During the course of thousands of years of use for making beer, brewer's yeast has become "as diverse as the beer they make," the New York Times writes. Two labs, one in the US and one in Belgium are working to disentangle how these yeast strains are related by sequencing their genomes — and, possibly, how to make a better pint.
So far, they've sequenced 240 strains of brewing yeast from all over the globe. In addition to tracing the lineage of these yeasts, they hope to uncover how differences in DNA sequences are linked to various flavor profiles.
The Belgian lab — a project between the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology and the University of Leuven — the Times notes, hopes to take it a step further and use that knowledge to breed new strains of yeast.
"So let's say there's a yeast that produces an amazing fruity aroma in beer, but can't ferment past 3 percent alcohol," says Chris Baugh, a microbiologist from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company who is not involved in the project. "[A scientist] could then breed it with a more alcohol-tolerant strain."
The Times notes that such genetically driven breeding is unlikely to change how large brewers make their beers, but, as Baugh adds, "[w]here this is really going to take off is in the craft brewing scene."