Sequencing the DNA of beer


Beer is alive! It contains DNA that comes from its ingredients (hops, malts, yeast) and some hundred microbes. There are 1,000+ yeasts used for brewing and 200+ hop varieties, each one bearing a different DNA and contributing to differentiate its properties.

We can use the beer to sensibilize the public to molecular biology and genomic related research, DNA sequencing and data analysis and the challenges and possibilities that genomics brings to our society.

To bring the public to the contact of molecular biology, data-analysis, and open science, we organize workshops in which pupils, students and citizens extract, sequence and analyze the “DNA of beer”.


This project was started by Hackuarium, an open Laboratory for DIY Biology, in Lausanne.

In Freiburg, we develop a first prototype of the DNA extraction and sequencing protocols using the Nanopore MinION, a portable real-time device for DNA sequencing. The results are very promising and the initial feedback is overwhelming. We have successfully identified specific brewing yeast strains from the DNA extracted out of bottled beer. For the data analysis, we create a workflow using Galaxy. This open source, web-based platform makes reproducible computational biology and bioinformatics accessible to anyone with web-access.

To support the workshop, training material (slides, hands-on material, interactive web-tours) are creating to guide our participants from data upload to data analysis.

The protocols used for the DNA extraction and sequencing, the workflows, the sequencing data, and the training materials are developed in an open collaborative environment, adhering to the open science principles and shared online. We are aiming at providing a template project for other communities around the globe to pursue similar efforts locally.

Some pictures