Professor brews beer with 45 million-year-old yeast
A California Polytechnic State University professor’s mission to turn a 45 million-year-old yeast into an ingredient for a beer has proven successful — and now he hopes to grow his operation locally.
Cano gained international recognition at the time for his discovery that microorganisms could be brought back to life by extracting them from amber found in Myanmar, North America and Central America.
The microorganisms are able to lay dormant for long periods of time without air or food.
Through brewing experiments with collaborators, Cano has been able to take strains of yeast from the ancient amber and grow them. And he was interested in finding out how it could be used in food or drinks.
“Beer was the obvious product from an organism such as yeast,” Cano says. “It was either that or bread. But beer seemed more adventurous.”
Fossil Fuels Brewing Co., the beer company that he’s formed with partners Chip Lambert, Joe Kelley and Scott Bonzell, now produces beer for sale primarily in Northern California bars and pubs.
Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. has used Cano’s initial extraction of yeast to grow a much larger batch that fills a warehouse in Northern California used in the beer-making process.
“Our main beer is a wheat beer, and we also have a pale ale, but we’re really working on others, including an amber ale and an Oktoberfest,” Cano says.
Despite initial skepticism from some about the taste the beer would produce, Cano says the flavour turned out surprisingly good and unique.
Critics have described the taste as one with lots of spice, resembling cloves, along with tinges of ginger and pineapple.
One thing that makes the yeast different is its genetic makeup, which allows the beer to finish with a desirable clear colour instead of a cloudy resolution because of how the prehistoric yeast strain ferments sugars, Cano says.
Cano wouldn’t reveal information about annual sales, but he said the 2-year-old company currently produces about 20 barrels a month — a very small amount, but he has high hopes.
He says the biggest challenges to growing the company include continued development of quality styles of beers, forming a skilled management team and, most importantly, financing — including proper marketing and promotion.
The brewing is done at Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. in Manteca, Calif.
“I’d love to get some investors interested in expanding the company,” Cano says.
Author: Nick Wilson | Source: The Star [January 24, 2011]