It’s Your Mid-October Beer News For A Thursday

Another Thursday, another week of watching the ticker tape of tweets go by. I turn 55 and 1/2 today. Because it’s my brother’s birthday and he was born a year and a half to the day before me. That’s some sort of news. Or at least cause to buy myself a treat. I bought one yesterday, a carrot pale ale from the Oakville, Ontario branch of the 3 Brasseurs brewpub chain. It was quite yum.  Lovely and thick like a medieval beer fan would want.

The really big news this week was, I suppose, the death of All About Beer magazine, as wonderfully eulogized… almost pre-eulogized, in fact… by Jeff:

…as recently as a couple years ago, the magazine was in the midst of its most impressive period of content. The magazine looked great and Holl had the best writers in the business working on excellent, deeply-reported stories. The design of the magazine—never its strength—was also rich and interesting. And, Holl told me, “Even as online news became the standard, when I was editor we saw print subscriptions rise.” The problem wasn’t editorial—it came from the business side.

This blog was in AAB a few times for which I am entirely grateful. The old Christmas photo contest was supported by the magazine during the Julie Johnson Daniel Bradford era with prize packages and the winning entry even published on a couple of occasions. I also think a book review written by Holl of Ontario Beer graced its pages. If I had any complaint it was how, at a critical moment, a lot of the attention granted to the writings of beer bloggers was transitioned four or five years ago into those AAB blog columns – for which the writers were certainly paid but it also set up the expectation that there was money in writing about beer. I have not only thought this belief to be suspect but also undermines excellent amateur writing where I find the depths are actually explored. But, even if that was true…even if my semi-snark had a point, there was certainly no lack of nobility in the efforts behind publishing AAB all those years and many previously isolated writers were encouraged as a result. It is a loss to us all. Where will its digital archives go?

Ben has written about another sort of ending, his speculations starting on the wrong track upon hearing the news of what ended up being the retirement of the last of the three founders of Ontario’s Steam Whistle:

My tweet that started a conversation today predicted today’s Steam Whistle announcement might be about either a buy-out or a cannabis venture. And while that’s not what this announcement was, in light of Heaps’ departure, I actually feel a little more strongly that one of those outcomes might now be possible. Big beer companies tend to have better luck putting a dollar amount to a brewery when the people who built that brewery aren’t around any more…

If you don’t follow the tweets of @BarMas you are missing his adventures in German village life including his recent morning out in the orchard with his odd semi-tractor thingie, illustrated under the thumbnail to the right, gathering apples so that he can make insane amounts of cider. We all need odd things that keep us sane. Being odd is good. Me, I like tweed and I buy flags off some guy in India who gets them off cutting yard ships. Barry’s include this green semi-tractor. What are yours? You better find one or two or you will just mainline beer obsession, which is never good. Beer needs companion oddnesses to keep it in its place.

Conversely, what is the value of excitement over an experience only one in a billion can enjoy? If its enjoyable at all, that is. So, beyond self-affirmation through defeating the fear of losing out appears to be self-affirmation through abandoning the fear of losing out through accepting… losing out:

The Macallan 60-Year-Old 1926 takes this rarity to a higher level and is the zenith for collectors of The Macallan whisky. Sir Peter Blake (the renowned artist responsible for the album cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band) and Valerio Adami were asked to design a label each for this special bottling, and 12 individually numbered bottles from each artist were released. 

Perhaps relatedly, I was never so pleased to read about a pediococcus infection as when I was reading tweets between Garrett O. and Lars G. on the subject:

This is a pediococcus infection. The bacteria forms a mucilaginous substance in the beer, often forming long strands. The old term for such beer is “ropy”. In lambics, this substance is eventually broken down by Brett. In the meantime (or otherwise) horrible.

See, Lars finally met a beer made with kveik (actually a muri) that he did not like. Thick in the way an ale should not be thick. And I, as a result, finally learned exactly what “ropy” means… after reading about it for years in all those pre-modern texts.

The talk of cask goes on. Matt C took some exception in fact to some of the talk of cask:

Cask ale is no more difficult to make than any beer. Good cellar-ship with cask, like with keg, is a skill, and requires due care and attention, but it’s not that difficult. As wonderful as it is, I wish people would stop romanticising a dispense method in this manner.

