The quality of beer relies on the activity of fermenting yeasts, not only for their good fermentation yield-efficiency, but also for their influence on beer aroma, since most of the aromatic compounds are intermediate metabolites and by-products of yeast metabolism. Beer production is a traditional process, in which Saccharomyces
is the sole microbial component, and any deviation is considered a flaw. However, nowadays the brewing sector is faced with an increasing demand for innovative products, and it is diffusing the use of uncharacterized autochthonous starter cultures, spontaneous fermentation, or non-Saccharomyces
starters, which leads to the production of distinctive and unusual products. Attempts to obtain products with more complex sensory characteristics have led one to prospect for non-conventional yeasts, i.e., non-Saccharomyces
yeasts. These generally are characterized by low fermentation yields and are more sensitive to ethanol stress, but they provide a distinctive aroma and flavor. Furthermore, non-conventional yeasts can be used for the production of low-alcohol/non-alcoholic and light beers. This review aims to present the main findings about the role of traditional and non-conventional yeasts in brewing, demonstrating the wide choice of available yeasts, which represents a new biotechnological approach with which to target the characteristics of beer and to produce different or even totally new beer styles.
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