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This App Uses Your Genes to Tell You What Beer to Drink

If funding comes through, researchers hope to produce the BeerDeCoded app, which would help consumers navigate beer DNA and pair brews with their own tastebuds.
June 9, 2015, 9:30pm

You're at a bar, agonizing over which of the 50-odd beers you should choose. An IPA, something bitter and hoppy, or a straight-up Pilsner? Bars can be thrilling—the cherished after-work watering holes, where you can imbibe and blow off steam (among other things). But the selection of drink choices can be daunting, now more than ever. Even beer—the go-to basic booze—has become more refined, thanks to the rise and popularity of microbreweries worldwide.


Which is great, but with diversity comes complications. And unless one is a self-appointed beer connoisseur, selecting the right libation can be difficult and sometimes costly. What if there was a way to surpass the anxiety of choosing the right beer and let your tastebuds do the decision-making?

BeerDeCoded may be the solution to easing your pre-hangover drinking woes and possibly even saving you money. Conceived by Gianpaolo Rando, a Swiss-Italian chemist and ardent beer-lover, BeerDeCoded aims to sequence over 100 different beers' DNA in the hopes of producing a smartphone app that will function like a genetic sommelier—enabling consumers to find the right beer based on their own hereditary makeup.

Currently, BeerDeCoded is launching a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising money to recruit the scientists needed to sequence the DNA of over 100 beers. The sequencing includes conducting biochemical analyses in order to identify key components of each beer—from their particular brewing processes to their distinctive flavors, and even their aftertastes. With this information, the BeerDeCoded team will be able to create a genomic tree that sorts different beers into different branches. The main goal is to create a smartphone app that can recommend which beer is the right match for individual based on his or her ancestry.

Speaking from his lab in Geneva, Rando says, "So far, we have raised $7,355 since the Kickstarter launch, and we have less than 20 days to raise about $3,000 more to meet the goal of the first 100 beers."


But he remains optimistic and notes that the team is making progress. "The first update [shows] some preliminary results with beer parameters. And with [their] DNA sequenced, they could only be better."

And he's right. Once the results are complete, BeerDeCoded will produce its massive genomic tree, allowing researchers to sort virtually every variety of beer into the appropriate branch. If funding comes through, the team hopes to produce the BeerDeCoded smartphone application, which would then help consumers navigate the "beer tree" and pair beers with their own tastebuds.

Sound farfetched? Not really, claims Rando: "Beer has many tastes and infinite nuances." Now more than ever, the science of taste is increasingly under the microscope—whether it's in noma's Nordic Food Lab or the offices of Switzerland.

"Beer is a perfect product to map because its composed of yeast, and good microbes break down the aromatic molecules, thus [creating] a distinct taste. [All] microbes have different DNAs. Each one has its own coding to create taste-making tools."

This actually makes beer the perfect product to map. And thankfully, the labs of scientists like Rando and his team are becoming extensions of bars and restaurants, guiding our palates to just the right libation.