This Guy Homebrewed Glow-in-the-Dark Beer and So Can You
Part of the fun of homebrewing is that you can make any kind of beer you want and no one can stop you. Want to make a pale ale? Great! Want to make an egg salad wheat beer? Not so great! But hey, we can’t do anything about it. Thanks to a recently released kit, you can even make a genetically-engineered beer that glows-in-the-dark – and it’s apparently not as complicated as it sounds.
Late last year, The Odin – a company created to help bring genetic engineering and consumer genetic design to the masses (think the GMO equivalent of a kid’s chemistry set) – introduced a kit promising to “Genetically Engineer Any Brewing or Baking Yeast to Fluoresce.” The all-inclusive $160 kit’s description states that it “can make your yeast fluoresce and glow by inserting a gene from a jellyfish, the Green Flourescent Protein (GFP)” – a pretty impressive claim. “I figured that the genetic revolution would truly begin when consumers could create something tangible in their homes using genetic design,” The Odin founder and former NASA synthetic biologist Josiah Zayner told Gizmodo at the time of the kit’s release. “Yeast was something I knew we could start working with.”
Skeptical types might think glowing beer sounds either beyond the scope of their homebrewing skills or like science fiction altogether. However, yesterday, Engadget’s Terrence O’Brien published a piece explaining his experience using The Odin’s crazy kit. “The results of my grand experiment were successful ... ish,” O’Brien wrote. Turns out his biggest issue wasn’t making his French Saison yeast glow under a black light; that process was relatively straightforward and only took a few days. Instead, the problem was with a property of beer: As a brew sits, the yeast tends to sink. “The yeast certainly glowed and the first couple of samples pulled from the fermenter did as well,” he wrote. “But, as the beer settled and the yeast dropped out of my brew, the glow became fainter and fainter. By the end, it was a pale glimmer rather than a blinding glare.”
One possible solution to that problem: Maybe try a “yeastier” beer? “I imagine you'd get more glow out of a less flocculent strain of yeast,” one prescient commenter suggests. “Any plans on trying this with a Wit or Hefe?” Super-unfiltered, yeasty “milkshake” beers are a bit controversial in the beer community – but in this case, those yeast bombs may be just what the geneticist ordered.