Buzzed in the Bio Lab

Note: This blog was originally published on December 5, 2012. It was revised on December 9, 2012.

Buzzed in the Bio Lab— German Students Brew Caffeinated Beer

German biology students have concocted a beverage to accompany that hangover from a “Thirsty Thursday” night and keep you sharp for class the next day.

According to an article from The Local, a website for Europe’s latest news and events, reports that 19 scholars from Munich Technical University’s Centre of Life and Food Sciences—Weihenstephan will present a variety of caffeinated beers to a panel of experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

The group experimented with yeast and food engineering to produce several extraordinary caffeine spiked beers, including: lemon-flavored, sweetened, and even one supposed to battle cancer. The brews are reportedly non-addictive and said to curb the drowsy feeling typically experienced after consuming beer. Attending class a little buzzed, but competent, might be a near reality for the day drinking college student.

German students creating caffeinated beer in lab, taken from The Local news site

The students made it to the final round of MIT’s Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, which would suggest that they’ve got quite a grasp on the benefits and risks of caffeinated beer, right? I’d like to think so, but research in recent years suggests otherwise.

A report out of Boston University’s School of Public Health states “there appears to be little or no protective benefit from the addition of caffeine to alcohol, with respect to the safe execution of activities that require sustained attention with rapid, accurate decisions.” This is no surprise considering the distribution and sale of certain caffeinated alcohols, like Four Loko, was banned in several states for a short time pending its reformulation to exclude caffeine.

The German biologists readily disclosed the advantages, as well as the hazards, in consuming their beers, which they haven’t even taste-tested for themselves yet. “There could be nasty micro-organisms in it, or the caffeine content could be far too high,” explained Volker Morath, one of the scientists on the team. “If it turns out to be potable, the group plans to make a batch of lemon-flavored and caffeinated beer for their own consumption,” reads the article.

Lemon-flavored or not, I’ve never been much of a beer drinker and I stray away from caffeinated beverages (coffee, dark sodas, etc.), so best of luck to those of you who might venture into this territory. With variations of caffeinated beer already on the market, I suppose the Bostonians at BU and MIT will have to battle it out over the uncertainty of such a drink.

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