According to a new study published in the Oxford Journals, a team of US scientists used next-generation sequencing technology to successfully trace the origins of the yeast brewer used to make the most popular lager beer to 15th Century Bavaria. They were not at all surprised to learn the world’s most popular beer has its roots in Germany.
While advertising may make non-drinkers think otherwise, the truth is there are actually only two base varieties of beer. There is the ale and the lager. Because the most popular beer is a lager, the research team first had to establish the type of yeast used.
Study co-author and genetics professor in the Division of Botany on the College of Wisconsin-Madison Christopher Todd Hittinger states: “Brewers sometimes, even earlier than understanding that was the reason for fermentation, typically adopted practices that have been kind of conducive to passaging (yeast) strains from one batch of wort to (another).” (Wort uses the sugar fermented by the yeast to provide the alcohol content which then aids in keeping the yeast cells alive.)
He says: “Brewers had classically outlined two main lineages: 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.”
Hittinger adds: “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.”
As to the strains of yeast used in modern day industrial-scale brewing he notes: “There’s a lot of diversity that’s been left on the table”, he noted. Hittinger concludes, “Although these hybrids were different from the start, they also changed in some predictable ways during their domestication.”
Lager Beer Began In 15th Century Bavaria