Boffin brews up 'Jurassic Park' beer
Extracts yeast from amber-clad ancient weevil
A scientist at California Polytechnic State University has answered that most pressing of questions for would-be time travellers - assuming you survive the journey through the wormhole vortex back to the Eocene epoch, what's the beer going to be like when you get there?
The answer is "smooth and spicy" with "a weird spiciness at the finish", according to beer critics who've been able to sample a "Jurassic Park" concoction brewed with yeast that's a venerable 45 million years old.
It's cheers, then, to Raul Cano who drilled into a Lebanese weevil trapped in Burmese amber to tap a dormant colony of bacteria and yeast, and subsequently activated the latter for deployment by the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.
The result is, Discovery News explains, barrels of pale ale and German wheat beer offering a unique ale-quaffing experience due partly to the yeast's singular metabolism. Cano explained: "The ancient yeast is restricted to a narrow band of carbohydrates, unlike more modern yeasts, which can consume just about any kind of sugar."
Cano elaborated: "You can always buy brewing yeast, and your product will be based on the brewmaster's recipes. Our yeast has a double angle: We have yeast no one else has and our own beer recipes."
The dino-yeast will apparently evolve the ability to consume other forms of sugar, in the process changing the beers' flavour. Cano intends to keep a stock of the original extraction to guard against evolutionary degradation of his brews.
In case you're wondering what Cano was doing tapping amber-clad weevils, his original aim was to "find ancient microscopic creatures that might have some kind of medical value, particularly pharmaceutical drugs". Discovery News claims that avenue of research "didn't yield significant results" - an assertion those of us who well know the medical value of beer will strongly dispute. ®
A possible spin-off of the research is that, by better understanding the process of dormancy in the extracted yeast and bacteria, scientists might be able to induce the process in infectious diseases. Rather than attacking the infection full-on, they could simply put the offending organism to sleep so that it "would still be present in the patient's body, but it wouldn't hurt the patient".
Oh yes, cheers to Mike Richards for the heads-up.