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DNA coding system hopes to help local craft beer industry

Langara student and biology instructor develop system to distinguish between hop varieties

Hops used in the production of beer. Photo by Josh Delp/Flickr
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Reported by Violetta Kryak 

A DNA bar coding system developed by a student and an instructor in the Langara biology department could help the local craft beer industry.

Ji Yong Yang, a biology instructor, and Andrii Ponomarov, a student from Langara’s Student Work Assistance Program, worked together to develop an efficient DNA marker-based method to distinguish between different types of hops.

Langara biology instructor Ji Yong Yang explains the diagrams of the circular DNA of a chloroplast. Photo by Violetta Kryak

Final presentation scheduled for end of March

Yang and Ponomarov will present their final project at the Scholarship Cafe at Langara on March 30.

“Preliminary results suggest there are unique DNA markers that seem to be limited to particular types of hop varieties. We are now in the process of confirming whether those variations actually exist,” Yang said.

There are over 150 hop varieties and they all have distinct genetic markers, Yang said. With his current research he is trying to prove that it’s true.

Yang said he enjoys drinking beer and wanted to work on something that can be applied by the local industry.

“[Breweries] came up with really interesting beers, really interesting beer profiles,” Yang said. “I thought that there should be a DNA bar coding system that could identify different varieties of hops.”

Local brewers: System will add more control to beer production

Thomas Batty, head brewer at Dogwood Brewing, said because of the DNA marker system’s ability to identify and categorize different flavours, brewers will have more control over what kind of beer they make.

“As soon as you do DNA bar coding you can start to quantify data rather than having it purely subjective. And that gives the brewer more information on exactly what he is dealing with,” said Batty.

The project is at its final stages now and Ponomarov says each step can produce false results. “So we need to double check, triple check, cross check. It’s complicated and you need to approach the problem from different angles.”

Although brewers will benefit from the project, Yang is not planning to market it.

“The plan is to publish the results,” said Yang. “In terms of my own interest, I have no business interest here, it’s purely academic.”

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