I'll never make fun of academic research again
Evolution of beer: CU research on DNA cracks the lager code
The University of Colorado School of Medicine can do Homer Simpson one better. When the docs are done with the belching, they stick a nice lager into a genetic-sequencing machine.
They search for something deeper than the foam in a freshly tapped keg — yeast holds keys to human evolution because of similarities in the organisms' DNA.
And now those CU researchers have solved an ancient, beer-soaked mystery — how 15th-century Bavarian monks stumbled upon a yeast from halfway around the world that allowed them to brew lager beer in the cold.
Two strains of yeast helped the monks invent lager, which, unlike ale-style beers, can ferment in a cool cave. Brewers and scientists have long known one of those strains, but the other was a puzzle.
A Patagonian puzzle, it turned out. An Argentine researcher collecting yeast strains for wider experiments came across one from his home country that largely matched present-day brewers yeast.
The sequencing team speculates the extra, cold-friendly yeast strain came to Europe at the start of ship trading more than 500 years ago. Until then, the dominant ale-style beer was fermented in the traditional warm-yeast method.
The new yeast rode — perhaps — as slime in a ship cask or in the belly of a fruit fly.
Monks failing at making cold beer taste good unknowingly brewed a batch "contaminated" with the new yeast, discovered a quality lager by accident and have been repeating it ever since.