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posted by janrinok on Friday August 05, @08:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the one-that-is-missing-from-FatPhil's-collection dept.

400-year-old Ecuadoran beer resurrected from yeast:

Inside an old oak barrel, Ecuadoran bioengineer Javier Carvajal found the fungus of fortune: a 400-year-old yeast specimen that he has since managed to resurrect and use to reproduce what is believed to be Latin America's oldest beer.

That single-cell microorganism, taken from just a splinter of wood, was the key to recovering the formula for an elixir first brewed in Quito in 1566 by friar Jodoco Ricke, a Franciscan of Flemish origin who historians believe introduced wheat and barley to what is now the Ecuadoran capital.

"Not only have we recovered a biological treasure but also the 400-year-old work of silent domestication of a yeast that probably came from a chicha and that had been collected from the local environment," Carvajal told AFP.

Chicha is a fermented corn drink brewed by the Indigenous people of the Americas before Spanish colonization.

Carvajal, who already had experience recovering other yeasts, found out about the ancient Franciscan brewery in Quito while reading specialist beer magazines.

It took him a year to do so, but he finally managed to find a barrel from the old brewery in 2008.

It was stored in Quito's San Francisco Convent, an imposing three-hectare complex built between 1537 and 1680, which is now a museum.

After extracting a splinter, Carvajal used a microscope to find a tiny yeast specimen, which after a long period of cultivation he was able to resurrect.

[...] For Carvajal, resurrecting the yeast and the age-old methods used to make the ancient recipe was simply a labor of love for "the value of the intangible."

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  • (Score: 1) by zatoichi on Friday August 05, @10:21PM (6 children)

    by zatoichi (17905) on Friday August 05, @10:21PM (#1265185)

    The yeast probably came from chicha, but since the Friar was Belgian, and introduced barley and wheat, the beer was probably a normal Belgian Ale. Belgians are known to use wild yeast, as well.

  • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Friday August 05, @11:41PM (2 children)

    by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 05, @11:41PM (#1265193) Homepage Journal

    Yes. They have fermentation rooms with louvered ceiings that can be opened to expose the fermentation to whatever yeasts blow in. Some entire areas are homes of particular yeasts. So far the scientists analyzing this have found many, many different species of yeasts, and they're not done yet.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by FatPhil on Sunday August 07, @09:27AM

      by FatPhil (863) <> on Sunday August 07, @09:27AM (#1265409) Homepage
      That's the image they'd like you to believe. However, in order to keep a house taste, they keep their own culture, and innoculate with that. They aren't lying when they say "it lives in the wooden beams, and it falls down naturally onto the koelschip", but that's because they innoculate the beams with their house culture. Nothing wrong with that - having a more reliable reproduceable quality is a good thing. If half of my Cantillons tasted like Hanssens, I'd drink a hell of a lot less Cantillon.
      Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 2) by kazzie on Sunday August 07, @07:09PM

      by kazzie (5309) Subscriber Badge on Sunday August 07, @07:09PM (#1265455)

      Cider production (at least the homebrew variety) works on this principle: it uses the yeasts in the skin of the unwashed apples, and the sugars from the juice. No need to do anything else to it: just bottle it up with an airlock and leave for a few months. My local variety of yeast seems to do an okay job.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @01:21AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @01:21AM (#1265205)

    We were on safari in Sudan, hunting wild yeasts. Our guide warned us that we would have to be fast: when the wild yeast attacks, it goes straight for your face!

    • (Score: 0, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @03:20AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 06, @03:20AM (#1265210)

      When the wild yeast attacks
      it goes straight for your crotch

  • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @05:19PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 07, @05:19PM (#1265443)


    Well, hai there ari! Subtlety was never your strong suit, any more that math is your strong suit. Do you even have a strong suit?