Historically, beer was produced by spontaneous fermentation, and it wasn’t until the 19th century, when due to standardization and quality control implementation, the microbial community of a typical, industrially produced beer became limited to a single yeast strain, with no bacteria.
Now that craft brewing is exploding in popularity around the world, more and more often beer brewers use spontaneous fermentation to create unique flavor profiles, encouraging new ingredients and microorganisms. Often unfiltered and unpasteurized, such beer contains more nutrients and live microbes than mass-produced beer, as bacteria and yeast continue to live in the bottle and reach our gut, with possible health benefits.
A recent study by a preventive health company Atlas Biomed looks at a full microbial composition of several spontaneously fermented beers and ciders, including wild ales.
Among the beer styles they analyzed, not only Flemish red ales and American wild ales, beloved by craft brewers, but also unexpected flavors, such as Finnish-style sahti filtered using raw juniper twigs and sour ales with fresh raspberries and apricots. Many of these beers have been produced using wood caskets rich in microorganisms, and the cider was processed from the juice of organic apples collected at multiple locations, thus also contributing to a rich microbial diversity.
The study shows that the bacterial beer community is dominated by lactic acid bacteria found in abundance in fermented foods, such as yoghurt, kefir and kimchi. These bacteria are known to control the pathogens in the gut, as well as provide sources for our beneficial gut microbes to produce butyrate – a health-beneficial substance.
One of the analyzed mixed fermentation ciders was prepared with the addition of a probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii known for its benefits to gut health; the microbiome sequencing allowed to confirm its presence by distinguishing its DNA from the other yeast.
The study shows that high-throughput sequencing of the beer and cider microbiome could potentially help to improve predictability and reproducibility of the taste and aroma of beverages and provide advanced microbiological control in production.
In the long term: The team’s research and the tools they used can bring great practical benefits not just to the breweries but also the microbiologists from other fields. In particular, besides helping to develop innovative beer blends, the new technologies will make it possible to identify new microorganisms for biotechnological applications.
About Atlas Biomed: Atlas Biomed is a UK-based personalized health company launched in 2016. By combining the latest DNA and microbiome technologies with digital health data, they want users to take control of their health and make informed decisions about their well-being. The scientific team has conducted more than 50 RnD projects and published over 50 scientific papers so far. The team’s efforts are focused around clinical trials involving microbiome assessment and developing new analytical approaches to the microbiome study.