The discovery of lager yeast’s parentage has implications for brewers and Diego Libkind, the primary researcher on a new study, is already tapping into some of these ideas.
A new discovery has unlocked the secret story of lager beer’s South American origins, and is lettings 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 travelling 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.)
While the stowaway story makes for a fascinating tale, the discovery of the the lager yeast’s parentage has implications for brewers. Diego Libkind, the primary researcher on the study, is already tapping into some of these ideas. With funding from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET), an Argentinian government institution that funds scientific research, Libkind is working on collaborating with a local brewery to test the capabilities of other, non-lager S. eubayanus lines that didn’t make it into the lager hybrid.
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