolomes of the beers of the world.”  From there, the app could give you suggestions based on “your taste – not the taste of others.”

But before all that, BeerDeCoded wants your money, and they’ve created the Kickstarter to accept it.  Unfortunately, all you get for your hard-earned cash is the chance to pick which beers will get analyzed.  And if you want to choose a specific beer of your own (instead of off a list), that privilege will cost you about $87 – a pretty expensive fee, especially when the theoretical beer DNA app is a long way from being in the app store.  That’s why BeerDeCoded is calling their campaign a “simple citizen science project.”  Unlike other Kickstarters where you’re buying a promise of a product, this one is purely a donation for a scientific pursuit.

So why should you give money to find out a beer’s DNA?  Munchies spoke to Gianpaolo Rando, the Swiss-Italian chemist who envisioned the project.  “Beer is a perfect product to map,” he said.  “It’s composed of yeast, and good microbes break down the aromatic molecules, thus [creating] a distinct taste. [All] microbes have different DNAs. Each one has its own coding to create taste-making tools.”  BeerDeCoded lays it out on their campaign page as well: “We know that this DNA analysis alone won't tell us every single detail about a beer, its history, all the recipes that were tested before it was perfected, and so on. But an integrative analysis of beer composition will far surpass any tools currently available for comparing the thousands of kinds of beers.”

Because knowing which types of grains, hops and yeast went into a beer just isn’t enough info.

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