Patent No. 7186428B1: Method Of Oxygenating Yeast Slurry Using Hydrophobic Polymer Membranes

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Today in 2007, US Patent 7186428 B1 was issued, an invention of Nick J. Huige, Murthy Tata, Jeffrey F. Fehring, Michael C. Barney, David S. Ryder, and Alfonso Navarror, assigned to Miller Brewing Company, for their “Method of Oxygenating Yeast Slurry Using Hydrophobic Polymer Membranes.” Here’s the Abstract:

Disclosed is a an economical method of efficiently oxygenating yeast slurry without bubble formation. The method employs a membrane oxygenator comprising at least one hydrophobic, microporous membrane having a gas side and a liquid side. The yeast slurry flows over the liquid side of the membrane; oxygen is delivered to the gas side of the membrane and passes through the pores to the yeast slurry.

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Patent No. 491939A: Process Of Producing Pure Cultivated Pressed Yeast

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Today in 1893, US Patent 491939 A was issued, an invention of Charles A. Hansson, for his “Process of Producing Pure Cultivated Pressed Yeast.” There’s no Abstract, but the application begins by stating that he’s “invented certain new and useful Improvements in Processes of Producing Pure Cultivated, Pressed Yeast, of which the following is a specification.”

For the production of a pure cultivated pressed yeast it is necessary to have the fluid out of which the yeast is to receive its nourishment free as far as possible from foreign ferments and bacteria, that is sterilized.

According to methods heretofore used in the manufacture of yeast the sterilizing of this fluid could not have been effected to any advantage because, as the theories now existing indicate, the pepsin and not the lactic acid (the latter serving merely as a mediator) acts as a converter of the albumin into peptones, and as the pepsin contained in the grain is insufficient to transform all albuminoids in the mash into peptones, a comparatively small part of it was so transformed, and the greater part would, consequently, during the process of sterilizing, coagulate and thus be rendered insoluble, that is useless as nourishment for the yeast plant. To overcome this difliculty I make use of an additional increment of pepsin, by adding to the mash, a reinforcing quantity of pepsin and by leaving the mash under the influence thereof, together with some inorganic acid, (when necessary) and at a temperature most favorable for the pepsin, whereby much more of the albumin contained in the raw material is transformed into peptones, and I acquire a fluid which may be submitted to heating sufficiently for sterilizing with but little or no detrimental coagulation of albumin. Through the heating process I am enabled to procure a fluid sufficiently sterilized and thereby practically prepared for a pure cultivated yeast.

Having the fermenting tub covered and introducing into the fluid by mechanical means, sterilized air favorable for the development of the yeast, I avoid its infection which would take place should the fermentation be carried out in the usual way.

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Patent No. 5716653A: Process For Brewer’s Yeast Debittering

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Today in 1998, US Patent 5716653 A was issued, an invention of Ronald E. Simard and Mohammed Bouksaim, for their “Process For Brewer’s Yeast Debittering.” Here’s the Abstract:

This invention relates to a process for debittering spent brewer’s yeast, aiming at maximal efficiency with minimal impact on yeasts for their further use as live cells. The process consists in bringing a yeast suspension in contact with a surfactant containing unsaturated fatty acids, like Tween 80® (0.2% to 20% v/v), adjusting pH to 10.0 with NaOH 2N and agitating during 5 minutes at 50 rpm and 50° C. A bitterness reduction of 98% is obtained, without affecting yeast viability or protein content. Furthermore, the debittered yeasts treated with 20% Tween 80® can be reactivated (viability of 100% and increased production of CO2) by growing them in a suitable medium for a sufficient time (about two to six hours). These reactivated yeasts have restored biological properties which are expected to allow the use of these spent yeasts in complete or partial replacement of new yeasts in bakery industry and in spirit and beer fabrication. This application for an industrial by-product brings a plus-value by exploiting its biological activity and its nutritional value and furthermore, represents an interesting solution for an environmental problem.

So essentially this idea is to take yeast after it’s been used in brewing beer, removing any bitter compounds and then using it again to bake bread. I know in England, at Marston’s in Burton-on-Trent, for example, sells their spent yeast to the nearby plant that makes Marmite, and is similar to the Australian Vegemite.
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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.”