Beer From Beard Yeast, Yes; From Vaginas, No

women
You most likely remember that Rogue harvested some yeast from the beard of their longtime brewmaster, John Maier, and White Labs analyzed it and propagated a brewing yeast that Rogue in turn used to brew a beer with. Not everyone responded favorably to the news, but in terms of attention and publicity, it’s been a huge hit, with almost every news agency, website and blog writing about it. I made it the subject of part of one of my newspaper columns back in July. A Google search of “rogue beard beer” turns up over 1.4 million hits.

But just when you think things can’t get any weirder, my wife — who’s been working in Shanghai this week — just sent me an article from a feminist blog she reads regularly, Jezebel. Inspired by John Maier’s beard beer exploits, they wrote an article about one more place known for its occasional yeast production that we can write off as a place to harvest for brewing. The article, entitled Just So You Know, You Can’t Make Beer With Your Vagina, answers the question I’m not sure anyone was asking. But now that I know there is an answer, I can’t look away. It’s like that car crash on the side of the road. I know I shouldn’t look, but I just can’t help myself.

Beginning with the premise that “[y]east is everywhere, even (as we ladies well know) buried deep inside our vaginas, waiting to go bad and ruin our week at any moment,” they wonder if anyone could “turn a yeast infection into a full-bodied IPA.” At this point, I’ll let author
Madeleine Davies share the results.

We did some research and, in a word, no. The yeast used in beer is a completely different strain of yeast than the one that causes yeast infections. And there goes your artisanal brewery idea!

The yeast used in beer is called Saccharomyces cerevisiae and works by converting carbohydrates to carbon dioxide and alcohols. This is also the yeast used in bread, which is why baking yeast can be used to brew beer, though it generally makes the end product doughy in flavor and texture. Yeast infections are caused by Candida albicans, a fungus that grows as both yeast and filamentous cells and can cause oral and genital infections in humans. Using this to brew would be entirely ineffective, not to mention, guh-ross.

So there you have it. No vagina beer. I, for one, am relieved. It was one thing to have Sam Calagione and his team spitting in his Peruvian-style chicha beer, and Maier’s beard never bothered me too much, because White Labs removed any lingering ick factor by growing the yeast in their San Diego lab. But in the on-going quest to push the envelope, generate publicity and maybe even make something worth drinking, this may be crossing a line. What do you think?

vergina
Close, but no vagina.

Comments

  1. says

    About the beer and the name in photo… Vergina is an historical area in Greece, known as birth place of Alexander The Great! That’s why they choose it for their brand.
    So as you understand, it’s not so funny to compare it with vaginas, eh?

    • says

      Geo, no, I’m afraid I don’t understand why it’s “not so funny.” The brand name is very close to vagina, just one letter difference. The whole point is that you can’t make beer from yeast harvested from a vagina, so Vergina is “close, but no vagina.” To me, that is the very definition of funny and makes my point quite well, I think.

  2. says

    I’ve seen a congenered article in the past and there was the same compare… The right name (in Greek) is “Βεργίνα” not “Βατζάινα” (vagina) see the difference ;)

    • says

      Geo, with respect, it’s precisely because they’re not the same that I chose it, and that’s also why it works. They’re not supposed to be the same. I realize that humor rarely translates across languages, so you may have to take my word for it. And trying to explain why something is funny, immediately drains it of all humor.

  3. says

    When I was in Vergina, I can remember the good old Prof. Andronikos show us the tomb of the father, Philipe. A common mistake is also ask the origin of the word virgin there and not in Rome. The pilsner from the image isn’t their best IMO – even they red isn’t, maybe the weisse is the only drinkable from Komotini brewery, some hours east from Vergina. No reason for me be offended by that comparaison. It’s another story that brewmasters with open (spontaneous) fermentation tolds me that they prefers not have women near the open spaces with the fresh beer, even in the open doors days. Maybe superstition, but who knows…

  4. Julie says

    EWWWWW.

    As a sufferer of said yeastie beasties on occasion, I really just can’t fathom how anyone decided to even pursue the line of thought above.

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