Today in 1956, US Patent 2740049 A was issued, an invention of William C. Stein Sr., for his “Method and Apparatus for Destruction of Live Yeast Cells in Beer.” There’s no Abstract, but the description states that the “invention relates to a method and apparatus for destroying live yeast cells in beer.” When he lays out the various objects for the invention, it’s clear that the yeast is destroyed when “the beer is cascaded over violet ray tubes,” allowing for the “continuous treatment of the beer.” It apparently differs from how this was accomplished beforehand, as using this method “the beer will be subjected to a pre-carbonation pasteurization whereas under prior process the beer was pasteurized after carbonization.”
Today in 1953, US Patent 2631777 A was issued, an invention of Verner Hanno Tore, for his “Process For Centrifugal Separation Of Yeast Cells From Beer.” There’s no Abstract,
but the description claims that the “invention relates to the centrifugal separation of impurities from liquids, such as the separation of yeast cells from beer. More particularly, it relates to an improved process for this purpose, whereby contamination of the centrifugally purified liquid by the impurities, incident to interruption of the centrifugal separation, is avoided.”
Today in 1936, US Patent 2033326 A was issued, an invention of William F. Clark, for his “Method of Impregnating Beer Wort with Yeast.” There’s no Abstract, but it’s described in the introduction:
This invention which relates generally to the art of brewing is concerned with certain improvements in a method of and apparatus for produce ing beer or any liquid in which fermentation is an essential part of the process. For its objects, my invention aims to accelerate the fermenting process by the maintenance of conditions most favorable for the purpose, the utilization of apparatus which is simple, relatively inexpensive, and compact in size, and the production of a brew which is uniform at all times, which is superior in taste and flavor, which is free from turbidity and improved as to clarity, and in which a lesser amount of yeast or other fermenting agent is required.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Here’s a fun little project I stumbled upon, someone created a series of Cross-Stitched Germs and Microbes. The needlepoint creations include over a dozen tiny creatures, including Beer Yeast. To make your own, visit Watty’s Wall Stuff on Etsy. She has individual patterns you can buy or sets, if you’re feeling crafty.