Modern beer drinkers can be tough to please. With liquor store shelves overflowing with cinnamon IPAs and chocolate stouts, craft brewers are faced with the daunting task of finding recipes that will resonate with their oft-bearded end users. But one UK-based brewery is taking things up a notch. For a hefty price tag, the Meantime Brewing Company offering customers the ultimate personalized beer. And all they need is a bit of your spit.
For the pioneering project, the brewery partnered with personal genomics and biotechnology company, 23andMe. Using simple saliva samples, the folks at 23andMe are able to analyze customers’ genetic profiles and evaluate their taste tendencies. The brewers at Meantime then interpret that info to tailor-make 12 hectolitres (about 2,500 pints) of tipple suited to individual taste preferences.
Just in case the genetically determined flavor profile doesn’t perfectly match up with customers’ preferred tastes, a consultation with the brewmaster is included in the package to allow for a bit of flavor tweaking if necessary. And it just may be necessary. 23andMe have admitted that “scientists aren’t yet sure how much of our taste preferences are genetic, but estimates are generally around 50%.”
The idea to merge genetics with brewing was sparked late last year when Meantime brewmaster Ciaran Giblin obtained his own DNA blueprint from 23andMe. According to the results, Giblin’s oral taste receptors (the TAS2R38 gene) show that he has a proclivity for bitter flavors like those found in coffee or Brussels sprouts.
Hophead Giblin used the taste analysis to create the world’s first DNA-dictated beer: Double Helix. The super bitter IPA is packed with American hops and erupts with the full-bodied flavor that you’d expect from a chest hair-sprouting 10% ABV beer.
His potent personalized brew was made available at a selection of exclusive venues across London. Following its success, the craft brewer announced the launch of ‘Meantime Bespoke,’ “a one-of-a-kind service aimed at offering passionate craft beer fans the opportunity to brew the ultimate
in personalized beer.”
Sounds good, right? Well before you sign up, let’s talk about that hefty price tag. A DNA-designed beer will set you back an eye-watering $31,360 (and that excludes features like a custom-designed label or home draft dispenser). Sure, you head home with a truckload of beer, but you’re paying three times as much per pint as you would if you had just wandered into any London pub and ordered a beer from the bar.
But according to the team at Meantime, their custom beer project is about more than just the product. Marketing director, Richard Myers told The Register that it is about the experience of creating a unique beer in consultation with the brewmaster that makes Meantime Bespoke worth mortgaging the house.
“It is true that someone could just tell us whether they like sweet or bitter flavors, however we are interested in how much they really like them,” explains Myers. “For example, from the test we now understand that Ciaran (our brewmaster and first to try the concept) has an 80% tolerance to bitter flavors. Far higher than he actually thought he would, that led him to create a beer with 100 IBUs [International Bitterness Units]. The one-on-one consultation will provide further insight into the individual’s preferences to help create the perfect beer.”
Meantime Brewery, an Anheuser-Busch InBev company, are strong believers in embracing modern technology in the quest for better beer and are keen to push the boundaries of the industry to create new drinking experiences. “Drinkers are developing more adventurous tastes thanks to the abundance of new and unheard of ingredients and flavor combinations becoming even more readily available,” says Giblin. “We are finding our consumers want to be continually surprised, excited and at times even challenged by what’s on offer.”