Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 98, Issue 5, pp 1937–1949 | Cite as

Yeast: the soul of beer’s aroma—a review of flavour-active esters and higher alcohols produced by the brewing yeast

  • Eduardo J. Pires
  • José A. Teixeira
  • Tomás Brányik
  • António A. Vicente


Among the most important factors influencing beer quality is the presence of well-adjusted amounts of higher alcohols and esters. Thus, a heavy body of literature focuses on these substances and on the parameters influencing their production by the brewing yeast. Additionally, the complex metabolic pathways involved in their synthesis require special attention. More than a century of data, mainly in genetic and proteomic fields, has built up enough information to describe in detail each step in the pathway for the synthesis of higher alcohols and their esters, but there is still place for more. Higher alcohols are formed either by anabolism or catabolism (Ehrlich pathway) of amino acids. Esters are formed by enzymatic condensation of organic acids and alcohols. The current paper reviews the up-to-date knowledge in the pathways involving the synthesis of higher alcohols and esters by brewing yeasts. Fermentation parameters affecting yeast response during biosynthesis of these aromatic substances are also fully reviewed.


Higher alcohols Fusel alcohols Esters Beer aroma Brewing yeast Saccharomyces spp 



Eduardo Pires gratefully acknowledges the Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT, Portugal) for the PhD fellowship support (SFRH/BD/61777/2009). The financial contributions of the EU FP7 project Ecoefficient Biodegradable Composite Advanced Packaging (EcoBioCAP, grant agreement no. 265669) as well as of the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (project GAČR P503/12/1424) are also gratefully acknowledged. The authors thank the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic (MSM 6046137305) for their financial support.


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eduardo J. Pires
    • 1
  • José A. Teixeira
    • 1
  • Tomás Brányik
    • 2
  • António A. Vicente
    • 1
  1. 1.IBB – Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, Centre for Biological EngineeringUniversidade do MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Department of BiotechnologyInstitute of Chemical Technology PraguePrague 6Czech Republic

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