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S. eubayanus  (Source:
Many have wondered which yeast species is responsible for the creation of lager 600 years ago in Germany, and the answer is Saccharomyces eubayanus, or S. eubayanus

For years, scientists have wondered how lager came to be. It was understood that ale derives from a species of yeast called Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or S. cerevisiae, but it was unclear which yeast species was used to create lager.

Now, the mystery has been solved thanks to a discovery by Diego Libkind, of the Institute for Biodiversity and Environment Research in Bariloche, Argentina, and the research of Chris Todd Hittinger, a professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

Lager is a type of beer created from malted barley that is brewed at low temperatures. In contrast, ale is brewed using warm fermentation with a strain of brewer's yeast. Yeasts lead to the creation of beer by feeding on sugars, and through the process of fermentation, converts these sugars to carbon dioxide and alcohol.

While the yeast species S. cerevisiae is responsible for ale, it is also partially responsible for lager. Lager uses a hybrid yeast called Saccharomyces pastorianus, which combines S. cerevisiae and an unknown yeast -- until now.

Many have wondered which yeast species is responsible for the creation of German lager 600 years ago. The answer is Saccharomyces eubayanus, or S. eubayanus. This species of yeast was recently discovered by Libkind on southern beech trees in Patagonia, a region located in Argentina and Chile. The yeast was found in Argentina, and is capable of fermenting at lower temperatures to make lager.

The team had spent five years sampling growths called galls from trees on five continents. Upon finding S. eubayanus, the team brought it back to the lab at the University of Colorado to examine its genome. They found that it was 99.5 percent identical to the non-ale half of S. pastorianus, meaning they found the missing link in lager yeast.

"We knew it had to be out there somewhere," said Hittinger.

While this discovery solves one mystery, it has opened up another -- how did S. eubayanus travel from South America to Europe 600 years ago?

"It certainly could have existed somewhere else," said Hittinger. "Just because somebody hasn't found it doesn't mean it doesn't exist."

Other reports add that it may have made its way to Europe when trade with South America escalated in the 1500s. Bavarians then created the brews in cool temperatures like cellars and caves.

According to Hittinger, the beech forests where S. eubayanus was found have an average year-round temperature of 43 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit.

Over the years, people have toyed around with yeast genes to make lagers what they are today. When comparing the DNA of the wild S. eubayanus with today's lager yeasts used in breweries, researchers found that today's genes contain changes that regulate sugar and sulfite metabolism to help the preservation of beer. These changes also contribute to the change in taste.

"It would unlikely be a particularly great beer straight out of the beech forest, but I suspect it would be passable," said Hittinger.

The team now plans to work with a microbrewery in Argentina to tinker with S. eubayanus as well as the hybrid S. eubayanus and S. cerevisiae to possibly create better beers. 

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I cant believe it...
By smithb115 on 8/23/2011 1:52:22 PM , Rating: 3
I was right when I told my friend his lager tasted like balls last night.

RE: I cant believe it...
By ClownPuncher on 8/23/2011 2:50:00 PM , Rating: 3
Sounds like a scary party.

RE: I cant believe it...
By YashBudini on 8/23/2011 3:51:08 PM , Rating: 3
But how do you know what his balls taste like?

On second thought don't answer that.

RE: I cant believe it...
By Alexvrb on 8/23/2011 9:10:35 PM , Rating: 2
What happens in Vegas... well long story short, he's suing Las Vegas for false advertising.

RE: I cant believe it...
By AnnihilatorX on 8/24/2011 5:35:30 AM , Rating: 2
The OP didn't say his balls...
I know this is DT You can't assume the OP is male either :)

I once discovered mystery yeast...
By MrBlastman on 8/23/2011 11:34:38 AM , Rating: 3
In a Jacksonville, Florida strip club. It was shocking and is one of those things that I want to forget, yet can't.

By Alexvrb on 8/23/2011 9:12:34 PM , Rating: 2
Woof. Thank you Mr. Blastman, I think you've left our studio audience scarred.

How interesting.
By snakeInTheGrass on 8/24/2011 10:56:00 AM , Rating: 3
Didn't Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon faith, write that Jesus visited South America 600 years ago, picked up orange balls of yeast, and then appeared in Germany briefly to instruct the brewmasters there how the angel Moronai wanted beer made?

That may not be verbatim, but I'm pretty sure it's close.

S. eubayanus
By Iaiken on 8/23/2011 11:53:02 AM , Rating: 2
S. eubayanus, you gave the world delicious lager beer and for that, I salute you!

Don't mess with that tree
By YashBudini on 8/23/2011 1:05:05 PM , Rating: 2
It's got some set of balls.

By koli on 8/24/2011 4:17:23 AM , Rating: 2
Now I will get nightmares when drinking my beer... well, after 2 or more who cares about orange balls!

Isn't it funny?
By amagriva on 8/24/2011 6:26:57 AM , Rating: 2
The place where the scientist works (Bariloche) is the one where nazi hide after WWII. I find it curious that of all the places in south america the bacteria that make bavarian lager good was hidden just there...

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