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How Brewing Beer Domesticated Wild Yeast

Update Date: Feb 08, 2017 07:00 AM EST

Domesticated yeast, has always been a significant ingredient in brewed beer production. However, it was never given enough recognition, up until now. After several centuries, it has been proven that bakers and beer makers of the past were already engaged in selective breeding programs for yeast, whether they were aware of it or not.

Today, concrete evidence that brewers of the past have managed to domesticate a wild form of years 500 years ago has been revealed by a paper published in the journal Cell last 2016, BBC reports. The paper, co-authored by Troels Prahl, a brewer and microbiologist at White Labs together with Belgian scientist at the University of Leuven sequenced the genome of 157 strains of a special yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, that is used to produce beer, wine, and sake.

During their research, they have managed to discover how the craft was developed, five centuries ago and provided insights on the origins of the distinct flavor.

The genetic makeup of the yeast that is being utilized in beer production today has DNA lineage that goes as old as the monasteries in Europe. Domestication of these yeast strands was so important because yeast is considered as one of the misunderstood genomes in cell biology. Data collected from the research can eventually help in designing the new strain of yeasts instead of genetically modifying their properties for beer and wine production.

The paper posted in the website journal Cell also claims that beer, ever since it was developed was considered as a work of the divine, rather than microbes. This recent discovery suggests that there is a lot more mysteries hidden in the genetic makeup of the yeast that was originally used for beer making and the yeast that has been modified, the genome that we use at present time.

These discoveries do not change the fact that yeast has been a very instrumental ingredient in the production of beer for several centuries. Ongoing generations might have changed the DNA of the wild yeast unknowingly, still, this led to a distinct flavor for beers, lagers, and ales and to the domestication of yeast.

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