What’s weird was that until 2011, S. eubayanus had never yet been found in the wild. When you compare that to S. cerevisae, it’s odd: S. cerevisae is everywhere—even on your skin, in the air in your home, on the skins of fruit, and so on. So when S. eubayanus was found in the Patagonian rainforest, it caused quite an uproar in the beer world. That said, people did wonder how in the hell S. eubayanus could have gotten from Patagonian forests all the way to Bavaria.
Well, since then—back in 2014—it seems researchers found strains of S. eubayanus in Asia—specifically on the Tibetan plateau (like Patagonia, a high-elevation, chilly place) and they’re claiming genetic analysis shows a closer relation to the archaic strain of S. eubyanaus that would have contributed to the S. pastorianus genome. (Here’s a link to the PDF for the paper reporting the find.)
That means Europeans may have gotten lager yeast not from South America, but via the Silk Road… maybe. Who knows whether some strain of S. eubayanus will get found somewhere further West sometime soon? Anything’s possible, it seems… which makes for exciting times, whether you’re a beer-history nut or a beer science geek, or even just an interested onlooker.
What’s strange is how little press the second find got. Everyone was excited about the Patagonia find; the one in Tibet, not so much. Or maybe I just missed it, I don’t know. In any case, this was excuse enough to update my essay “Imaginary Beers & Boozes: A Primer for the SFF Writer.”
“Lagering” is a period of extended cold storage necessary for beers fermented with S. pastorianus; it allows the yeast to finish its fermentation and metabolize byproducts of fermentation; with top-fermenting yeasts working warmer temperatures, this stage isn’t necessary, but the characteristics of those yeasts are more noticeable in the final product, where “lagers” feature less yeast character and, I’d say, more transparently feature the character of the malts and hops used.)↩