If you needed yet another reason to drink beer, science just gave it to you. Researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) just developed a new type of probiotic beer which could improve your immune system and neutralize pathogens and toxins.

Cheers! Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan (left) and Miss Chan Mei Zhi Alcine (right), showcasing their newly-developed probiotic beer. Image credits: NUS.

The idea of developing a healthy, probiotic beer, came from Miss Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, a fourth-year student from the Food Science and Technology Programme at the NUS Faculty of Science. Chan realized that while the market abounds with dairy-based probiotics, there’s another huge untapped market for probiotics: beer. Due to its nature, beer is a fertile ground for probiotics, and the craft beer phenomenon has been growing at a staggering rate in many parts of the world — so why not blend the two?

“The health benefits of probiotics are well known. While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics. As a believer of achieving a healthy diet through consuming probiotics, this is a natural choice for me when I picked a topic for my final-year project,” said Miss Chan, who will be graduating in July 2017.

Working with Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan, she used a strain of Lactobacillus paracasei called L26, which seems to be particularly promising. The probiotic gives a strong taste with pleasant aromas, and the beer itself is quite light — with only 3.5% alcohol.

“For this beer, we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic microorganism,” explains Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, who developed the beer, in a statement. “It will utilise sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavors. The final product, which takes around a month to brew, has an alcohol content of about 3.5 percent.”

Now, we’ll be the first to breathe in a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to probiotics. Studies have often been contradictory or inconclusive when it comes to probiotics, and they’re certainly given much more credit than they deserve on the market. However, Lactobacillus paracasei L26 was documented as having immune-boosting properties in mice — though this has yet to be confirmed in humans. They’ve already taken out a patent for the recipe to sell it commercially, which means we won’t be seeing a peer-reviewed study on the beer and a decisive verdict on its positive properties. Still, Liu is confident that the bacterium strain, which was isolated from the human gut, will make for a delicious and healthy beer, which he expects people to enjoy.

“The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine’s invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends. I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well-received by beer drinkers, as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy.”

It’s not the first attempt to create a beer with secondary healthy effects. In 2008, Rice University researchers brewed an “anti-cancer beer” though we haven’t heard much of it since. While not really the same approach, another cool project was delivered by a small brewery in Scandinavia — PangPang Brewery developed what they call the perfect shower beer. People have brewed beer for millennia, I’m really happy to see this type of innovations finally kicking in.