Yeast is a microscopic fungus, and it can be found just hanging out in nature and the world at large. Brewers sometimes like to find weird or fun yeast strains in the wild to brew a beer that can tell a unique story. Let me file through some classic weird yeast strain examples: yeast from some famous dude’s beard, yeast from some dude’s belly button, yeast in an old shipwreck, yeast in space, yeast from rare mutated Amazonian cacao beans and yeast encased in amber from 45 million years ago.
Now I have a new addition to our weird yeast strain obsession — yeast from an old barrel found in a 16th century South American monastery. Mmmm … that sounds like lively yeast. From Ohio University and The Athens Press: Last week Jackie O’s Brewery had a party for a beer called 1566 that utilized reanimated yeast from brewing barrels found in an old Ecuadorian monastery. The beer was a collab with an Ohio University class (The Art of Craft Brewing), Jackie O’s and visiting biochemistry professor Javier Carvajal from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador (PUCE), which is in Quito.
What is the craft beer scene like in Quito? According to Quito’s Original Craft Beer Tour:
Quito is recognized as the first city to brew beer in South America, in the sixteenth century, 1566 religious orders injected the beer gene in the Quiteño people, which has awakened strongly in the XXI century.
Sounds like a fun place. From The Athens News article:
Carvajal, who owns his own start-up brewery in Quito, harvested the yeast himself in 2011 from old barrels at the monastery in Quito, which was started by a Franciscan monk from the Flemish region of Belgium in 1566. Carvajal then reanimated the yeast — essentially bringing it back to life — to be used in beers he’s brewed. The new beer at Jackie O’s — called 1566 — uses a tweaked version of a recipe created by Carvajal, which he said came from recipe materials he found at the old monastery. (Prior to wheat and barley being brought to South America, most beer was made from corn, Carvajal explained.)
“That’s how this beer came to be,” he said during the party [last] Thursday. “It’s part of corn, part of wheat, part of barley, and also some ingredients from the old Flanders sugar candy. Everything’s there; it’s a mixed-blood beer.”
That mixed-blood beer gene is probably being injected into Athenian students right now. I spent five years at OU, so 11 a.m. is certainly not too early for an Ecuadorian breakfast beer. And last we heard (yesterday), 1566 was still on tap. Also cool about this: Certain proceeds from the sale of 1566 will help fund a scholarship to bring students from PUCE to OU. Good job here, Bobcats.