Well, it is more than dispense but it is romanticized. Care of the cellar is fundamental to the success of the dispense. And being careful and taking time is not something we value as we should. As we should value tweed, orchards and flags salvaged from scows beached on an India ocean scene. But not too much. Jack Duckworth kept a cellar, after all. Besides, what’s so bad about layering on a little romance?

You know, saying a sad goodbye to All About Beer isn’t over romanticizing things either. Nor admiring the semi-tractor in a field Teutonic. Baking a mash and knowing it’s keptinis and not kveik isn’t romanticizing either, even if its a bit nerdy. We are all nerds. We are folk who might admire a vintage bus rally now and then. Accept it. Me, I have just cut and pasted a whole bunch of links related to early North American colonies and especially the failed 1587 colonizing expedition by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, all to see if I can coax enough for a nerdy post out of it all. The romance of it all is real even if there is an ultimate lack of substance. Or is there? Perhaps this is all what is real.

I’ll have to think about that when I am not day dreaming about 1587 over the week ahead. I hope you have something to fill the idle hour until then, too. As you do, check out Boak and Bailey for more beer news on the weekend. That’ll help.

Your Beer News For The Week The Red Sox Moved Past The Yankees

This was a home week. Every second week I am in a hotel at the other end of a Great Lake figuring out how to spend 1,500 times my annual wage on a fascinating project. Every other week I am in my basement watching sports TV on a Wednesday evening, having made soup, planning an early night. The soup was good and had about 37 ingredients including our turkey stock from the weekend. It was more complex than craft beer. I thought about that for a bit. Then I created #IsYourCraftBetterThanSoup, a new global public interest group. Might do a GoFundMe with this one.

Anyway, Jordan was here last Friday. We walked into exactly five establishments with him, although two were only for surveillance purposes. He was sifting clues. He does that. I was just wandering, doing a little day drinking and enjoying a Friday off. I share the chalk board from Stone City Ales as they presented it to the bar flies of noon on that fine day for a purpose: to note their wet hop ale, this one with hops from nearby Prince Edward County. Entirely yum. Largely speaking an eastern Lake Ontario zone vernacular. As I noted about ten weeks ago (again) I like my local to be quite localized and infused with locality. I have even pitched my experience to those with more, those trying to solve the “wet” v. “fresh” hop unhappiness. I did so by suggesting the more direct “unkilned” for greater certainty. It received one yea, many boos.

Less locally and further to last week‘s mention of the Cask Report, Old Mudgie worked a few numbers and found a sad result. On average, UK pubs that sell cask ale sell only 40 pints a day. Meaning as many sell 60 pints as 20. Meaning a good chance its been sitting around. This is not a problem with the beer. This is a problem of a lack of gravity dispense firkins on pub counter tops.

UPDATE: I like this piece on how to slink away from Ben which was posted after the newsy notes went to the coal-fired presses.

This is interesting stuff from the US branch of the wine world. The Board of Directors of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas issued a press release on Tuesday:

The Board of Directors found sufficient evidence that the tasting portion of the 2018 Master Sommelier Diploma Examination was compromised by the release of detailed information concerning wines in the tasting flight. The Board unanimously voted to fully void those results to protect the integrity of not only the examination process but also the reputation of the Court of Master Sommeliers and the title Master Sommelier.

Wow. While craft beer is trying to figure out if it’s OK to say both good and bad things about a fairly pointless BrewDog press release, wine is chucking out the exam results. Boom! Good beer beyond craft sometimes has such standards – and Stan is leading the way, especially when it comes to my fears for turning kveik into some sort of craftardization of itself:

Just my opinion, but to support Lars I suggest a) retweeting him, b) pointing others to his posts, c) reading everything he writes 3 times, and d) when somebody refers to kveik as if it is a style remind them it is a type of yeast.

I weedled this irritation a bit by pointing out that I have been sold a beer framed as a “kveik” to which Lars pointed out that “[i]f you go up to one of the brewers at the festival and ask him for kveik, he will give you dried chips.” Toronto’s Bellwoods seems to be doing it right. Remember. Kveik is not a beer. Not a style. It means a family of yeast strains. So, if you see a craft brewer holding out one of their beers is kveik, ask whose kveik it is and where it comes from. Tell them Lars sent you. Fight!

