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The Science Inside Beer

The Science Inside Beer

Biochemists study how different types of yeast change the taste of beer.

Science Inside Beer

Thursday, December 12, 2013 - 20:30

Marsha Lewis, Contributing Producer

Beer is one of America's most popular beverages, and everyone has a favorite.

“My favorite beer would have to be a German beer,” said beer drinker Gene Kelly Smith.

But biochemists say there’s more to beer than its delicious taste.

“It’s a great vehicle for understanding science,” said Charlie Bamforth, a biochemist at the University of California, Davis.

Beer is made of four ingredients: barley, hops, water and the most important: yeast.

“A yeast is a single cell fungus,” said Kyria Boundy-Mills, a biochemist at UC, Davis. But, of the 1,600 known species of fungus, yeast is considered a good fungus.

Making beer involves mixing, heating and draining ingredients. The yeast causes fermentation, a process that converts sugar to alcohol and forms carbon dioxide bubbles. Different types of yeast produce different flavors of beer, something that still impresses Bamforth.

“How can you turn something as unpalatable as barley and turn it into something as delicious as beer?” said Bamforth.

And, when enjoyed in moderation, beer will not cause the fabled "beer belly." In fact, it can provide some necessary nutrients to the body.

Something to remember next time you pick up a glass.

Get Inside The Science:

Yeast We Can! New Report Answers Questions on Microbiology and Beer

Charlie Bamforth, University of California, Davis

Kyria Boundy-Mills, University of California, Davis

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Author Bio & Story Archive

Marsha Lewis is a freelance producer based in California.  She has won 11 National Telly Awards and nine Regional Emmy Awards for her work in local and national syndicated news.

I’ve dedicated my time to reporting and producing stories focused on medical, science and technology. I created a nationally award winning series dedicated to promoting women and their great accomplishments.  Now I’ve taken that expertise outside the traditional TV news format and broadened the viewership to people around the world.