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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Would You Put 45-Million-Year-Old Yeast In Your Mouth? Here, Have A Beer

Gallery: The Making of a Prehistoric Brew | Wired Science |
This isn’t your dad’s beer. Or even your grandpa’s. It’s your distant prehistoric mammalian ancestor’s. And you’ve never tasted anything quite like it.

There are only four ingredients in most beer: Malted barley, water, hops and yeast. But on the banks of northern California’s Russian River, Stumptown Brewery’s Peter Hackett is cooking up a different kind of brew. His unique ale is made with a special ingredient: 45-million year old Saccharomyces cerevisiae (aka brewer’s yeast) rescued from a piece of amber formed during the Eocene epoch and reanimated in the lab of microbiologist Raul Cano.

The single-celled yeast, unsurprisingly robust for something that has lived 45 million years in dormancy, is shockingly good at making beer, though it’s not without its quirks. After all, modern brewer’s yeast has evolved in the anaerobic environment of a fermentation tank, while the ancient yeast hasn’t had the benefit of adapting to the harsh world inflicted by beer makers.

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