Less seriously, a beer drinking fish.

More seriously, Brendan Palfreyman has unpacked the law suit under which Founders is alleged to have discriminated against a former worker based on race.  Interestingly, he notes that the defense has carefully (“artfully” he states) admitted some of the allegations. Pretty awful allegations in terms of a poisoned work environment. It’s bad news at a very basic level – not good if the evidence shows he was “written up” for being one minute late while others were allowed to be more lax. Remember, craft beer is fun. Reason enough for me to pass on Founders until more is known.

Speaking of legal issues, one Ontario brewing four-person partnership faces a partner facing criminal chargesRobin is righteously outraged. Me, I have done criminal defense work. I am a big fan of their Ukrainian Dunkel. And I am righteously outraged, too.

Finally, I don’t often find myself moved by the save the pub advocacy but this one rings a bell – a Tudor era location with a reasonably consistent presence as an establishment located on East London river frontage. The history as claimed is venerable:

The first pub on the site probably originated during the Wars of the Roses in the 1460s and was called The Hostel. During more peaceful times in 1 533 it became known as The Red Cow, a reference to the bar maid working at the time. The notorious Judge Jeffreys was caught outside the ale house as he tried to escape disguised as a sailor on a collier bound for Hamburg after the Glorious Revolution of 1688; which overthrew King James II. 

The location is at least as impressive. It would have spent most of its live at the edge of the city, to the east of London Tower. In a guide from 1890 we read:

“The Town of Ramsgate” hostelry has a bulging bay window which offers a moderate view of the river, but with this exception reserves its allurements for Wapping High Street, where a conspicuous board at the entrance to the passage draws attention to the attraction of the place. The intelligent tourist, I am told, occasionally makes his way here. 

A winning cause. Or at least one worth fighting. Me, I am off for a nap. The Thursday news gets put to bed Wednesday nights. Before I head to bed. Beerless. Last night the beer was not in the head but at the head. Upside? The Red Sox won. Downside. Only that guy without his beer. Bad call. Good call? Seeing if I come up with something to write about mid-week next week. From that Holiday Inn by the highway. See you then.

The First Thursday’s Beer New For World Cup 2018

I have to admit, few of my teams made it. I think sports allegiance needs a personal or familial connection. Land of my birth, Canada? Never had a chance. Land of my fathers and mothers, Scotland? Squandered any chance they had. Hmm… I worked in the Netherlands in 1986… but they didn’t make it. So POLAND! Aka “land of love” where me and herself met in 1991. That’ll do. Right? Except… it’s now slipping deeper under a super-simmering nationalist movement. Hmm. Gotta think about this theory of mine.

Note: Moscow might not have enough beer for the World Cup. Nizjnij Novgorod doesn’t either. The lads above might be less happy soon. Related: Beavertown Brewery is dependent on an dwindling artificial CO2 supply. Other craft brewers, too.  I love these unknown traditional aspects of craffy beer. Let them drink cask!

Elsewhere, supplies are abundant. Jeff triggered a fulsome discussion on Twitter on Monday on the word “godesgood” and whether it was used all that often. Like the mythical “no one drank water before public health” line, there are many familiar fibs that are rightly challenged. My contribution was in favour of barm, including this quote from a 1430s text:

For, whan the ale was as fayr standyng undyr berm as any man mygth se, sodenly the berm wold fallyn down that alle the ale was lost every brewyng aftyr other, that hir servawntys weryn aschamyd and wold not dwellyn wyth hir.

Almost 600 years ago. Nothing to be ashamed about this year’s British #NationalBeerDay, which unlike the 217 other national beer days every year, gave us at least this great photo set of the first four actors to play Doctor Who having a beer.

Apparently, according to the brewers the only way to return to cheap beer in Ontario is to lower taxes. Except, even if you do that, Ontario brewers are not interested in making cheap beer.

Warning: this article in The Guardian on the US starting to embrace British ale brewing requires readers to be completely unaware of the brewing of good beer by microbrewers and craft brewers from the late 1970s to the early years of this decade during which years the craft beer movement was largely driving by cloning the styles of Europe including, largely, the ales of Britain.  Example: Clark’s… oh, and hundreds of other places.

Ugly news from what had been one of my favourite local wineries – and an apology in response with some details about the greater response. Reaction. Reaction.

