Patent No. WO2010042896A1: Novel Yeast Strain a.k.a. Dinosaur Yeast

Today in 2010, US Patent WO 2010042896 A1 was issued, an invention of Raul Cano, assigned to the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company, for his “Novel Yeast Strain and Methods of Use Thereof.” Here’s the Abstract:

The present disclosure relates to an isolated yeast strain deposited as NRRL Y-50184. The present disclosure also relates generally to methods of manufacturing of products, including a fermented beverage or a fermented food using yeast cell from the isolated yeast strain or a cell culture derived from the strain.

This is one of three patent applications filed by Cano and Fossil Fuels Brewing, of which this is the earliest. They all have the same priority date of October 10, 2008. The second, EP 2350262 A1, was published August 3, 2011 and the third, US 20110293778 A1, was published December 1, 2011. All three seem virtually identical to one another.

In 2006, I wrote about this story for the Celebrator Beer News, and two years later, in 2008, online under the title Dinosaur Beer, after it was reported in the Washington Post, with several errors and odd discrepancies. Here’s that story, from 2008:

No, I don’t been those lumbering giants making flavorless beer-like industrial beverages which we all hope might one day become extinct, I’m talking about a beer made with roughly 45-million-year old yeast found in a bug entombed in amber, and extracted just like the plot of Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. This time around, the story involves Fossil Fuels Brewing Co., whose owners include Dr. Raul J. Cano, the Emeritus Professor at Cal. Poly in San Luis Obispo who originally made the discovery. According to the story in today’s Washington Post, the breakthrough came last month.

“I was going through my collection, going, ‘Gee whiz — this is pretty nifty. Maybe we could use it to make beer,’ ” says Cano, 63, now the director of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

Last month? Hold on just a second. First of all the article mentions the following:

In April, at the World Beer Cup in San Diego, “we had one judge give us the highest marks, one just below and one who didn’t like it,” says Chip Lambert, 63, the company’s other second microbiologist. “We learned that the issue was that in these competitions, you brew to match the traditional concept of the style, which these yeast just don’t do.”

Ignoring for the moment that the World Beer Cup isn’t judged like that (there are no “highest marks” or anything similar), the Washington Post published this article yesterday, September 1. That would mean the World Beer Cup took place five months ago, not to mention that to enter that competition you have to register and submit your beer well in advance of the actual judging. I’m not trying to quibble with the story, a least that wasn’t my original intent, but this just doesn’t add up. Last month? Setting all that aside for the moment, I wrote about this two years ago, when Stumptown Brewing, in Guernville, California, made a beer called Tyrannosaurus-Rat, also using Dr. Cano’s ancient yeast.

This is part of what I wrote in Fall of 2006 in the Celebrator Beer News, reviewing a beer and barbecue festival held along the Guernville River at Stumptown:

But as good as the barbecue was, I was there for the beer. I was particularly keen to try what Stumptown was billing as a beer made with the world’s oldest yeast. Their “Tyrannosaurus-Rat” — or T-Rat for short — was essentially their popular “Rat Bastard,” but brewed using yeast that was 30 million years-old, give or take a few million years! How it got to be in Stumptown’s beer is nearly as interesting as the beer itself. It was discovered in the Dominican Republic trapped inside of a bee that was also trapped inside of a piece of amber, a terrific preservative. And the bee had been there for somewhere between 25 and 40 million years. Dr. Raul J. Cano, Emeritus Professor at Cal. Poly in San Luis Obispo, made the discovery in 1995 and managed to extract living bacterium, including a few strains of yeast, directly from the bee’s stomach. The ancient microorganisms were patented and also inspired the movie “Jurassic Park II.” It fell into Stumptown’s lap during a ski trip where the Hackett’s met a friend of Dr. Cano, and the rest, as they say, is literally ancient history.

