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Is the origin of lager really a cold forest in Argentina?

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Could the origins of lager yeast be an Argentinan forest?

Can you believe it? Lager yeast appears to have originated on beech trees in southern Argentina.

So how did lager beer come to be? Many of us have a theory, but few would dare say that a hard to find species of yeast isolated in the forests of Argentina was key to the invention of lager style beers.

The domestication of plants and animals, which promoted our change from nomadic to sedentary lifestyles, sitting in front of a TV and supping a beer, is relatively well documented.

In contrast, the use and origins of yeasts is clouded in mystery and many unanswered questions.

Now scientists reckon they have found the answer to where the hybrid lager yeast, which ferments at a lower temperature than ale yeast, comes from.

In Europe, brewing gradually evolved during the Middle Ages to produce ale-type beer, a process using Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same species involved in producing wine and leavened bread.

According to the study in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences lager beer was first brewed in Europe on the 15th century. It employs an allotetraploidhybrid yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus (syn. Saccharomyces carlsbergensis), a domesticated species created by the fusion of a Saccharomyces cerevisiae ale-yeast with an unknown cryotolerant Saccharomyces species.

Well after a five-year search the scientists say they have discovered, identified and named the organism, a species of wild yeast called Saccharomyces eubayanus that lives orange coloured galls on beech trees in the Patagonian region of Argentina. Which is a long, long way from Bavaria.

Apparently, Patagonian natives used to make a fermented drink from the galls, which was clue the scientists could have found the missing microbiological link.

But, the rest is conjecture as how the yeast it found it way 8,000 miles across the Atlantic. Perhaps it returned with Christopher Columbus when he returned from his ocean-cross sea voyage, in 1492. It could it have come earlier with Vikings returning from the far side of the world? We just don’t know, but the conjecture is a lot of fun.

The search now goes on to see if the yeast found in the galls is found anywhere else in the world.

To find the research go to http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/08/17/1105430108

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Written by timhampson

August 23, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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