by Jake Meyer
In 1990, Michael Crichton wrote Jurassic Park, a best-selling novel about cloned dinosaurs created from the DNA obtained from mosquitoes trapped in amber. Crichton’s Jurassic Park cautions us against tinkering with biotechnology by bringing the past to the present. However, Crichton might not have considered what one microbiologist has released that was trapped in amber — a mighty fine brew.
Raul Cano discovered that microorganisms trapped in amber, which have laid dormant in a state of hibernation for millions of years, could be revived. In 1995, Cano extracted one such microorganism from a 45 million-year-old fossil — a variant of Sacchramoyces cervisiae — also known as “brewer’s yeast.” But you don’t wake up prehistoric brewer’s yeast without wondering what kind of beer it would make.
After 12 years of wondering, Cano met with a brewmaster, Peter Hackett, to test out the ancient yeast. The yeast acted differently than other yeasts, fermenting violently at the start, then falling out of suspension. This ancient yeast resulted in an ale with a unique flavor — “light and crisp with a citrusy, gingery tang.” After experimenting with the yeast, Hackett figured out how to make a tasty beer with it. Beer made with the ancient Saccharamoyces cervisiae yeast is now made and distributed by the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.