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This biochemist brews a wild beer

Using scavenged microbes for fermentation brings out the funky and sour flavors

10:00am, September 19, 2017
flask of beer and yeast

MICROBE BREWS  Scientists are looking for a few good yeasts to enhance beer brewing. Each flask (above) contains the same liquid ingredients and a different kind of yeast.

Craft brewers are going wild. Some of the trendiest beers on the market are intentionally brewed with yeast scavenged from nature, rather than the carefully cultivated ale or lager yeast used in most commercial beers.

Matthew Bochman is in on the action. By day, he’s a biochemist at Indiana University Bloomington who studies how cells keep their DNA intact. On the side, he can be found bagging new kinds of wild yeast. When Bochman, a self-professed yeast whisperer, moved to Indiana, he made friends with many local craft brewers, including Robert Caputo.

Caputo wanted to make a beer that is 100 percent Indiana. He had state-grown hops and malt grains, and Indiana water is plentiful. “The missing ingredient was the Indiana yeast,” Bochman says. Caputo asked Bochman to help find the missing microbes. “So we went yeast hunting,” Bochman says.

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