Patent No. 2452476A1: Mediating The Effects Of Alcohol Consumption By Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast

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Today in 2003, US Patent 3712820 A was issued, an invention of Joe Owades, for their “Mediating the Effects of Alcohol Consumption by Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast.” Here’s the short Abstract. “A process for lowering blood alcohol levels in humans after they imbibe alcoholic beverages by administering active dry yeast before or concomitantly with the imbibing of the beverages.”

This is most likely the origin of the hangover prevention that Jim Koch, from the Boston Beer Co., has popularized over the years, but especially after Esquire magazine ran an article about it last April, How to Drink All Night Without Getting Drunk.

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The story got picked up by NPR, Serious Eats and even Snopes took a look at it.

But I’d actually heard Jim tell the story a couple of times at various events, most recently at a beer dinner last year at the Jamaica Plain brewery in Boston celebrating the 30th anniversary of Samuel Adams.

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In telling the story, Jim did, of course, mention that the idea came from Joe Owades, who had worked as a consultant with the Boston Beer Co. since the very beginning, and off and on thereafter. But I don’t think I’d realized before now that Joe had actually patented the idea.

The claim in the patent application describes it in a nutshell. “A method of mediating the effect of alcohol consumption by a person which comprises orally administering active dry yeast containing alcohol dehydrogenase to said person prior to or simultaneously with consumption of an alcohol-containing beverage, whereby to oxidize a portion of the alcohol while still in the stomach of said person.” His own testing of the method, shown in the figures below, found that “blood alcohol level-min. was reduced by 38% by the yeast.”

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A Beer Bestiary

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A Bestiary is an old-fashioned idea, from the Middles Ages, where various animals and other creatures, often fanciful, mythical and fictitious, were illustrated, and then there was a detailed description of each beast, usually accompanied by an allegorical story with a moral or religious teaching. You can see examples of many of these imaginary creatures at the Medieval Bestiary. A Los Angeles illustrator and graphic designer, Ian O’Phelan, has created a modern version, which he calls a “Beer Bestiary.” With just four mythical creatures in his bestiary, his fantastic four you’ll likely recognize, if not individually, at least for what they can become as a superhero team, your next beer.

Barley Beast
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Virginal Hops
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Water Bear
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Cockatrice d’Yeast
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A Love Story: Brewing Yeast & Fruit Flies

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There was an interesting story posted on Popular Science, specifically their BeerSci series. They did a great job of spinning the story as a love story, albeit an unusual one between fruit flies and brewer’s yeast, especially since the original title of the study they’re reporting on was The Fungal Aroma Gene ATF1 Promotes Dispersal of Yeast Cells through Insect Vectors. But it is, and in How Flies Are Responsible For Beer’s Tasty, Fruity Smells, they detail how,”[i]n a series of experiments, biologists from several institutes in Belgium demonstrated that brewer’s yeast makes fruity, floral smells to attract fruit flies. In the wild, yeast might live on rotting fruit and entice flies to come to them there. Yeast and flies’ relationship benefits them both, the biologists found. Previous studies have found that eating yeast helps fruit fly larva develop faster and survive better. This new study found that fruit flies help spread yeast to new environments, like a bee spreading pollen.” In effect, their study demonstrates “the co-evolution of two species.”

Here’s the summary from the original, published in Cell Reports.

Yeast cells produce various volatile metabolites that are key contributors to the pleasing fruity and flowery aroma of fermented beverages. Several of these fruity metabolites, including isoamyl acetate and ethyl acetate, are produced by a dedicated enzyme, the alcohol acetyl transferase Atf1. However, despite much research, the physiological role of acetate ester formation in yeast remains unknown. Using a combination of molecular biology, neurobiology, and behavioral tests, we demonstrate that deletion of ATF1 alters the olfactory response in the antennal lobe of fruit flies that feed on yeast cells. The flies are much less attracted to the mutant yeast cells, and this in turn results in reduced dispersal of the mutant yeast cells by the flies. Together, our results uncover the molecular details of an intriguing aroma-based communication and mutualism between microbes and their insect vectors. Similar mechanisms may exist in other microbes, including microbes on flowering plants and pathogens.

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You can also read the entire study as a pdf, but to get a sense of what it all means, read Francie Diep’s How Flies Are Responsible For Beer’s Tasty, Fruity Smells and keep in mind her warning from the outset. “Sorry, but brewer’s yeast did not evolve for you.” Perhaps not, but at least we can still reap the benefits of the relationship between those fruit flies and the yeast used to create delicious beer.

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Beer Birthday: Chris White

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Today is the 46th birthday of Chris White. Chris founded the yeast company White Labs in 1995 and he’s also on the faculty of the Siebel Institute. He’s also a fixture at virtually every brewing industry and homebrewing conference. Join me in wishing Chris a very happy birthday.

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Chris and his brother Mike bookending Chuck, from Green Fash Brewing, Natalie Cilurzo, from Russian River Brewing, John Harris, from Full Sail Brewing, and Vinnie Cilurzo, also from Russian River, at CBC in Austin, Texas in 2007.

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Chris at the new White Labs taproom during the Craft Brewers Conference a couple of years ago in San Diego.

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Surly brewer Todd Haug with Chris.

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Chris with Technical Sales and Marketing Coordinator Ashley Paulsworth at the NHC.

