NATURE FINDS A WAY
The story begins 45 million years ago during the Eocene epoch (from the Greek word eos meaning “dawn”). During this time, a snapshot of biological life, a prehistoric bee, met its fate by becoming encased in tree sap. And, over the course of millions of years, the sap hardened into amber, which preserved and protected its contents.
It remained in one of the earths amber deposits until it was excavated in 1995 by a microbiologist named Dr. Raul Cano.
Dr. Cano, using rigorous aseptic techniques penetrated the amber and the bee to extract and isolate any prehistoric microorganisms it contained. Cano not only discovered, but was was able to revive approximately 2,000 microorganisms which had lain dormant in the gut of the encased bee. (Science 268, pp. 1060-1064, 1995).
This reanimation of an ancient life form was a breakthrough, a discovery so bizarre that the scientific community initially refused to believe it. It has since modified our understanding of what microorganisms are capable of.
Of those 2,000 organisms, a few yeast strains were isolated that resembled modern Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In other words, they are genetically related to the yeast we use every day for brewing and baking, except the newly discovered yeasts were much, much, further back in the evolutionary chain.
Essentially, we have isolated the great grandfathers of modern brewing yeast.
So, the only logical next step for a discovery of this magnitude was taken. Raul and partner in science Chip Lambert teamed up with some brewmasters and brewed some beer.
Below are a few of the reactions people had to the ancient beer.
“The ancient beer is smoother, with softer fruity flavor characteristics and just a touch of lemony sweetness that isn't tart...It has a more complex and well-developed taste profile, and its smoothness makes it great. The fact it is made with such old yeast is fascinating, and given how good the beer is, no mere novelty."
-Jay R. Brooks, the tasting director the Celebrator magazine commented when comparing the ancient brew to an identical pale ale differing only in the strain of yeast (Celebrator, October/November 2006, pp:27-29)
“It’s a remarkably unique beer that tastes like nothing I've ever had before, in a very good way."
-Peter Hackett, long time pub owner and award winning brew master remarked:
"It was the best beer I ever had"
-A Truckee fireman that caught Chip loading up the truck after a tasting event.
And here we are today. The next chapter in this story has yet to be written. However we do know it involves ancient yeasts , a small team of mad scientists, a small brewery and you.
The ancient beer will be under the Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. (FFBC) label and produced by our partners at Schubros Brewing in Northern California.
It’s been 45 million years in the making and we couldn’t be more excited. Heres, to beer, to science and to the marriage of the two.