DNA testing has traced the origins of lager’s yeast back to 15th century Bavaria, using state of the art sequencing techniques.
Highly versatile Saccharromyces cerevisiae yeast has been used for thousands of years to make ales, wine and bread, but the origins of yeast used for lager have proved more difficult to put a finger on.
In 2011 it was discovered that lager yeasts are a hybrid of two different yeast species. While lagers now represent 94 per cent of the world beer market, the origins of different hybrid lineages has been a mystery for lager beer makers.
A team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison took advantage of a newly described wild yeast species – to complete the genome using the latest DNA sequencing techniques.
They compared it to domesticated hybrids, which are used to brew lager-like beers, allowing the ability to study the complete genomes of both parental yeast species for the first time.
It demonstrated that domestication for beer making has placed yeast on similar evolutionary trajectories multiple times.
Study author, Chris Hittinger explained: “Lager yeasts did not just originate once … this unlikely marriage between two species, genetically as different from one another as humans and birds, happened at least twice.”
These diverse transformations may prove to be great news for beer drinkers as the findings from the DNA testing could provide further possibilities for future research in the domestication of lager yeasts.
Hittinger explained: “There’s going to be a lot of opportunities … It’ll be a question of whether there are better styles out there.”
Being Drink Aware
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