Drunk but alert: students brew caffeine beer

A group of German students has caused a stir in the normally separate worlds of beer brewing and molecular biotechnology. On Sunday they will present their caffeinated, lemon, and sweet beers to a panel of experts in the US.

Drunk but alert: students brew caffeine beer
Photo: DPA

For the past six months, 19 students from the Research at the Centre of Life and Food Sciences Weihenstephan, part of the Munich Technical University (TUM), have been fiddling with the genetic make-up of yeast, and turning the results into a range of weird and wonderful beers.

So far, the team has managed to adapt the yeast so that in the brewing process it makes caffeinated, lemon-flavour, sweetened, and even cancer-fighting beer, the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported on Wednesday. Unlike popular beer-mix drinks sold in shops, the TUM brew is strictly additive-free.

The team reached the final of the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition and on Sunday will be travelling to Boston, to present their findings to a panel of judges at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“Lots of beer makes people tired,” said student Jara Obermann. Another, Volker Morath, added “we are not trying to save the world with our beer,” but suggested that they were hoping to show that anything was possible in the realm of food engineering.

Comprised of molecular biotechnology students, computer scientists, biologists, mathematicians and brewers, the team has not actually tasted their creations yet. At this point “it would be too dangerous,” said Morath.

There could be nasty micro-organisms in it, or the caffeine content could be far too high, he explained.

If it turns out to be potable, the group plans to make a batch of lemon-flavoured and caffeinated beer for their own consumption. They already have designs for a label on stand-by.

And even if the team was planning on using their winnings to set up business, they would have to find capital themselves, as the MIT panel award the best idea with a single brick of Lego. This is supposed to symbolise their contribution to an international study of genetics.

The Local/jcw

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