BeerDeCoded

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BeerDeCoded is a quest to decode the molecular composition from beers collected all over the world.

The project was founded in 2014 by Gianpaolo Rando as an iteration of the Open Food DNA project. At the beginning, DNA was the only focus. Now we are expanding to other molecular analyses.



Our goals

BeerDeCoded is a research project to draw a genetic map of beers. The public contributes to every step of this project: from securing funding to doing the experiment, from testing (and tasting) the samples to publishing the results. BeerDeCoded is doing-research-together, on the streets, in the bars and in an open laboratory.

The main goals are the following:

  • To expand public understanding of molecular technologies (i.e. DNA sequencing) and their connection to culture.
  • To help non-scientist to study and analyse their beer samples at molecular level.
  • To motivate citizen scientists to generate an open access molecular dataset.
  • To understand the brewing process better.


Beer DNA?

Beer is a living beverage, and therefore it contains DNA. The DNA comes from its ingredients (hops, grains, yeast) and also from the microbes that were present on the ingredients and in the brewing environment. There are 1,000+ yeast varieties used for brewing and 200+ hops species, each one bearing a different DNA. Artisanal beer (craft beer) is trendy: microbreweries produce a large variety of beers, each one with its unique recipe and taste. It seems impossible to taste them all, so we are making a "tree of beers" based on their biochemical composition.

What now?

We are working on beer DNA extractions, sequencing and bioinformatics.

Want to help us? Drop us a note or join an #OpenHackuarium.

Events

We run BeerDeCoded workshops at Hackuarium or at public events. We can load a miniaturized laboratory on a cargo-bike and bring molecular analyses everywhere.

If you want BeerDeCoded at your event, please contact gianpaolo.rando@swissdecode.ch

Past events

  • NCCR Retreat in Chemical Biology
  • GEW Geneva


How do we finance the project?

At LIFT15 conference in Geneva, we discussed the project during a science crowdfunding workshop.

We then joined the first Science x Kickstarter hackathon in New York City (Feb 28, 2015) to draft a crowdfunding campaign for a pilot experiment.

We have been successfully funded in 20 days in June 2015.

After that, we attracted some sponsorship from local partners including Amstein SA, Swissnex San Francisco, Commune de Genève, ABO Valais.

How did we NOT finance the project?

We have our collection of refusals. We are proud of some applications and we list them here because they could be useful to other projects.


Impact

We only measured our outreach capacity during the Kickstarter campaign.

During the Kickstarter campaign that run for the whole month of June 2015, there were 9,979 views (1,760 from Switzerland) on the kickstarter page. The related 2-min video containing simple technical aspects on beer DNA metagenomics was played 4,424 times (38% of plays completed). More than 2000 people interacted with us on social media, 723 people engaged in a discussion about the genetics of beer components, and 199 people devoted an average time of 5:21 min to answer 5 questions related to beer, DNA and decision making. The questions were “Tell me some beers you like”, “Why do you like these beers?”, “Where do you think taste comes from?”, “On the beer menu there are 20 beers you do not know, how do you choose?”, and “Imagine how the DNA that beers contain could help you make this choice”. During this pilot campaign, 123 people (including 6 breweries, 1 Swiss beer importer and 1 beer tasting association) financially contributed to the project, more than 20 people subscribed to a laboratory event to run a beer DNA analysis together and 10 joined the lab for a first full-day workshop in July 2015. BeerDeCoded was mentioned by 50+ magazines and blogs, including 3 Swiss daily newspapers (Le Temps, La Tribune de Genève, 24 Heures) and 2 TV programs on the Swiss national channel RTS (A bon entendeur, Le journal).

On the 723 in-person conversations, we took notes on the first 107 conversations. When it comes to beer and DNA: 29 correctly understood it was a beer classification problem, 25 replied off-target or changed topic, 21 imagined an application to suggest beers (sommelier), 13 thought this was going to generate new beer recipes, 8 posed a strong objection, implying that this was not possible, 4 thought I was talking about GMO, 4 wondered about legal issues, 3 - including one journalist - thought I was talking about human DNA. In some conversations, people showed an intuition for important research topics, like genotype-environment interaction, feature selection, false discovery rate etc.., but this is more difficult to measure and probably less relevant. These conversations show that it is possible to exchange views and perspectives on genetic testing using beer DNA as an example.

Budget

Today BeerDeCoded runs on a voluntary basis. We pay reagents and services. We have funding for sequencing 96 beers. Rough project costs:

  • 500 CHF - Beer collection
  • 1000 CHF - DNA purification (we extract DNA out of the beer)
  • 5500 CHF - DNA amplification and multiplexing (we amplify the DNA, we label it with a ID code and we pool the labeled samples inside a sequencer)
  • 3000 CHF - DNA sequencing.

Other steps (manpower, bioinformatic analyses, data visualisation and communication) are done on a voluntary basis.

Team

Gianpaolo Rando, Ph.D. Director

Jonathan Sobel, M.Sc. Bioinformatics

Nicolas Rotman, Ph.D. Molecular biology

Marco Maggiotti Software Engineer

Vanessa Lorenzo Interaction design

Alex Hantson, B.Sc. Digital marketing

Luc Henry, Ph.D. Science outreach

Gabrielle Salanon Brewing, molecular enology

Brij Sahi, MBA Business development

Any question?

Contact us via Gianpaolo Rando, Jonathan Sobel or Luc Henry.

BeerDeCoded on the Web

More on Social Media

What Others Do

  • WhiteLabs initiative
  • Ava Winery Synthetic Wines, San Francisco. All wines are a collection of molecules including water, alcohol, sugars, acids, etc. Ava identifies those molecules and recombines them from scratch to recreate the wine at the molecular level. https://www.avawinery.com/