Discovery of Lager-Brewing Yeast Could Lead to Designer Beer
on 29/08/11 at 8:37 amBeer
A new discovery has unlocked the secret story of lager beer’s South American origins, and is letting scientists piece together the genetic history of the domesticated microbe that keeps lager cool. This final piece of the yeast’s genetic family tree could one day help brewers create custom-made designer brews with carefully selected characteristics.
The modern-day lager yeast is a hybrid, born from an ancient hookup between a Saccharomyces cerevisiae–a popular ingredient for brewers and bakers–and another yeast that Diego Libkind and his company have identified and named Sacchyromyces eubyanus. They published their study in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The researchers surmise that at some time after the 16th century, S. eubayanus hitched a ride from South America to Europe with the traveling tradesmen, and fused with S. cerevisiae to create the lager yeast. Bavarian brewers discovered this hybrid and delighted to find that unlike ale yeasts, this species thrived under cold conditions. (This infographic has more on the difference between an ale and a lager.)