For all of us who love a good lager beer once in a while, finding out that the origins of the yeast used in making it can be traced all the way back to the 15th century is nothing short of a reason to be proud.
Scientists have applied subsequent-era sequencing methods in order to make the interesting discovery, which points out to Bavaria, Germany as the source for the beloved alcoholic beverage.
Think of it like this: the beer world is made up of ales and lagers – the first category has been around for millennium, giving us ales, wine and bread. The second kind of beer, however, is a 15th century innovation discovered first by the Bavarians who noticed that beer kept in caves over winter would continue to ferment.
Lager turned out to be the lighter and smoother beer that went on to become the most favored drink during the nineteenth and twentieth century; America also followed the trend, falling in line with the vast majority of Europe at the time.
Presently, lagers represent an overwhelming 94 percent of the global beer market. But because of the various and completely different hybrid origins, lager beer makers have been long-standing rivals over time.
Upon discovering a new wild yeast species from Patagonia, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison were finally able to assemble a high quality genome of R eubayanus. The end result might be a domesticated hybrid that could be the used in brewing lager fashion beers.
Researchers are also interested in analyzing the entire genomes for the parental yeast species that make up the lager beer as we know it, particularly the origins of the popular J cerevisiae and J eubanyus hybrids.
Published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, the results show that lager yeasts haven’t got a straightforward origin. According to co-author Chris Hittinger from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, scientists discovered that two very different species of yeasts have come together in an unlikely marriage twice in the evolutionary past – so different from each other, genetically-wise, as people and birds.
Hittinger wrote in his paper that “Brewers had classically outlined two main strains: the Saaz lineage, which isn’t used very a lot anymore at present, and the Frohberg lineage, which is the primary lineage of lager yeast that constitutes a lot of the strains which are used industrially right now.”
He added that in spite of their differences, these hybrids benefitted from domestication over time, which modified them in predictable ways until they became what they are today.
Image Source: The Kitchn