So, the origins of the first primitive beer dates back thousands of years (some theorize as far back as 9500 B.C.). There have been several attempts in recent years to recreate some of these mythical beers using both original ingredients and techniques, Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales being the most notable. But what if you could create a beer that predates those first beers? What if it could predate Man altogether? Thanks to a leaf that was trapped in a chunk of amber some 45 million years ago, and thanks to a molecular biologist turned brewer, we might get an answer. (OK, maybe that’s an overstatement, but just go with me here.)
From the inside of that amber (which was acquired in the ’90s), Dr. Raul Cano, a molecular biologist and retired Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor, has extracted a yeast and successfully revived it. But is this yeast a brewer’s yeast? And will it make a compelling 45 million year old flavor profile in a delicious craft beer?
From the SF Gate:
The first batches brewed by the scientists’ newly founded company, Fossil Fuels Brewing Co., were rough. Cano and the independent brewers he brought aboard quickly discovered that such yeasts are difficult to use, unpredictable and, as brewer Ian Schuster put it, “high maintenance.”
“It needs to be roused,” Schuster says. “That’s the one reason why it’s been challenging and has different tastes at different temperatures. A lot of modern yeasts are like that, but this is much more.”
Schuster is the founder of Schubros Brewery, a five-year-old microbrewery in San Ramon, Calif., and he has joined the efforts to work with this ancient yeast. He believes it will work best in a French-style farmhouse saison.
The beer, excepting the yeast’s fickle nature, is so far coming along nicely, thanks in part to a well-devised recipe. Schubros and Fossil Fuels opted to frame the beer around the yeast and to use English Golding hops to add an earthiness to the flavor.
The hops “play more nicely with the delicate flavors of the saison,” Schuster says. “We built everything around emphasizing the natural flavor of the yeast.”
For those interested in trying out this experimental offering, head over to the company’s crowdfunding campaign and make it come to life.