I tried the T-Rat alongside of its modern counterpart, Rat Bastard, as they were the same in all respects except for the yeast. The Rat Bastard is a well-made pale ale, with good aromas and a crisp, clean palate. It has a generous hop bite that finishes bitter, then drops off sharply in the end. The T-Rat was much smoother, with softer, fruity flavor characteristics and just a touch of lemony sweetness that wasn’t tart. The finish is quite clean, with just a quiet hop presence lingering. While they’re both good beers, I think the T-Rat has a more complex, developed taste profile but its smoothness makes it great. The fact that it was made with such an old yeast is fascinating and given how good the beer is, no mere novelty.

There are also other anomalies. In my story, which relied primarily on Stumptown’s information, the yeast was found in a bee from the Dominican Republic. The Washington Post account, however, lists the Lebanese weevil as the yeast carrier. On top of that Dr. George Poinar, who was also involved in finding and extracting the DNA from amber, says on his biography web page that its age was 125 million-years old.

And here is the original press release for Stumptown’s version of the beer, from June 27, 2006:

For the first time, 25-40 million year old yeast has been used to brew a commercial batch of beer (“Tyrannosaurus Rat”) to be made available to the public on July 8th at Stumptown Brewery (15045 River Rd. Guerneville, Ca.). Dr. Raul Cano, Lewis “Chip” Lambert, and Peter Hackett will be celebrating this historic event and available for questions from 11:00A.M. on Saturday July 8th.

The public tasting of the T-Rat is the culmination of coincidences that involved a 20-40 million-year old bee trapped in amber and discovered in the Dominican Republic, a pair of renowned scientists, a ski weekend and an award winning microbrewery.

Amber is nature’s perfect preservative. It desiccates its specimens and protects them from damaging radiation of all types. Man has successfully used it to preserve their dead for thousands of years; Nature has preserved many of its inhabitants, including the recently identified spider web, in their elegant tombs for tens of millions of years.

Dr. Raul J. Cano, Emeritus Professor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, reported in Science (Volume 268, May 19, 1995) that he extracted a living bacterium from the gut of a stingless bee entombed in amber 25 – 40 million years ago. Independently, Lewis (Chip) Lambert, Fremont, CA, at the time Director of Pre-Clinical Research at a Bay Area biotech company, confirmed his work in a very skeptical scientific environment that has, for the most part, accepted its validity. In addition, Raul’s work became the underlying premise for the movie Jurassic Park.

The patented ancient microorganisms (USPO#5,593,883) became the focus of a new company based on the potential use of these microbial isolates for industrial and medical applications, and the hunt began. From the ancient-amber library came a few yeast strains and with them, the question, could they be used to make beer? The answer was a resounding yes as very good beer was brewed for the Jurassic Park II cast party and Raul’s daughter’s wedding reception.

After this initial success, Fossil Fuels Brewing Company was born with the motto “We bring good things back to life.” Using ancient yeasts that had all been thoroughly tested and selected for their beer-making properties, Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. planned to produce high quality distinctive beers with yeasts that had been isolated from amber.

The partners then proposed trials of these ancient yeasts to numerous microbreweries. Much to their surprise, in an industry that thrives on innovation, found a lack of enthusiasm among commercial breweries.

Fast forward a few years to the snowy slopes of Alpine Meadows where Carla Hackett was taking a ski lesson from Raul’s now friend and business partner, Chip. Carla had all the attributes of a great skier that her husband, an Aussie who owns the Stumptown Brewery in Guerneville, lacks. On the second, never the first, ride up the chair lift, an important relationship was established when the question was raised, “would you like to make some beer with some patented, 35-million year-old yeast?” The affirmative response started a brewing relationship between Stumptown Brewery and Environmental Diagnostics, Inc.

This random path led the ancient yeast to Stumptown Brewery on May 6th where Peter, Owner/Brewer, put the yeast to work. On June 21st came the news that “T-Rat” had finished fermenting and was conditioning. Perhaps most importantly, that it’s “very good, very unique. The yeast character is unusual, exotic, and very pronounced”.


