Brewing yeasts are classified into two species-Saccharomyces pastorianus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Most of the brewing yeast strains are natural interspecies hybrids typically polyploids and their identification is thus often difficult giving heterogenous results according to the method used. We performed genetic characterization of a set of the brewing yeast strains coming from several yeast culture collections by combination of various DNA-based techniques. The aim of this study was to select a method for species-specific identification of yeast and discrimination of yeast strains according to their technological classification. A group of 40 yeast strains were characterized using PCR-RFLP analysis of ITS-5·8S, NTS, HIS4 and COX2 genes, multiplex PCR, RAPD-PCR of genomic DNA, mtDNA-RFLP and electrophoretic karyotyping. Reliable differentiation of yeast to the species level was achieved by PCR-RFLP of HIS4 gene. Numerical analysis of the obtained RAPD-fingerprints and karyotype revealed species-specific clustering corresponding with the technological classification of the strains. Taxonomic position and partial hybrid nature of strains were verified by multiplex PCR. Differentiation among species using the PCR-RFLP of ITS-5·8S and NTS region was shown to be unreliable. Karyotyping and RFLP of mitochondrial DNA evinced small inaccuracies in strain categorization. PCR-RFLP of HIS4 gene and RAPD-PCR of genomic DNA are reliable and suitable methods for fast identification of yeast strains. RAPD-PCR with primer 21 is a fast and reliable method applicable for differentiation of brewing yeasts with only 35% similarity of fingerprint profile between the two main technological groups (ale and lager) of brewing strains. It was proved that PCR-RFLP method of HIS4 gene enables precise discrimination among three technologically important Saccharomyces species. Differentiation of brewing yeast to the strain level can be achieved using the RAPD-PCR technique. © 2016 The Society for Applied Microbiology.