Far less seriously, these two tweets by very thoughtful people remind me again how – like “pairing” – I could not care less about beer label design other than (seriously again) to get rid of all the sexist, racist and otherwise bigoted content one finds on them. Honestly, I have a very hard time thinking of a label that gives any sort of Pavlovian effect, triggering the memory of a flavour one might find within the container. But I only speak of me. I judge no one. I suppose that comes with me being of an age when there were fifty brands and one flavour of beer. I find artsy labels just force me to squint more to figure out what is actually on offer. They are the Flash animation laced intro web pages of the beer world. Still – more signal, less noise please.

Lastly but somewhat related, Andy has spotted a wee trend that I can’t figure out whether it is signal or noise. Brewers are ditching “born on” dating for “best before” due to obsessives looking for only the very newest batches – even if it means engaging in style infanticide.

There you have it. A shorter post for a bit of a quieter week – some interesting news, some tough news. But mainly a week of international kicky ball, drinky beer. More will be revealed in the coming days. Especially if you take to time to catch up with Boak and Bailey on Saturday and then Stan on Monday.

Your Thursday Beer News For That Day Just Five Weeks Before March

It gets like that in January. Counting the days to the warmer ones like prayers upon beads passed through the fingers. It’s time. Please be March soon. Please. Warmth. Now! Come on!! Time, like grace, arrives in its own pace I suppose.  Even calling this a Thursday post is jumping the gun a bit. These things get plunked together mostly on Wednesday. These things matter. Anyway, what’s been going on in the news?

I lived in PEI from 1997 to 2003 and am pretty sure John Bil shucked my first raw oyster. Love struck I wasCarr’s was an eight minute drive from my house and I often bought a dozen or two there to take out to the back yard and suck back on a Saturday afternoon. RIP.

Our pal Ethan and Community Beer Works are working with the owners of Buffalo’s Iroquois brand to revive a version of the venerable brew. An interesting form of partnership where craft leans of community pride in legacy lager.

Carla Jean Lauter tweeted the news Wednesday afternoon that Nova Scotia’s newbie Tusket Falls Brewing had decided to withdraw its Hanging Tree branding for one of its beers. Rightly so and quickly done as far as I can tell. That’s the Facebook announcement to the right. This was a good decision on their part but not one that goes without consideration. I grew up in Nova Scotia and, among other lessons learned in that complex culture, had the good fortune to be assigned as law school tutor in my last year to one of the leaders of the Province’s version of the Black Panther movement when he was in first year, the sadly departed, wonderful Burnley “Rocky” Jones. He did all the teaching in that friendship. I would have loved to have heard his views on the matter. See, Loyalist Canada was settled in the 1780s by the British Crown as a refuge for the outcasts, including African American freed former enslaved Loyalists, seeking shelter after the dislocation of the American Revolution. Court justice there as it was here in Kingston included hanging as part of that. Hell, in the War of 1812 at Niagara there was still drawing and quartering. As I tweeted to Ms Pate, another Bluenoser, the hanging tree could well symbolize peace, order and justice in Tusket as much as bigoted injustice elsewhere. Or it could represent both… right there. Were there lynchings in southwestern Nova Scotia? Some stories are more openly spoken of than others. Slavery lingered on a surprisingly long time here in Ontario the good. We talk little about that. And Rocky and others do not fight that good fight without good reason. We might wish it should and could depend on what happened in that place. But somethings are no longer about the story of a particular place. Somethings about beer are no longer local. And its not “just beer” in many cases. Yet, we happily talk of war. Q: could a Halifax brewery brand a beer based on the story of Deadman’s Island?

My co-author Jordan has made the big time, being cited as “Toronto beer writer and expert” by our state news broadcaster.* With good reason, too, as he has cleverly taken apart the fear mongering generated around the reasonable taxation of beer.

This is really what it is all about, isn’t it? Well done, Jeff. The setting, style and remodeling of his third pub, the
The Ypres Castle Inn all look fabulous. Good wee dug, tae.

I don’t often link to a comment at a blog but this one from the mysterious “qq” on the state of research into yeast is simply fantastic: “[t]o be honest anything is out of date that was written about the biology of the organisms making lager more than three years ago…” Wow! I mean I get it and I comments on the same about much of beer history, too, but that is quite a statement about the speed of increase in understanding beer basics. Read the whole thing as well as Boak and Bailey’s highly useful recommended lager reading.

