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Sep 23 / Dave Schumaker

Eocene Yeast Used to Make Beer [Offbeat]

I’ll be honest. I’m really going out on a limb to associate this article with micro-paleontology, but I think it’s of practical value for anyone remotely interested in geology.

Source: Nature

About 15 years ago, Dr. Raul Cano, a scientist at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, decided to drill into a 45 million year old piece of amber that he had found. Inside the amber lay a small weevil that met an unfortunate end when it became stuck in sap in an ancient forest 45 million years ago.

Dr. Cano was even able to extract the DNA from the weevil. He made the announcement, coincidentally enough, one day before the movie Jurassic Park opened in 1993. However, Dr. Cano’s intentions were not to clone ancient weevils or other insects, they were to potentially extract ancient bacterias from the gut of such insects in order to discover potential new antibiotics.

Unfortunately, these experiments did not prove to be fruitful.

Recently, Dr. Cano decided to return to his collection of ancient specimens for a different purpose:

Making beer.

“I was going through my collection, going, ‘Gee whiz — this is pretty nifty. Maybe we could use it to make beer,'” says Cano.

After extracting yeast from the gut of the weevil and activating it, he realized he had a very unique idea. This lead to the creation of the California based Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.

From Discovery News:

Activating the ancient yeast, Cano now brews barrels (not bottles) of pale ale and German wheat beer through the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.

“You can always buy brewing yeast, and your product will be based on the brewmaster’s recipes,” said Cano. “Our yeast has a double angle: We have yeast no one else has and our own beer recipes.”

The beer has received good reviews at the Russian River Beer Festival and from other reviewers. The Oakland Tribune beer critic, William Brand, says the beer has “a wierd spiciness at the finish,” and The Washington Post said the beer was “smooth and spicy.”

Part of that taste comes from the yeast’s unique metabolism. “The ancient yeast is restricted to a narrow band of carbohydrates, unlike more modern yeasts, which can consume just about any kind of sugar,” said Cano.

According to the Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. website, they have plans to distribute it to selected pubs in Northern California. I cannot wait to try it.

Thanks to my friend Alex for the tip.

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