August 23, 2011

"In the 16th century... a microscopic stowaway somehow made its way to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria."

"The stowaway, yeast that may have been transported from a distant shore on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly, was destined for great things. The newfound yeast fused with a distant relative, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, which was used for millennia to make leavened bread and fermented wine and ale. The resulting hybrid, representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens, would give us lager, the clear, cold-fermented beer first brewed by 16th century Bavarians."

Scientists have finally identified the wild yeast, Saccharomyces eubayanus, and solved the age-old mystery of lager beer.

22 comments:

David said...

Life's a Beech.

geokstr said...

According to noted bon vivant and brewski historian, Dave Barry, beer is the greatest scientific innovation in the history of mankind, as it aids us in putting up with womankind.

Bob Ellison said...

Oh, please. Yeast is yeast. Fancy people don't like that little fact, but it's so.

Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) said...

Lager can be nice, but ALE's what cures you.

OldGrouchyCranky said...

I prefer ale, especially the dark kind!

edutcher said...

Is that how women come by that thing they get?

PatCA said...

"It was fun trying to track down the mystery yeast, but it also was important".

Why?!

I have a sneaking feeling that we taxpayers paid for a lot of this compelling science.

Lem said...

Yikes..

Does this mean another James Burke Connections documentary?

How big was this puzzle?

Carol_Herman said...

Egypt began with the yeast. Making breads back in ancient times, as good as anything "french" you could buy, today.

the byproduct was beer.

And, debts were paid in the brewed stuff.

Alas, the flat breads of the Mideast occurred because people confused yeast. Thought it's byproduct was bread. So, then, "the bread didn't rise."

There are reasons for everything.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@PatCA:Why?!

I have a sneaking feeling that we taxpayers paid for a lot of this compelling science.


There could not possibly be any value in understanding the genetics of yeast. After all, beer and wine do not represent a significant global industry, and so we don't need to know anything about the microorganisms responsible.

Cedarford said...

Add another important New World item to the Columbian Exchange (the movement of animals and plants to and from the New World and Old World, intentional and unintentional)

Michael K said...

Genetics is moving so fast that I bought a textbook about ten years ago to read and then realized I had to read a molecular biology book to read the genetics book. It took me a year to finish the molecular biology book (1500 pages). BY that time, a new edition of the genetics book was out and I had to buy that because the field had changed so rapidly, some of the material in the older book was wrong, not just missing.

Craig Venter is responsible for a lot of the rapid progress. He is the first molecular biology billionaire and is hated by the academics.

Mr. Forward said...

"Scientists said the gene of the newfound yeast, which is prevalent in the beech forests of Patagonia and distinct from every known wild species of yeast, was 99.5 percent identical to the missing half of the lager yeast.

"Beech galls are very rich in simple sugars. It's a sugar-rich habitat that yeast seem to love," adds Hittinger."

Pffft. I discovered the connection between Beach Gals and beer when I was 16.

bagoh20 said...

Nope. I still think it's just magic.

dunce said...

Now that they know that it was genetically modified they are going to ban the the products derived from it. Frankenstien beer.

EDH said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the article doesn't mention how larger came to Bavaria.

Nothing to eliminate the possibility that the larger itself came from somewhere else like the hybrid yeast.

Does this scientific discovery bring into question the Northern European authorship of larger itself?

Scientists still were unable to find how yeast traveled from South America to the caves and monasteries of Bavaria where lager beer was born. But lager beer brewing began at about the same time as the rise of trans-Atlantic trade, so the yeast may have hitched a ride on a sailing ship, perhaps on a piece of wood or in the stomach of a fruit fly.

jimspice said...

Sorry, all yeast was created as is 5,000 years ago.

But seriously folks, an insight into one liberals mind. As a young homebrewer, to keep straight the difference between the two, I used the mnemonic @ and £; ale=top and lager=bottom. The level where the yeast ferments, that is. There's also the factor of temperature, but that's a whole 'nother look I'm not sure you're ready for.

TMink said...

Bob, you ever had a Belgian beer that had just a bit of horse blanket taste or aroma to it? That's the yeast. How about an authentic Hefeweizen with banana, clove, and bubble gum flavors? That's the yeast. A slighty sweet, malty tasting northern British brown ale that tastes not as dry as the southern version? That's the yeast. How about a spicy French farmhouse ale? That's the yeast.

Other than having a huge impact on fermented beverages' flavor, alcohol content, residual sugars, and mouthfeel, your statement is completely accurate.

Trey

TMink said...

You can also find lager yeast in the excrement of Andean newborn infants. I kid you not! It explains to me why some beers I have tried tasted like shit.

Trey

Der Hahn said...

representing a marriage of species as evolutionarily separated as humans and chickens

WTF? Chickens and humans can't exchange DNA without outside assistance. These critters hybridized themselves naturally.

BT said...

Yeast is why God invented Blatz!!!!

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Der Hann:WTF? Chickens and humans can't exchange DNA without outside assistance. These critters hybridized themselves naturally.

No, chickens and humans can't, but yeast can. There's no contradiction in hybridizing naturally and being as distant from each other as chickens and humans, IF we are talking about yeast. Yeast is a one-celled organism, after all, and doesn't have all the developmental and reproductive machinery of vertebrates. If we were talking about elephants and crocodiles "hybridizing naturally", your reaction would be appropriate.