Max finally gets a real job.

Gary Gillman has been very busy with posts and has written one about a very unstylish form of Canadian wine, native grape Canadian fortified wine, often labeled as sherry. Grim stuff but excellently explained. As I tweeted:

Well put. These were the bottles found, when I was a kid, empty up an alley or by forest swimming holes. I thought we had a few examples of better fortified wine ten or so years ago. But, likely as the PEC and Nia good stuff sells so well, no attraction to a maker.

Gary gets double billing this week as he also found and discussed the contents of a copy of the program from the first Great American Beer Festival from 1982. I have actually been pestering Stan for one of these off and on for years only to be told (repeatedly) that archiving was not part of the micro era. Tell me about it, says the amateur boy historian. The 1982 awards are still not even listed on the website but that seems to be the last year of the home brew focus.  Anyway, Gary speaks about the hops mainly in his post. I am more interested in the contemporary culture: which presenter got what level of billing, what the breweries said of their beers. Plenty to discuss.

More on closings. Crisis what crisis?  In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo. What’s it all about, Alfie?

That’s enough for this week. Plenty to chew on. See you in February!

*All I ever got was “an Ontario lawyer who reviews beers on his blog…” like I am some sort of loser…

Your Monday’s Thoughts On The Latest Beer News

Ah, Monday. And a Monday after a quiet weekend on the beer blogging scene hovering just at the cusp of the holiday season. Dreams of Victorian veteran carvers are starting to dance in the head.* Nothing from 1600s or 1700s brewing history is nibbling at my brain at the moment. So, I turn to that other older thing I did on the blog and give a few news items less attention than they deserve. I think something picked up as Stan’s summer intern might be to blame. Enough! Too much self examination leads to bad things like supposing one might need an editor or running off chasing another hobby. No need of that. Here’s the news.

First, Martyn has posted his findings related to a trip to Norway in search of the meaning of kveik. I initially thought this a bit odd given the voluminous obsession with the subject that has been the last few year’s work of Lars Garshol including this post from just a few weeks ago entitled “‘Kveik’ – what does it mean?” But I quickly understood what what going on – a helpful summary and transposition of sorts: kveik for dummies… like me.  Once you read Martyn’s piece, I recommend you set aside a few evenings to go back through the research results posted by Lars. The idea that a third branch of brewing yeast has been quietly living on in rural settings to the north and east of the Baltic is fascinating.

On a far smaller scale, over the weekend I tweeted a tweet:

Thoughts on a can of GK Abbot Ale. Incongruous messages about cold black tea, caramel, whisky malt, potters clay in a body with oddly flat fishy stickiness. Still… relatively cheap.

That got me thinking about how consequential each beer one pours in a glass must be. The beer in question cost $2.30 which translates to £1.38 or $ 1.80 US. If I had not been paying intentional attention, it would have passed by my mind without much comment. That weird little nod to clay would not have raised itself to my consciousness. Yet just 50 cents more would have bought me a fine example of the low end of excellent regional craft. Can we still care at all for bulk imports?

Imagine – taking money to offer a favourable opinion on a beer.  Who saw that coming?

Next up, I have one itchy thought about the whole – let’s be honest – kerfuffle going on in Portland, Oregon between a brewery and the City over the use of a leaping stag logo which has appeared on a beloved landmark sign for decades. Jeff has described the issue from the perspective of one side of the debate, which is a very important one given the small brewery actually is the party that has held the trademark since 2012. But before the trademark, there was copyright. The classes of intellectual property are distinct. The craft brewery did not create the image. The sign permit was acquired in 1940 and, as authorship immediately creates copyright, someone created the image then. So, someone must own or owned the copyright in the design of the stag which is separate from and prior to the trademark. Can one trademark someone else’s design? Apparently so – but does that extinguish the copyright? These sorts of things can vary, but if (according to Wikipedia) the sign was built and owned by Ramsey Signs from the 1940s to 2009 when the City bought the sign from them, did the underlying copyright to the sign design not also pass to the City? Dunno. I once represented a man who argued he owned 25% of Times New Roman font as he owned one of the original sets of hand made typeface. Not everyone agreed but I recall he said he did receive royalty cheques. So, who first drew the leaping stag?

