Jurassic Brewery: Scientists Brewed Beer with 45 Million Years Old Yeast

Reviving an ancient organism is a story worthy of a science fiction epic. But in this case, forget Jurassic Park. Instead, think Jurassic Brewery.

Here's the story of California Polytechnic State University scientist Raul Cano who extracted yeast that has laid dormant for 45 million years, trapped inside a Lebanese weevil covered in ancient Burmese amber:

A decade ago Raul Cano, now a scientist at the California Polytechnic State University, drilled a tiny hole into the amber and extracted more than 2,000 different kinds of microscopic creatures.

Activating the ancient yeast, Cano now brews barrels (not bottles) of pale ale and German wheat beer through the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.

So, how does the beer taste? Suprisingly good:

The beer has received good reviews at the Russian River Beer Festival and from other reviewers. The Oakland Tribune beer critic, William Brand, says the beer has "a wierd spiciness at the finish," and The Washington Post said the beer was "smooth and spicy."

Part of that taste comes from the yeast's unique metabolism. "The ancient yeast is restricted to a narrow band of carbohydrates, unlike more modern yeasts, which can consume just about any kind of sugar," said Cano.

Link | Fossil Fuels Brewing Company

(Photo from Microbe World)


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I'd say an ancient yeast would be more vulnerable than hazardous... modern lifeforms (including us) have survived megayears of battle with constantly evolving microorganisms -- that ancient yeast probably couldn't survive anywhere except in a protected culture (such as a brewing vat).
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These bacteria have undoubtedly been grown and regrown from a few originals in order to make enough for brewing. I'm sure that any unwanted hitchhikers have either died from lack of a suitable host (most pathogens evolve to a specific set of hosts, most of which would be extinct now), or killed off by any number of modern factors (cleaning agents, modern bacteria, etc). If old things were a threat to anyone's health, no one would crack open amber to see what used to live inside. While it's technically possible, the odds are astronomically low.
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