Beer is a fermented beverage with a history as old as human civilization. Ales and lagers are by far the most common beers; however, diversification is becoming increasingly important in the brewing market and the brewers are continuously interested in improving and extending the range of products, especially in the craft brewery sector. Fermentation is one of the widest spaces for innovation in the brewing process. Besides Saccharomyces cerevisiae
ale and Saccharomyces pastorianus
lager strains conventionally used in macro-breweries, there is an increasing demand for novel yeast starter cultures tailored for producing beer styles with diversified aroma profiles. Recently, four genetic engineering-free approaches expanded the genetic background and the phenotypic biodiversity of brewing yeasts and allowed novel costumed-designed starter cultures to be developed: (1) the research for new performant S. cerevisiae
yeasts from fermented foods alternative to beer; (2) the creation of synthetic hybrids between S. cerevisiae
in order to mimic lager yeasts; (3) the exploitation of evolutionary engineering approaches; (4) the usage of non-Saccharomyces
yeasts. Here, we summarized the pro and contra of these approaches and provided an overview on the most recent advances on how brewing yeast genome evolved and domestication took place. The resulting correlation maps between genotypes and relevant brewing phenotypes can assist and further improve the search for novel craft beer starter yeasts, enhancing the portfolio of diversified products offered to the final customer.
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