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Fruit Flies & Beer

October 15, 2014

Beer owes its distinctive aroma to fruit flies.



Marcello Delirium Cafe in Brussels Belgium

People flock to the Delirium Cafe in Brussels, Belgium for some of the same reasons fruit flies flock to yeast. (Marcello/Flickr)

Like flies to beer. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

An accidental experiment with brewer’s yeast in Kevin Verstrepen’s lab has led to the discovery of the origins of beer’s fruity aromas.

KEVIN VERSTREPEN (University of Leuven, Belgium):

One Friday night I guess I was a bit too eager to get to the bar and I didn’t clean up my experiments. So I returned on Monday and I found that I had done an extra experiment over the weekend without really knowing it.


The University of Leuven geneticist says fruit flies from a neighboring lab had made their way into one of his flasks of yeast – which had been genetically modified to be especially aromatic. But they ignored yeast which lacked the fruity aromas. He and his colleagues have now discovered that yeast actually produce these aromas to attract fruit flies, which in turn spread their spores around.


We owe the great taste of beer and wine at least partly to fruit flies.


The research appears in the journal Cell Reports. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.