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Celebrating International Beer Day? Celebrate Biotechnology!

August 7, 2015

International Beer Day (IBD) is a celebration on the first Friday of every August founded in 2007 in Santa Cruz, California. Since its inception, International Beer Day has grown into a worldwide celebration spanning 207 cities, 50 countries and 6 continents. Specifically, International Beer Day has three declared purposes:

  1. To gather with friends and enjoy the taste of beer.

  2. To celebrate those responsible for brewing and serving beer.

  3. To unite the world under the banner of beer, by celebrating the beers of all nations together on a single day.

Alcohol is widely consumed across the globe. In fact, according to the most recent World Health Organization data, globally individuals above 15 years of age drink on average 6.2 liters of pure alcohol per year, which translates into 13.5 grams of pure alcohol per day.

Global consumption of alcohol per capita, 2010

Even though many people drink alcohol, most are unaware of how it is made. Alcohol production is one of the most basic applications of industrial biotechnology.

For instance, beer is made from water, a starch source such as barley, brewer’s yeast and a flavoring such as hops. The starch in the barley must be converted to sugar by enzymes (which are activated when the barley is malted) then fermented (the brewer's yeast metabolizes the sugars to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide). Enzymes and microbes are two common tools used in industrial biotechnology.

You may be asking yourself: if biotech can help produce beer, can it improve it as well? The answer is yes. For instance, one research company, Leavandary, produces designer yeast for craft brewers. Leavendary, located in Huntsville, Alabama, modified one of its strains to create green beer as a demonstration project for St. Patrick’s Day. The biotech industry came up with a solution for providing green beer without the use of green dye #3.

So when you are out on Friday celebrating International Beer Day, remember to toast industrial biotechnology and know that without science we may not have beer.