Will Drug-Producing Yeast Strains Negatively Impact Homebrewing?

220px-Morphin_-_Morphine.svgYesterday, I posted a brief description of how, very soon, there will be a yeast strain capable of producing morphine from glucose. The usual substrates for morphine production, compounds isolated from opium poppies, will not be required. The simplicity of how morphine could potentially be produced has already caused nearly every article in the popular press (and many in the scientific press) to claim that producing morphine could be as easy as brewing beer at home. Some articles even unequivocally link the two. This should cause some concern among homebrewers. [Read more…]

Brewers Yeast Will Soon Be Able to Produce Morphine


“Well it just goes to show/ Things are not what they seem/ Please, Sister Morphine/ Turn my nightmares into dreams.” — Rolling Stones

On May 18th, the journal Nature Chemical Biology published an article entitled, “An enzyme-coupled biosensor enables (S)-reticuline production in yeast from glucose.” It’s a title that would generate little interest outside of a handful of biochemists had the authors not spelled out its implications elsewhere.

(S)-reticuline is an intermediate in the biochemical pathway to morphine in opium poppies. And previously, two other yeast strains have been engineered to produce morphine from (R)-reticuline, and (R)-reticuline from (S)-reticuline. In others words, there are now three yeast strains that — working together — could produce morphine starting with glucose — no opium poppies required. They did this by splicing genes from poppies and other organisms into these strains. It is, of course, only a short matter of time until all the genes necessary are brought together into single strain. [Read more…]

JM “Big Pig” Ale (a 14% ABV Barleywine)


Drawing by Nobu Tamura, from Wikipedia, used under GNU Free License.

This is a big barleywine — with a projected ABV of 14% — that uses “feeding” to reach its high alcoholic content. I am presenting this recipe as an example to go with the article on “feeding” that I posted at the end of April. I should point out that this is an example recipe — I haven’t actually brewed it. However, I have used the technique — exactly as described in the recipe — to boost a 12% ABV lager to a 14% ABV lager. (The lager, which I brewed once, was similar to Krampus Claws, which I’ve brewed three times.) This recipe is basically a higher alcohol version of my American barleywine recipe, which I’ve brewed a couple times. [Read more…]

Our Dullest Article To Date (Intro)

Screen shot 2015-05-12 at 1.58.53 PMThis will be the dullest brewing article you’ll ever read. It will stretch out over several posts, spanning several weeks. Nothing in it will be exciting. However, you should read it if you are serious about brewing. It’s nominally about cleaning and sanitation, but it’s really about brewing the cleanest beer possible.

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“Feeding” the Biggest Beers (Part 3 of 3)

DSCN0062In the the first two installments of this article, I described the basic idea behind “feeding” the fermentation of a very strong beer and how to formulate a recipe for this procedure. Here is how to actually brew the beer.

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“Feeding” the Biggest Beers (Part 2 of 3)

DSCN0062There are basically two steps to brewing a very strong beer by feeding your fermentation. The first step is to formulate a recipe and a plan. The second step is to brew the initial beer and then feed the fermentation. I’ll cover the first step today and the second tomorrow.

Twelve percent alcohol by volume (ABV) is the alcohol tolerance listed for many yeast strains that are commonly use to brew strong beers. For recipes under 12% ABV, you probably do not want to bother with feeding — just brew the normal way, paying close attention to pitching rate and aeration. If your beer is over 12% ABV, or the predicted ABV is higher than the alcohol tolerance listed for your intended yeast strain, feeding the fermentation should let you squeeze a little bit more alcohol from your yeast.

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“Feeding” the Biggest Beers (Part 1 of 3)

DSCN0062Brewing a drinkable very strong beer takes a lot of work. (For the sake of this article, let’s define “very strong” as over 12% ABV.) Everything — from wort production, to raising the proper amount of yeast, to running the fermentation — requires more. More ingredients. More time. More care. One technique can make brewing the absolute biggest beers a bit easier — “feeding” the beer as fermentation progresses.

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Homebrew Heroics Contest Essays

brewsupsdLast week, I posted the winners of our Homebrew Heroics contest. Here are the runners up and a few “editors choice”  entries. Thanks to everyone who entered.  [Read more…]

Five Tips for Newbies


The number of tips given in the article, expressed in an Arabic numeral.

 Today I’d like to give five tips for new brewers. However, these tips also apply to brewers who are switching to all-grain or trying out anything new within brewing (brewing sour beers, decoction mashing, etc.).

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Homebrew Heroics Contest Winners

brewsupsdToday, the winners of the Beer and Wine Journal/Basic Brewing Radio Homebrew Heroics Contest were first announced on Basic Brewing Radio. The top two winners received passes to the 2015 National Homebrew Conference (NHC) in San Diego. (In a twist of fate, one of the winners declared himself ineligible, so the prize was passed on to the next runner up.)

Below are the essays from the two original winners (Benjamin Grupe and Greg Niznik), plus the winning runner up (Tim Wang). Tomorrow, I will post a few of the other runners up. Thanks to everyone who entered and hope to see you at the NHC!

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