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Crop Biotech Update

Modern Beer Yeast Emerged from Mix of European Grape Wine, Asian Rice Wine Yeast

March 20, 2019

Saccharomyces cerevisiae, more known as brewer's yeast has been utilized by humans since ancient times to make beer, wine, and baked products. However, the origins of the yeast strain has remained unclear.

A team of researchers led by Justin Fay from the University of Rochester investigated the ancestry of these beer strains, and found that they are actually derived from a mixture of varieties used to make European grape wines and Asian rice wines.

To determine the ancestry of modern beer strains, the scientists made use of the fact that many are known to be polyploid. They compared the genomes of beer yeast strains to those of reference strains isolated from diverse sources and geographic locations. They found ale, baking, and the S. cerevisiae portion of lager strains to have ancestry that is a mixture of European grape wine strains and Asian rice wine strains. The scientists said that early industrial strains spread with brewing technology to give rise to modern beer strains, similar to the spread of domesticated plant species with agriculture.

For more details, read the University of Rochester News & Events.