A new hypothesis for the origin of the lager yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus

Saccharomyces pastorianus, which is responsible for the production of bottom-fermented lager beer, is a hybrid species that arose from the mating of the top-fermenting ale yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and the cold-tolerant Saccharomyces eubayanus around the start of the 17th century. Based on detailed analysis of Central European brewing records, we propose that the critical event for the hybridization was the introduction of top-fermenting S. cerevisiae into an environment where S. eubayanus was present, rather than the other way around. Bottom fermentation in parts of Bavaria preceded the proposed hybridization date by a couple of hundred years and we suggest that this was carried out by mixtures of yeasts, which may have included S. eubayanus. A plausible case can be made that the S. cerevisiae parent came either from the Schwarzach wheat brewery or the city of Einbeck, and the formation of S. pastorianus happened in the Munich Hofbräuhaus between 1602 and 1615 when both wheat beer and lager were brewed contemporaneously. We also describe how the distribution of strains from the Munich Spaten brewery, and the development by Hansen and Linder of methods for producing pure starter cultures, facilitated the global spread of the Bavarian S. pastorianus lineages.”

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