Microbial analysis to discover your brews flavor DNA.

We are currently conducting a market study open to brewers who qualify. Approved brewers will receive up to three FlavorDNA analysis at no charge. For more information, or to see if you qualify for this study, please contact us at (424) 247-6203 or jason.cooley@southbaybiomics.com.

Flavor DNA? What is it?

Beer flavor development is a complex and magical process owing to many factors ranging from a brewer’s recipe of hops, malts and fermentation time to the natural presence of various hitchhiker microbes along the way that contribute both to desired flavors and undesired off-flavors. Many of these off flavors both desired and undesired result from the metabolic dance that is taking place as a result of the types of bacteria and yeast present in the product during its maturation. Knowing the identities of the microbial players involved in a given beer and their abundances in relation to one another is a fingerprint for a given beer, constituting its ‘flavor DNA’. A beer or green beer’s Flavor DNA can be unlocked with modern and cutting edge DNA sequencing technologies, Next-generation DNA sequencing (NGS), in a rapid and comprehensive manner.

NGS is the same technology that has enabled the sequencing of the human genome and the emergence of personalized genetic medicine. In fact, these techniques are so powerful that they have made analysis of massive amount of DNA sequence-based information feasible in a matter of hours. In essence, we can sequence all the microbial DNA in a given sample and use powerful bioinformatics tools to identify and quantify each bacterial and yeast strain present. Comprehensive knowledge of your beer’s microbial content will allow you as a brewer to improve consistency in your packaged products and to evaluating each batch’s ‘Flavor DNA’ in relation to previous products. Furthermore, Flavor DNA analysis will also identify and quantitate potential beer spoilage microbes prior to bottle/canning.

FlavorDNA Advantages

  • Very small sample sizes – sequencing DNA from small samples
  • Fast turn-around, typically 2-5 days
  • We can test anywhere along the pipeline, including surfaces
  • Some brewers are specifically interested in the lactic acid bacteria in pitch or green beer – i.e. Farmhouse Ales
  • Species level information relating to yeast pitching, re-pitching
  • Mold or other containments
  • Identify any spoilage organisms


Comparison of Common Microbial Analyses

How FlavorDNA Analysis Works

Microbes and their interactions with one another as a community are responsible for many of the characteristic flavors developed during a beer’s maturation as well as being responsible for most off flavors.

Microbial analysis is an essential step for a brewer to maintain consistency of product whether they are producing 100 of gallons in a brewery or as home brewer producing more modest batches. However, microbial analysis has remained technically and informationally simplistic in its most widely accepted practices and as such remains a time consuming step that must often be fit in or even waited upon before product can be packaged or shipped to consumers.

Approved methods of microbial analysis center around growing beer derived microbes on petri dishes, usually by placing a .45 micron filter on the Petri dish after filtering a ‘green’ beer sample through it, letting those microbes grow for 24 hours or so and then individual microbes (or colonies) are characterized. Typically, individual microbial colonies are transferred and grown separately, observed for morphology, tested on differing food sources (i.e. lactic acid), tested for their Gram stain, and for gas production, and for catalase activity and finally for the configuration of sugars (D vs L). Keeping in mind that these tests must be done to loosely identify each bacterial strain. The result is a rudimentary identification of a limited set of microbes.

Needless to say, these tests are laborious and increase in both time and cost with increasing numbers of microbes tested. In fact, ASBC approved testing courses such as these can take anywhere from 5-7 days depending upon whether they are carried in house or are sent out for analysis by a laboratory.

DNA-based techniques for testing of common bacteria in beer have begun to emerge in the marketplace. Yet, these techniques, while much more rapid than approved methods, can only identify a select few bacteria and require pre-enrichment for true quantitation owing to the fact that they are non-sequencing based techniques. Without reading the DNA sequence, these methods leave the true power of DNA based microbial analysis on the cutting room floor as they say.

The rich information innate to the DNA in a beer (FlavorDNA), i.e. complete bacterial and yeast identities and abundances, can be unlocked through ‘next-generation’ DNA sequencing (NGS) techniques. NGS techniques have the unique advantage of being both rapid to perform and exhaustive in terms of microbial identification and abundance.

South Bay Biomics specializes in decoding your beer’s Flavor DNA using the most current NGS technologies and proven suites of bioinformatic analysis tools. We pride ourselves in working with brewers to increase consistency through science and knowledge. Furthermore, we can be an unparalleled resource and advocate for identifying where specific microbes make their way into your production lines and how they might be mitigated or controlled.

For more information, please contact us at (424) 247-6203 or jason.cooley@southbaybiomics.com.

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