DNA sequencing

The Friday Mash (Juneteenth Edition)

One hundred and fifty years ago today, slaves in Galveston, Texas, were finally informed of their freedom–which actually had been granted more than two years earlier by the Emancipation Proclamation. The anniversary, known as “Juneteenth,” is officially celebrated in 42 states.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Mystic, Connecticut, where members of the StoneRidge retirement community are brewing their own beer. Why not? It’s educational, it’s fun, and it’s beer!

Massachusetts has strange liquor laws, one of which bans breweries from donating beer to charity events. Oddly, the ban—enacted by the legislature in 1997—doesn’t apply to wine donations.

“Sweet Baby Jesus” is DuClaw Brewing Company’s flagship beer. However, an Ohio grocery chain has pulled the beer from its shelves after customers complained about the name.

The New York State Brewers Association has created Statewide Pale Ale. The beer, made entirely with in-state ingredients, is projected to raise $20,000 for the association.

What is the link between Magna Carta and the English pint? According to Britain’s Communities Minister, the “London quarter” mentioned in the 800-year-old document is equivalent to two imperial pints.

There are hard-to-find beers, and there are truly rare beers, which make “Pappy Van Winkle seem as easy to find as a can of Coke.” Esquire magazine’s Aaron Goldfarb acquaints you with ten of them.

Finally, DNA meets IPA. Gianpaolo Rando, a European chemist who loves beer, wants to sequence the DNA more than 100 different beers in the hopes of producing an app that will match beers to drinkers’ own hereditary makeup.

Genetics and Beer Yeast

It’s a development that Nobel laureate Dr. Randy Schekman, a yeast geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley, calls “long overdue.” The brewing community is finally studying the molecular basis of differences in yeast strains. Researchers at California’s White Labs and at a Belgian laboratory are creating the first genetic “family tree” for brewing yeasts and the beers they make. They’ve sequenced the DNA—some 12 million molecules–of more than 240 yeast strains from around the world. Differences among those molecules translate into differences in flavor and aroma.

However, it may take time for this knowledge to be put to use making new and better yeast strains. Brewing yeasts are so specialized that cross-breeding rarely results in a strain that makes for good beer. And while genetic modification is possible–the Belgian team has several hundred such strains in storage—genetically-modified food carries such a stigma that brewers are unlikely to use them anytime soon. That said, the Belgian scientists hold out the possibility that with more comprehensive knowledge of yeast genetics, non-GM cross-breeding will become feasible.

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