NC State researchers using insects to create new kinds of beer

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — N.C. State University researchers are working to create new kinds of beer by using insects.

Armed with a net and a vial, university research technician Lauren Nichols searches for wasps on fruits or flowers.

Then, she takes the bugs she catches back to the lab to collect yeast found in and on the insects.

“We grind them up to see what’s either on their surface or inside their guts,” she explained.

“From all the organisms we find on or in the wasps, we pick out the ones that look like they’re potentially yeast and then we run a number of genetic and biochemical tests to figure out which ones are actually yeast,” Nichols said.

The yeasts are also tested to make sure they’re safe for human consumption.

Researchers place the yeast on a petri dish where it grows, before it’s taken to John Sheppard’s brewery.

Sheppard is a professor of bioprocessing science at N.C. State. At first, he says he wasn’t so sure about the process.

“We didn’t know at the time we tried this whether the yeast we used would be suitable for brewing. Honestly, I was quite skeptical whether they would be. We were quite fortunate that the first two used strains we tried actually made a palatable product,” Sheppard said.

Beers made from wild yeasts taste a bit different from other beers.

“They have a lot of fruit character to them, very aromatic with a touch of tartness,” described Sheppard.

He said the beers have been well received

“I think this is really the leading edge of new beer development,” he said.

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