Brewing happy yeast
National Public Radio had a fun piece that my friends in the ethanol industry may enjoy reading: “When the Microbes Are Happy, the Brewer is Happy.”
Brewers are basically microbiologists, the story says. It offers a link to a paper of interest from the American Academy of Microbiology, “If the Yeast Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.” NPR talked to one of the authors of the paper who explained the academy had to turn to Europe to find many of the brewing experts they consulted. European universities actually have professors of fermentation.
There’s some great stuff in the 16-page academy paper on the history of brewing and yeast. Brewers yeasts are domesticated organisms, the authors point out, thus they differ greatly from wild yeasts in the same way that domesticated cats differ from lions and corn is very different from its ancestor, teosinthe. The paper goes on to call fermentation a transformative experience and a lifesaver -- in times past, when contaminated water spread multiple diseases, beer could be safely drank.
The paper is a good read, digging into the historical development of yeast, the science of good yeast production and outlining the basic steps of brewing good beer. It certainly is aimed at the growing number of home brewers, but would also be a good read for those who use the same millennium-old process to ferment corn mash that gets distilled into fuel ethanol. In it, you’ll find explanations and definitions of the many factors and terms that one hears about not only when talking about home brewing, but in the world of commercial ethanol production as well: yeast health, acids, aldehydes, sulfur compounds, ketones, esters, and more.