Applied and Environmental Microbiology vol:73 issue:3 pages:815-824
To save energy, space, and time, today's breweries make use of high-gravity brewing in which concentrated medium (wort) is fermented, resulting in a product with higher ethanol content. After fermentation, the product is diluted to obtain beer with the desired alcohol content. While economically desirable, the use of wort with an even higher sugar concentration is limited by the inability of brewer's yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) to efficiently ferment such concentrated medium. Here, we describe a successful strategy to obtain yeast variants with significantly improved fermentation capacity under high-gravity conditions. We isolated better performing variants of the industrial lager strain CMBS33 by subjecting a pool of UV-induced variants to consecutive rounds of fermentation in very-high-gravity wort (> 22 degrees Plato). Two variants (GT336 and GT344) showing faster fermentation rates and/or more-complete attenuation as well as improved viability under high ethanol conditions were identified. The variants displayed the same advantages in a pilot-scale stirred fermenter under high-gravity conditions at 11 degrees C. Microarray analysis identified several genes whose altered expression may be responsible for the superior performance of the variants. The role of some of these candidate genes was confirmed by genetic transformation. Our study shows that proper selection conditions allow the isolation of variants of commercial brewer's yeast with superior fermentation characteristics. Moreover, it is the first study to identify genes that affect fermentation performance under high-gravity conditions. The results are of interest to the beer and bioethanol industries, where the use of more-concentrated medium is economically advantageous.