Biochemistry and beer brewing go hand in hand at the Bochman Lab.
Assistant professor Matthew Bochman studies DNA replication at IU using yeast, and then sells that yeast to breweries in Indiana.
Bochman’s interest in brewing stemmed from his childhood.
“My great-grandfather was a brewmaster in Pittsburgh where I grew up,” Bochman said. “In college, I started to brew with some buddies and it became a hobby.”
Bochman combined this hobby with his interest in biochemistry when he came to the Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry Department at IU in 2013. Bochman said he became interested in DNA replication and cancer research, and that became his main area of study.
The Bochman Lab studies the cellular processes of DNA and uncontrolled DNA replication, which is what causes cancer. They use yeast as their model organism.
The yeast they study is the same species used in beer, wine and bread. Bochman and some of his graduate students were already homebrewers, and they gave him the idea to get involved with brewing. He named his company Wild Pitch Yeast LLC.
“I figured I could give back to the brewing community,” Bochman said.
When he reached out to several breweries, Bochman said many of them were interested in finding local yeast to create an all-Indiana beer. Bochman and his lab members use yeast found in Bloomington.
“I did some yeast hunting around town,” Bochman said. “It’s like looking through Mother Nature’s toolbox.”
Bochman and his lab partnered up with Indianapolis brewery Flat 12 Bierwerks about three years ago. From there, the Bochman Lab began working with numerous local breweries in Bloomington and throughout Indiana. The lab has also worked with Upland Brewing Company, The Tap, Function Brewing, Switchyard Brewing Company, Bloomington Brewing Co., Cardinal Spirits and Tin Man Brewing Co. They participated in events and beer collaborations amongst these breweries.
Sara Metcalf, graduate a at the Bochman Lab, said it is exciting to work on a project that studies something so important but also lets you have some fun.
Wild Pitch Yeast is known for offering cheaper and rarer types of yeast. The yeast creates new beer flavors that cannot be made with the typical yeast used in craft beers around America.
“It highlights the variety of yeast species and strains that can be used for fermentation,” said Cody Rogers, graduate student at the Bochman Lab. “And more importantly, the dramatic effects they have on the flavor profile of the final product.”
Bochman said Wild Pitch Yeast is growing, and he is grateful that he can combine two things he loves.
“Aside from taste-testing the beer, it’s nice to be able to talk to people about the fermentation science that I do, because they get it,” Bochman said. “It’s nice to have science that I can share with people.”