Is it possible to classify beers by their genetic code?

First, a little description about people who are working in 1000 beer genomes. We are a mixed team of biologists, bioinformaticians, designers and home brewers. We work under the same roof in the bio-hackerspace Hackuarium. www.hackuarium.ch

Gianpaolo, How did you become interested in beer?

The first time I entered a bar in Switzerland and I asked for a beer. I was just thirsty and I expected the waitress to ask small or medium. But she said there were 200 different beers. It was a culture shock. I'm a scientist and I like to look inside things so I said, why not looking inside beer? There is a world to discover.

What is 1000 beer genomes?

It's a citizen science project. People send us beers and we decode the beer DNA. The DNA comes from the beer ingredients. We use the same tools and techniques used to study the evolution of biological organisms. The only difference is that we use beers instead of Darwin's birds. We give back a map (tree) of the beers. We are completing a kickstarter campaign to fund the first lot of 100 beers.  http://kck.st/1GCH7cW

What do you think about BJCP classification?

It's an impressive amount of work, and it's going in the right direction. A beer style is a way to put beers together. It is useful when you travel and you do not know the local brands. At the same time, people do not like labels. I think for beers is the same. Each beer is unique. Can we find a way to define a beer identity? Can we compare beer identities based on similarities? We think the measure of internal standards (i.e. molecules inside a beer) could identify beers. We start to look at the DNA. It's a first step and highly hypothethical.

How long does it take to get the DNA of a beer?

One can extract the DNA from 12 or 24 beers in less that one hour. This is just DNA in a tube. We need few days more to read that DNA.

Is this expensive?

DNA sequencing costs are decreasing. When we rent the sequencing machine we can process many samples in one session. It costs more than a dinner but less than a weekend trip.

If I have a microbrewery or I am a homebrewer, can I take part in your project?

Sure. You can send us your beer: we will analyse it and include in our future App. You will also receive a personalised report. We can tell you what is inside your beer, and inside the beers of your competitors.

Do you think there will be a before and after your science project in the world of beer?

I'm drawing a beer map. A map is good to get some orientation. With the explosion of the craft beers it's easy to get lost. Yet, the experience is more important. The help of a Cicerone is still invaluable in guiding me to hike the beer landscape.

What is your favourite beer style?

I like to explore. It's rare that I drink the same beer twice. My body does not react well with Weiss beers, otherwise I drink everything. I'm not snob. When I'm thirsty I just open the fridge and grab a simple Pilsner.

Do you Know spanish´s craft beer?

Not yet. But I look forward to receive some Spanish beers. So I could plan my future holiday trip and drink local cervezas!

From your point of view are there any difference between ecological and non-ecological ingredients (malts, hops...)?

I think so. There are microbes and small organisms that live on the plant. They affect the plant development. Pesticides change this ecosystem. Microrganisms have DNA, and I'm looking forward to measure their presence in beer as well.