I think following Ypres Castle Inn means you are of a certain age.

Finally, I do tire of references to temperance as code for everything one does not like in beer regulation. It’s up there with anxieties over lack of wine world respect. Face it – public health is a key foundation of modern western civilization. Who would chose to go back to the pre-temperence society? Even when the do gooder sociologists in their laboratories get it wrong no one in their right mind wants them stopping doing their work. Give the church its gruitgeld!!!

PS: boring big craft pretending that it’s pretty much the same as taking outside investor money and the attached strings. Somehow related.

Yeast News: Migrating Birds And Sheboygan

One of my slowest moving interests in beer comes in the form of a trickle of stories about the origins of lager yeast. In 2008, there was the tale of the two Bavarian caves. Then there was the dinosaur era yeast story. Then in 2011, the ur-yeast for lager was found in Argentina. Now, it turns out that little bit of goodness shows up elsewhere, too:

It is the first time the microbe has been found in nature in North America, or indeed outside of Patagonia. Found by UW-Madison undergraduate student Kayla Sylvester, a member of Hittinger’s group, the yeast occurs only at a very low frequency and was likely accidentally introduced, just as an ancestor found its way to Europe and kick-started the production of cold-brewed lager beer hundreds of years ago. “If I had to bet, I’d lay money on ski bums or migrating birds” as the agents responsible for transporting the microbe to Wisconsin, says Hittinger. “What we think is happening is that well-established, genetically diverse populations are sending migrants around the world. Generally, they’re not successful, but occasionally they are.”

I love this stuff. One of my proudest moments was when the yeasty eggheads jumped in the conversation and gave me more details in the comments. I even got corrected and edjificated that the proper written form is “egg head.” The goal of all this is “to tap into biodiversity and find the strains that ferment better” according to study lead UW-Madison Professor of Genetics Chris Hittinger. Which beats the hell out of making synthetic yeasts to get more of that candy store mango taste into out future beer.

As Boak and Bailey noted today, there is an end to the pursuit of the merely novel, the manufactured. The law of diminishing returns demands no less. But the exploration of the actual, the natural and traditional? I’ll buy that, too.

Can You Make Wild Beer In A Vineous Mono-culture?

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Like most things, Canadians are about half a decade behind so it is no surprise that a group of Ontario brewers have decided to take a kick at wild beer or that some in the Canadian media reacted to the invitation as if they had no idea what was going on in the wider world of good beer. Which is nothing against those directly involved. It’s a great idea. Hope it is yummy and not sold for twenty bucks a glass. Experiment on your own dime, brewers.

Wild indigenous wine yeasts are one of the current things. Like Citra hops. Craze that might be a fad. Here today and gone tomorrow. Yet the yeast is itself. From the photo up top from the Macleans magazine article, you can see the brewing is done in a vineyard, an agricultural monoculture. But is it a monoculture of yeast even if the plants are all clones? Apparently not. We learn that our mutual friend Saccharomyces cerevisiae is certainly on the grapes but only on about 1 in 1,000 berries. What else is in there? The beer will tell. Could be tasty. Hopefully.

PS: get a coolship, wouldja? Wild inoculation via narrow topped vessels might be less than optimum if the history of beer before a hundred or so years ago is anything to go by.

So – When Was Lager Invented… Discovered… Evolved?

This is either just a bit weird or I have completely missed something. Apparently some scientists have been looking to find the yeast strain that started lager… and they think they have found it:

When the team brought the yeast to a lab at the University of Colorado and analyzed its genome, they discovered that it was 99.5% identical to the non-ale portion of the S. pastorianus genome, suggesting it was indeed lager yeast’s long-lost ancestor. “The DNA evidence is strong,” said Gavin Sherlock, a geneticist at Stanford University who has studied lager yeast but was not involved in this study. But Sherlock wondered how S. eubayanus could have traveled the nearly 8,000 miles from Argentina to Germany. “We all know that in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” he said. “Lager was invented in the 1400s. It’s not really clear how that progenitor would have gotten from South America to Europe.”

