Rejoice, partygoers, Germans, sports fans, and middle-aged dads nationwide! After centuries of tragic uniformity, new flavors of lager are finally a possibility. If you're a beer lover, chances are you've noticed that ales come in all kinds of (sometimes weird) flavors, whereas most lagers pretty much taste the same. It's temping to assume that this is due to lager's relative newcomer status; although ale has been around for thousands of glorious, drunken years, lager didn't show up until the early half of the nineteenth century. It stands to reason that we've simply had more time to come up with flavors of ale.
As it turns out, though, the real reason for lager's sameness is more along what you'd learn in biology class. The result of just two parent crosses, Saccharomyces cerevisiae and S. eubayanus yeasts used to make lager all have similar genetic profiles. In other words, the yeasts are too genetically similar to make different flavors. That being said, the parent species are just different enough to make successful crosses in the lab difficult; think of it as trying to breed a lion and a tiger. Luckily, that's where researchers at the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology come in. After much trial and error, a team of heroic scientists has finally achieved the impossible: Creating new types of lager yeast. Huzzah!
According to a study published this week in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, researchers experimented with a variety of growing conditions, eventually producing the aforementioned strains of yeast. Out of the hundreds of strains produced, researchers chose 31 to put to the test. Unsurprisingly, not all of them worked out — some were too slow to ferment, while others simply tasted terrible.
However, four of the ten best lagers were produced through large-scale fermentation, and the results were better than they could have hoped. In fact, they actually fermented faster than current commercial lagers, which bodes well for their future production. While you're not likely to see these new lagers on grocery shelves anytime soon, their futures are looking good.
I'd say this calls for a celebratory round of drinks. Lager, anyone?
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