[Note: last two photos purloined from Facebook.]

Genome Sequence of Saccharomyces Carlsbergensis

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Here’s an interesting journal article for the yeast wrangler in you to geek out on. Genome Sequence of Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, the World’s First Pure Culture Lager Yeast details the efforts of Andrea Walther, Ana Hesselbart and Jürgen Wendland from the Carlsberg Laboratory to get a handle on the origins of modern lager yeast using more modern gene sequencing tools. Here’s the wonderfully obtuse explanation from the Abstract:

Lager yeast beer production was revolutionized by the introduction of pure culture strains. The first established lager yeast strain is known as the bottom fermenting Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, which was originally termed Unterhefe No.1 by Emil Chr. Hansen and used in production in since 1883. S. carlsbergensis belongs to group I/Saaz-type lager yeast strains and is better adapted to cold growth conditions than group II/Frohberg-type lager yeasts, e.g. the Weihenstephan strain WS34/70. Here, we sequenced S. carlsbergensis using next generation sequencing technologies. Lager yeasts are descendants from hybrids formed between a Saccharomyces cerevisiae parent and a parent similar to Saccharomyces eubayanus. Accordingly, the S. carlsbergensis 19.5 Mb genome is substantially larger than the 12 Mb S. cerevisiae genome. Based on the sequence scaffolds, synteny to the S. cerevisae genome, and by using directed PCRs for gap closure we generated a chromosomal map of S. carlsbergensis consisting of 29 unique chromosomes. We present evidence for genome and chromosome evolution within S. carlsbergensis via chromosome loss and loss of heterozygosity specifically of parts derived from the S. cerevisiae parent. Based on our sequence data and via FACS analysis we determined the ploidy of S. carlsbergensis. This inferred that this strain is basically triploid with a diploid S. eubayanus and haploid S. cerevisiae genome content. In contrast the Weihenstephan strain, which we re-sequenced, is essentially tetraploid composed of two diploid S. cerevisiae and S. eubayanus genomes. Based on conserved translocations between the parental genomes in S. carlsbergensis and the Weihenstephan strain we propose a joint evolutionary ancestry for lager yeast strains.

If that made your head spin, try the full article, which was released in full online at the end of February. It will be published in the journal G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics in a future issue. It’s fascinating reading.

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Emil Christian Hansen, taken in 1908. Hansen was the scientist at the Carlsberg Brewery responsible for isolating the lager yeast in 1883.

Beer In Film #40: Analyzing American & Belgian Beers

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Today’s beer video, in honor of it being Sour Sunday, is a film of a talk given by Jeff Clawson, who’s the Pilot Brewery Manager at Oregon State University’s Food Science & Technology Department. In the 23-minute video, Clawson “discusses a recent study on sour beers at a Science Pub event at the Calapooia Brewery in Albany, Oregon. OSU is one of the world’s leaders in research on hops and the brewing sciences, and many graduates of the fermentation sciences programs go on to have a huge impact in the industry.”

The Difference Between A Lager And An Ale

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Here’s another interesting post on brewing science from Popular Science‘s BeerSci series. If you’re reading the Bulletin, chances are you’re already pretty familiar with the question What Is The Difference Between A Lager And An Ale? But author Martha Harbison gives a good overview of the technical differences in layman’s terms and goes into yeast’s history. It’s a great tale, which she refers to hilariously as a “unicellular soap opera.”

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“From Eubayanus to Pastorianus Ale yeast and yeast from the forests of Patagonia met in a brewery…and lager was born! Libkind et al., PNAS; August 2011″
Click here to see the chart full size.

Selecting And Generating Superior Yeasts For The Brewing Industry

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After my post a couple of days ago about Genetically Engineered Yeast, Chaz from Alaskan Brewing sent me a link to an interesting blog post by Dmitri, an amateur yeast wrangler who writes about his yeasty adventures at BKYeast. The post is a review of science literature from Cerevisia, the Belgian Journal of Brewing and Biotechnology. The article in question is titled Selecting and Generating Superior Yeasts for the Brewing Industry, which was published in 2012. It’s deliciously geeky and technical, but should be scrutable to anyone who brews either professionally or at home, thanks to Dmitri’s writing, as his goal is to take the jargon and science and make it accessible to a broader audience. As brewers struggle to have their beers stand out in an ever-increasingly crowded marketplace, it should be obvious that we’ll be seeing more and more experimentation with flavors and ingredients and ultimately more unique beers, and even new types of beers as others copy the successful ones, in the coming years. As the author notes, new varieties of hops are already facilitating that effort, and it seems likely that new strains of yeast are a logical next step in that evolution. And that’s what this research by a group from Leuven, Belgium is trying to make easier, finding the right yeast to create the right range of flavors for your beer. Give it a read.

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“Graphical representation (heat map) of different characteristics of industrial yeast strains. Every row consists of data from a different yeast strain, every column is a different characteristic. ‘Yellow’ is a low score, and ‘red’ is a high score for this certain characteristic. The dendrogram on the left represents the genetic relatedness of the yeasts, based on an AFLP fingerprint exploiting transposon TY1 insertion site polymorphisms. The colour code on the top right indicates the origin of the yeast strains. This kind of analysis allows us to select yeasts with specific beneficial traits, for example to use in industry, or for breeding.”