This is a fascinating article summarizing the important recent work that solved a longstanding puzzle in microbial evolution—how did lager yeast arise? For about 30 years it has been known that the genome of the yeast used for lager's cold fermentation is a hybrid of standard warm-fermenting ale yeast and another yeast. The previously unknown partner—christened Saccharomyces eubayanus
—has now been found, in Patagonia of all places.
The article in Laboratory Equipment News was actually written by Terry Devitt
, a longtime science writer now affiliated with University of Wisconsin-Madison, where one of the lead authors is now employed. Although UW-M is mentioned as a source at the end of the article it's a shame Laboratory Equipment News didn't see fit to identify the author or provide a link to the original.
Here's a link to the original article
in case anyone is interested in looking at it.
My biggest beef with the article that I read was that it could result in more efficient yeast strains and better beer. To assume that efficiency yields a better product is baloney, particularly when discussing beer.
Are you opposed to lager yeast, then, which is far more efficient than ale yeast at fermenting in colder temperatures? I tend to prefer ales but also admire lagers and the little guys who do the work of fermenting it. The more brewing yeasts we have, the better.
Some might be interested to know of the immediate plans
the discoverers of S eubayanus
have for the new yeast. They are collaborating with an Argentine brewery to make (commercial?) beer using the prototype strain. Although indigenous peoples have been making fermented beverages using the beech galls where the yeast is found, nobody has any idea what barley malt fermented with S eubayanus
would taste like. Next they will hybridize S eubayanus
with standard ale yeast to recreate the proto-lager yeast as it may have existed in the 16th century before the genomic rearrangements occurred to give us today's more efficient lager yeast. I find these undertakings—at the unlikely intersection of genetics, history and brewing—tremendously interesting.Edited to add a stable link to the PNAS article reporting the original research.