On page two of the Post piece they finally do mention Stumptown’s involvement. The new versions, which include a wheat beer and a pale ale, are made at Kelley Bros. Brewing, which is in Manteca, California. I really enjoyed the pale ale version that Stumptown brewed and will eagerly try these two new versions. But I’m still a bit bewildered by the discrepancies that seem to accompany this story. But I guess history itself is a lot like that, so maybe it’s fitting after all. I wonder what “Cheers” is in dinosaur-speak? “Here’s tar in your eye?”

Subsequent to that in 2008, I got a snarky e-mail from someone chastising me for not covering the story more, but I was unable to find out any new information. Supposedly Cano had set up a company to make the beer with the ancient yeast he discovered, Fossil Fuels Brewing Company, but the website has been static with no news for eight years.

In late 2008, this was posted on their website:


The beer is available through two of our partners: Kelly Bros. Brewing Co. [now out of business] and Stumptown Brewery. Both breweries are located in beautiful Northern California. These are the ONLY locations as of right now that brew our beer and offer it on tap. The Fossil Fuels beer and atmosphere is always worth a road trip. (Make sure to leave room for the growlers on the way home).


Rest assured we are working hard to spread our beer around the nation as soon as possible. As a young company the passion to bring our beer to you is immense but equally matched by legal restrictions, overhead, and distribution licenses.


The decision was made to pursue and distribute kegs to pubs and restaurants before we moved into bottling our beer. Luckily most of these vendors will have growlers for you to take home. Bottles are definitely in the works and we’ll make sure you know as soon as they are available.


This is probably the most frequently asked question and the most painful to answer. The simple answer is no. It’s hard for us to reply this way, but it keeps us out of jail. As we grow the company new channels of distribution will allow us to legally distribute through the mail and over state and country lines (SGT Nuckols, Bart W.E. thanks for your service in Korea, we’re working on it). We are thrilled at the level of enthusiasm and interest from everyone and we are aware of all our supporters.


Our unique yeast is what distinguishes us from every other beer on the planet. However, once the patents are complete and genetic markers have been placed in the ancient yeast, Fossil Fuels will be able to distribute the yeast to our fellow craft brewers (along with a confidentiality agreement, of course).


Before we released the beer to the public we did enter the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). And, although receiving excellent marks (5/5 from some judges) our beer was a victim of its own uniqueness. We entered our extra-pale ale style beer, but due to its distinct taste profile, it did not fit with more common styles of beer. The assigned “experimental” category was full of chocolate, pumpkin and other bizarre flavors. Fossil Fuels is definitely distinct but in it’s own unique way. After seeing the results of the last competition, the decision was made to forego the GABF for the time being. However, we will be attending other brew fests, competitions and festivals in the future and hope to raise a pint with you.

Pint glasses full of Fossil Fuels Beer are raising eyebrows around northern California. This could be due to the fact that the unique ingredient for the line of Fossil Fuels beer is a yeast strain dating back to the Eocene Epoch, which is about 45 million years ago. A team of scientists, Dr. Raul Cano (Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, CA) and Lewis “Chip” Lambert (Fremont, CA), are partnering with brew masters Peter Hackett (Stumptown Brewery, Guerneville, CA), Joe Kelley (Kelley Bros. Brewing, Manteca, CA) and attorney Scott Bonzell (Oakland, CA) to produce what is surely one of the most interesting and unique beers of this or any time. With the green light from beer critics, brewers and end consumers alike, the team that comprises Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. is gearing up to share the product with the public in the summer of 2008.

