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Cheers, Yeast!

Researchers have used gene engineering to make a hoppy beer without using hops, Quartz reports.

Typically, flowers from the Humulus lupulus plant, called hops bestow the bitter, hoppy flavor to beer. But researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have coaxed yeast to provide that taste instead. As they report this week in Nature Communications, Berkeley's Jay Keasling and his colleagues developed yeast strains that are able to make monoterpenes, the molecules behind that hoppy taste.

In particular, the researchers used an iterative approach in which they inserted genes from basil and mint — which also produce the chemical — into yeast and fine-tuned their expression. After a few test batches, a double-blind taste test the researchers did found that beers made with these yeast strains were hoppier-tasting than ones made the old-fashioned way.

Digital Trends adds that two of the study authors have launched a startup, Berkeley Brewing Science, to supply the brewing industry with these and other strains. Quartz notes that this approach might give brewers a more consistent hoppy flavor, which otherwise can vary year to year with the hops crop.