Whazzates’sayin’?!?! Look, don’t get me wrong – yeast is interesting stuff. But to say lager was “invented” in the 1400? Now, if I dip into my copy of Hornsey, I don’t run into lager until the 1800s at page 485. Yet this story I posted in 2008 speaks of lager yeast evolving in the 16th century in a Bavarian cave which gets us in the ball park in terms of centuries. Maybe it’s the use of the word “invented” in the article that threw me off.

Most interesting of all, Gavin Sherlock posted a comment at this here blog back in 2008 as did Drs Dunn and Sussman all involved in this project. I will stay well away from the term “egg head” this time and invite some direction on their work and the implications for the lagered time line.

Yuck! That Yeast Is Flocculating Itself Again!!!

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When I was a home brewer – as opposed to a person who has home brewing supplies and equipment in the house but never does anything with it all – I used to be concerned about flocculation. Flocculation is the word that describes the capacity of a yeast (or other stuff for all I know) to clump. It is a fancy pants word for clumpiness – but is more about the propensity to clump as opposed to the clump itself. I think. If a yeast strain floucculated too much it could cause precipitation leading to poor attenuation due to separation of yeast and wort. Yet if the yeast was under flocculating there would be difficulty in settling out and creating a bright beer. I think.

So, it is comforting to know that all my half baked understanding of yeast clump-a-bility is actually related to a massively important scientific moment:

A team of scientists at Harvard University reported last week that they isolated the single gene that allows yeast to stick together. That gene allows the normally solitary yeast cells to shield themselves from toxins in their environment by banding together in protective balls. Since one of those toxins is the ethanol that the yeast themselves produce, grouping together allows the yeast to survive in the alcohol-rich environment that results from brewing. What’s more, the gene has a built in social value system that prevents yeast cells without the gene from taking advantage of the yeast flock’s protective sphere. That social control mechanism is an example of how single cells can regulate function in larger units.

Excellent! I knew that something about beer was out there promoting social values…or is it promoting socialism!?!?¹

The point? As Kevin Verstrepen, one of the eggheads in white lab coats² – a Haavaad man no less – notes: “You can look at it as a model of how single-cellular organisms can cooperate, taking a small step toward multicellular life.” A-ha! No, not the Norwegian 80’s band…I mean “a-ha” as in light-klicky-on, as in “EUREKA!!!” So not only was the creation of civilization dependent on beer but the core zymurgystic fact of beer is also the same core fact of complex life as we know it. See? Without the making of alcohol, we are all single cell amoeba… amoebae… amoebas. I think. Which leads me to my amoeba joke: “two amoeba leave a bar and look up at a bright light. One says to the other ‘is that the sun or the moon?’ to which the other replies ‘I dunno. I don’t live around here.'” Get it? That is what we would have to put up with were it not for the flocculating powers of yeast. And nobody wants that.

¹Cue the theremin music!
²…and let’s not have a repeat of the whole “sensitive yeast scientist” thing this time, ok?

More Yeasty History, More Yeasty Science

It seems like just a couple of weeks ago that I was learning about yeast history through science. Oh. It was just a couple of weeks ago. Now, instead of reaching back just four centuries, science is taking us back through over 400,000 centuries of yeastiness:

yeast

Why is it, even though there are 38,000 results for the Google search “Raul Cano beer“, that I have never heard of this? Look – it even has a website. You never tell me anything. More about the back story here but the interesting thing is not that it is done so much as it is not done more. Think about this. If dormant yeast can sit in the belly of a bug enclosed in amber, it must be lots of other places. I recall seeing some history show about medieval life in which the historian in charge of some European farming community site explained how, when they wondered about how they could figure out what food grains had grown there, they realized it was all around them in the deepest layers of the thatched roofs.

Hornsey describes how pot shards from pre-historic digs are studied for chemical residues to confirm their use in brewing. So, what is like a thatched roof and like amber that could hide a yeast that just happened to be used in the porter breweries of 1700s London or a dark ages monastery? Where can dormant yeast hide? Can it be sitting in a deeply buried layer of turf hibernating next to the old brewery wall or in a dried up goo residue that long ago seeped its way into the cracks in the beams of a 1400s ale house? Can it be identified that closely? And what do you call that search – is it yeast forensics? Or is it more like microbial archaeology? Is someone out there doing this right now? Are you holding back about that, too?