The history of the yeast literally dates back before the dawn of man, to a time when the earth was warm, tropical and teeming with life. Modern mammals that we see today were beginning to appear in what is known as the Eocene epoch (from the Greek word eos meaning “dawn”). During this time, a snapshot of biological life was trapped by tropical tree sap. Over the course of millions of years, the sap hardened into amber, which preserved and protected its contents. That is, until Dr. Cano, using amber obtained from locations around the world (including Burma, Central and North America), isolated and revived a bacterium, which had lain dormant in the gut of an encased bee for approximately 40 million years (Science 268, pp. 1060-1064, 1995). During his research, Dr. Cano, periodically working with Mr. Lambert, isolated a few yeast strains that resembled modern Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In other words, they are similar to the yeast we use every day for brewing and baking, except the newly discovered yeasts were much further back in the evolutionary chain. Essentially, Dr. Cano isolated the long lost ancestors of modern brewing yeast.

Through chance and circumstance, a small group of people teamed up to form Fossil Fuels Brewing Co., which is utilizing the unique yeast strains to brew exceptional beer. Although not widely publicized, last summer a select few northern Californians had the opportunity to try some of the pilot brews and they raved about new (old?) pale ale. Jay R. Brooks, the tasting director of the exalted Celebrator Beer News Magazine commented when comparing the Fossil Fuels brew to an identical pale ale differing only in the strain of yeast (Celebrator, October/November 2006, pp:27-29):

[Fossil Fuels] is smoother, with softer fruity flavor characteristics and just a touch of lemony sweetness that isn’t tart…It has a more complex and well-developed taste profile, and its smoothness makes it great. The fact it is made with such old yeast is fascinating, and given how good the beer is, no mere novelty.

Peter Hackett, long time pub owner and award winning brew master called Fossil Fuels:

A remarkably unique beer that tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before, in a very good way.

Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. hosted a launch party at Kelly Brothers Brewing Co. in Manteca California July 26, 2008 to commence the release of their new beer brewed with its truly remarkable yeast to the public.

The following year, the website changed to a story format, which is what remained there online for a few years, changing once more to a more streamlined tale. Last fall, the site went down, but more recently it’s the current streamlined version, but there’s virtually no information there now, though you can sign up to “be the first to know when something awesome happens,” which seems optimistic, but who knows. The beer I had using the yeast was interesting, but I’m not sure it’s enough to build a successful business around, especially in the competitive market of today. I’ll be happy to be proved wrong, but only time will tell. With the recent changes to the site, maybe they are finally ready to launch it again.


Patent No. 918096A: Apparatus For Separating And Washing Yeast

Today in 1909, US Patent 918096 A was issued, an invention of Otto Selg and Carl Guntrum, assigned to Selg Brewery Apparatus Co., for their “Apparatus For Separating and Washing Yeast.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

This invention relates to improved means for washing yeast and separating the lighter particles and impure matter from the pure heavy particles in a quick, simple and efficient manner.


Patent No. CA2133272A1: Preparation Of Beer, Probably Samuel Adams Triple Bock

Today in 1995, CA 2133272 A1 was issued, an invention of Charles J. Koch, though the “Applicant” is listed as Charles J. Koch, Boston Beer Company Limited Partnership D/B/A Boston Beer Company (The), A Massachusetts Partnership; General Partner, Boston Brewing Company, Inc., for his “Preparation Of Beer.” Here’s the Abstract:

High alcohol beer having a full, round flavor is prepared by employing as the yeast a wine or champagne yeast, and a sweetened wort.

While I can’t be sure, I think this is essentially for Samuel Adams’ Triple Bock, which was first released in 1994. While the patent wasn’t granted until 1995, it was filed in the fall of 1994, but the “priority date” listed is October 6, 1993. The “inventor” listed is Charles J. Koch, who was Jim Koch’s father, although under “applicant” the Boston Beer Co. is also listed. In addition, I recall Jim explaining that it was in fact Champagne yeast that was used to create the beer. So it certainly seems likely that they patented the process used to make that unique beer. I still have a few bottles of it in my cellar though the last couple I opened tasted a lot like soy sauce. To be fair, the bottles that were opened during an anniversary dinner that I was lucky enough to attend in Boston Beer Co.’s barrel room a few years ago were tasting quite good. Although the OCR errors make it difficult reading, it’s still interesting to see the thought process and how they went about it laid out. I may have to open another bottle soon.


