Current research in brewing technology is focusing on events at the cellular level. For example, brewery researchers are working on methods that will rapidly and accurately detect the presence and identity of unwanted yeasts or other microorganisms that find their way into the beer during brewing, and that change the flavor of the beer. (Potentially problematic organisms include Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Obesumbacterium.) Some of the methods already available or soon to be available include those using DNA probes, and protein and chromosome fingerprinting. Some of these techniques are already used in tests designed for at-home pregnancy testing, drug screening, AIDS testing, and tests for the presence of environmental contaminants such as pesticides.
Breweries are also using biotechnological techniques and genetic engineering to select and propagate choice characteristics in barley, rice, corn, yeast, and hops. Some of the characteristics that brewery researchers are working toward include disease resistance in the crops, and in yeast, the ability to resist contamination and to ferment carbohydrates that yeasts have been incapable of fermenting. Micropropagation is a new and experimental technique that involves making any number of genetically identical copies of a plant, by removing minute quantities of its growth points and placing them in a medium that encourages the rapid growth of shoots. This process is then repeated again and again. Mutation breeding is a process for creating mutations, some of which may be desirable, by exposing the plant to x rays or chemical mutagens; and transformation technologies, which allow the breeder to make a change in a single gene by adding or deleting it.
Briggs D.E. and J.S. Hough. Malting and Brewing Science. Volumes 1 & 2. London: Chapman and Hall, 1981.
Gourish and Wilson. The British Brewing Industry, 1830-1980. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
Hough, J.S. Biotechnology of Brewing. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985.
Gump, Barry, ed. Beer and Wine Production: Analyses, Characterization, and Technological Advances. American Chemical Society Symposium Series 536, American Chemical Society, Washington D.C., 1993.