Patent No. EP1412490A4: Mediating The Effects Of Alcohol Consumption By Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast

Today in 2005, US Patent EP 1412490 A4 was issued, an invention of Joe Owades, for his “Mediating the Effects of Alcohol Consumption by Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast.” It seems to be virtually identical to Patent No. 2452476A1: Mediating The Effects Of Alcohol Consumption By Orally Administering Active Dry Yeast, which was issued to Owades two years before, on January 23, 2003. So if you’re feeling a sense of déjà vu, it’s not you. Here’s the short Abstract from the previous one. “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.


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.


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.”


Patent No. WO2012011807A1: A Method Of Stabilising Yeast Fermented Beverages

Today in 2012, US Patent WO 2012011807 A1 was issued, an invention of Tom Reinoud Noordman, Anneke Richter, and Marcel Van Der Noordt, assigned to Heineken Supply Chain B.V., for their “A Method of Stabilising Yeast Fermented Beverages.” Here’s the Abstract:

The present invention provides a method of preparing a yeast fermented beverage, said method comprising the steps of: a. fermenting wort with a biologically active yeast to produce a fermented liquid containing yeast, alcohol, polyphenols and protein; b. optionally removing yeast from the fermented liquid; c. combining the fermented liquid with polyvinylpolypyrrolidone (PVPP) particles to bind at least a fraction of the polyphenols and/or the proteins contained in the fermented liquid to said PVPP particles, at least 80 wt.% of said PVPP particles having a diameter in the range of 5-300 µm; d. removing a slurry containing the PVPP particles from the fermented liquid; e. filtering the slurry over a filter having a pore size in the range of 0.1-80 µm to produce a PVPP-enriched retentate and a PVPP-depleted filtrate; f. regenerating the PVPP particles contained in the PVPP-enriched retentate by desorbing polyphenols and/or protein from said PVPP-particles and separating the desorbed polyphenols and/or the desorbed protein from the PVPP particles; and g. after optional further refining of the regenerated PVPP particles, recirculating the regenerated PVPP particles to step c. The method can be operated with single use PVPP as well as regenerable PVPP. Furthermore, the present method does not require capacious filter hardware for regenerating the PVPP. The invention further provides an apparatus for carrying out the aforementioned method.


Patent No. 6326185B1: Method For Decontaminating Yeast

Today in 2001, US Patent 6326185 B1 was issued, an invention of Michael C. Barney, Kathleen M. Carrick, Alfonso Navarro, and David S. Ryder, assigned to Miller Brewing Company, for their “Method For Decontaminating Yeast.” Here’s the Abstract:

An improved method for reducing colony forming units bacteria in yeast is disclosed. The method involves contacting the yeast with a hop acid in an amount sufficient to give a final concentration of the hop acid of at least about 40 ppm.


Patent No. 20140234480A1: Enhancement Of Beer Flavor By A Combination Of Pichia Yeast And Different Hop Varieties

Today in 2014, US Patent 20140234480 A1 was issued, an invention of Sofie Sarens and Jan Hendrik Swiegers, assigned to Chr. Hansen A/S, for their “Enhancement of Beer Flavor by a Combination of Pichia Yeast And Different Hop Varieties.” Here’s the Abstract:

In the beer fermentation process, Pichia spp. yeast strains can be combined with normal beer yeast strains and with different hop varieties to produce synergistic effects, including the increased production in the fermentation product of esters, e.g., increased levels of isoamyl acetate, isobutyl acetate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, ethyl butyrate, ethyl decanoate, and ethyl octanoate. Additionally, the Pichia spp. strain interacts differently with different hop varieties, such that the flavor profile of beer can be tuned by employing different combinations of Pichia spp. strains and hops.


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Patent No. 8802421B2: Method Of Propagating And Delivering Yeast

Today in 2014, US Patent 8802421 B2 was issued, an invention of Chris White, assigned to White Labs, for his “Method of Propagating and Delivering Yeast.” Here’s the Abstract:

A method of propagating, concentrating and delivering yeast is disclosed. The method comprises the steps of producing and inoculating a bag, propagating yeast within the bag, and concentrating the yeast in a section of the bag that is the removed from the remainder of the bag while not exposing any portion of the yeast therein to an external environment. In order to remove the bag, which contains the most concentrated slurry of yeast, a smaller bag is heat-sealed off of the larger bag, thereby creating a separate bag for the living sediment, which is still the bag in which the sediment was propagated. In a preferred embodiment, the method is specific to the alcoholic beverage industry. The method is also applicable to other industries that grow and transport yeast, bacteria, molds and other microorganisms.

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When Chris spoke at my SSU Beer Appreciation class last semester, he talked about his new innovation, which was patented today a year ago, and which they’re calling the “FlexCell Process” and marketing it as “Pure Pitch.” It’s a pretty cool idea.


And here’s a short video about the “FlexCell Process” from the White Labs website.

Patent No. 141072A: Manufacture of Beer And Yeast

Today in 1873, US Patent 141072 A was issued, an invention of Louis Pasteur, for his “Manufacture of Beer and Yeast.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it includes this summary:

The following is a recapitulation of the essential features of this improved process: The wort is introduced in a iling state in the apparatus, on which a cover is then placed, or the cylinder may be entirely closed and communicate with the atmosphere only by means of the pipes, cocks, and long tubes with which it is provided. Boiling water is then thrown on the a paratns, after which it is allowed to cool with or without the assistance of cold water, during which time air or carbonic-acid gas is admitted by the long tube; but previous to this one of the plug on the cover is closed by unplug, through which passes a tube, terminating in an India rubber tube and glass stopper. Pure wort is then fermented by pure yeast, and, when sufficiently advanced, the contents are poured through the tube in the stopper of the pipe on the cover of the fermenting apparatus.

If there is a supply of pure yeast from the preceding operation this may be used, as in the ordinary processes, the vessel being inverted for the purpose, it’ necessary, after fermentation has commenced; but this might lead to great inconvenience at a subsequent period, although the use of pure yeast, manufactured according to this improved process, would of itself form a great improvement on the ordinary process.

With the aid of the microscope and the method of control, before indicated, the change of condition, which might arise under the latter modes of treatment, may bc readily ascertained; but one cooling apparatus be used or a few, only the wort being p 1;- into vets,- (pitched or varnished on the exterior, which are deprived of any germs of disease, either by the use of boiling water or by the recent applying of pitch on the interior.


Patent No. 3888839A: Isolated Yeast Protein Product With Intact RNA And A Process For Making Same

Today in 1975, US Patent 3888839 A was issued, an invention of Jon Albert Newell, Robert Dudley Seeley, and Ernest Aleck Robbins, assigned to Anheuser Busch, for their “Isolated Yeast Protein Product with Intact RNA and a Process for Making Same.” There’s no Abstract, although in the description it states that “We have discovered a process for obtaining a protein isolate from yeast cells. This process makes use of a neutral or slightly alkaline extraction of disintegrated cells to avoid the deleterious effect on nutritional quality and flavor.”

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Our process is comprised of the following steps: production of yeast cells, rupture of the cells, separation of the insoluble cell wall fragments from the soluble cytoplasmic fraction, treatment of the soluble fraction with alkali, recovery of the protein by precipitation and centrifugation, vacuum concentration, and drying. The substantially cell free isolated protein product contains about 40% of the solids, -65% of the protein, 60-65% of the nucleic acid, 64-68% of the lipid and less than 5% of the carbohydrate that was present in the yeast cell. The isolated protein product has the composition (dsb) of 65-85% crude protein, 9-14% nucleic acid, 2-8% ash, 9-14% lipid, and 2-10% carbohydrate, while including less than 1% crude fiber.