400-year-old Ecuadoran beer resurrected from yeast


105 points | by rntn 306 days ago


  • ch4s3 304 days ago
    I really love this kind of thing, a marriage of bioscience, craft, history, archeology, and culture. There’s something almost magical about reaching back into the past, resurrecting a brewing yeast, and making a beer that people can have today that captures something from 4 centuries ago.
    • fezfight 304 days ago
      Agreed. If nondestructive time travel existed, a pub crawl would be first on my list.
      • garrickvanburen 304 days ago
        Best I can do is this homebrew comp I'm organizing - https://dejabru.org
        • Tao3300 304 days ago
          So people are going to pay you to send you beer.

          Brb gotta organize a homebrew competition!

        • OJFord 304 days ago
          Address not found - I think you may have HNd yourself?

          Brilliant name, by the way.

        • ch4s3 304 days ago
          I clicked to find Roggenbier and was not disappointed. I love them but they’re really tricky to mash and sparge without getting stuck.

          I made one a few months ago and served it with rye sourdough and fermented butter. Life is good.

        • toomuchtodo 304 days ago
          Never received the confirmation email after signing up :(
      • ch4s3 304 days ago
        For sure. I’d love to try some stuff from the Balkans before hops arrived, or cask ales in 17th century England. Colonial American beers with weird ingredients would be fun too.
      • Tao3300 304 days ago
        I'm down. Anyone have enough Dall-E credits for "a functioning time machine you can build in a weekend out of household supplies, as a detailed schematic"?
      • WebbWeaver 304 days ago
        Where and when would you go?
        • ch4s3 304 days ago
          Tough choice. I’m interested in a lot of old beers. The hype around original Berliner Weiss would be cool.
      • yieldcrv 304 days ago
        first thing I thought about was Sandman
    • gerdesj 304 days ago
      Quite, but with yeasts I think there are some continuous cultures that are way older than just 400 years. Having said that, evolution will have happened along the way so there will be changes of some sort.

      However there is still the living link with the long past.

      It turns out that one of my 13th great grandmothers was from Cornwall (Padstow) So am I Cornish? Yes and also several other varieties of English (the tree gets a bit complicated, especially in Norfolk), Scottish (Gerdes even sounds like Girders when said by a Scot and cf Geddes), Irish (one grandfather from Dublin). I'm also German - Gerdes is our family name and that name was adopted by quite a few Germans when the law required family names (can't remember when that was - 18thC?) I can also note quite a lot of Jewish descent but I generally ignore being Christian - Confirmed by the Bishop of Jerusalem in Cyprus (we were stationed in the WSBA at the time).

      I have barely touched on my roots here. They are sodding complicated and so are everyone's and so is beer's.

      • ch4s3 304 days ago
        Sure and that’s all quite interesting but we’re not about to take a bite of your arm and romantically imagine the life and times of 16th century Cornish coal miners. Yet with a resurrected 400 y/o yeast derived from chicha used to brew the first European style beers in Quito combined with an old recipe, we can taste the drink that common laborers consumed in Quito 400 years ago at a time of great change. It’s romantic, it has a visceral appeal beyond the personal that may be evoked by genealogy. There’s the stuff of human heritage here.
    • garrickvanburen 304 days ago
      I came here to say the magical bit about reaching back through time.
      • ch4s3 304 days ago
        Yeah, something about this being in South America had a real Borges/Cortazar quality.
  • fnordpiglet 304 days ago
    What amazes me is after 400 years the brewery shut down in 1970. That’s actually fairly sad.
    • rob74 304 days ago
      Sad, but that's what happened all over the world around that time: beer production was completely industrialized and commoditized and small breweries just couldn't compete anymore. The craft beer/microbrewery movement started in the US and UK a few years later, but it took some time until it spread to South America.
    • ch4s3 304 days ago
      It's a good run, but it can be hard to find people who can carry on a tradition like that, especially if the business isn't doing well financially.
      • mchaynes 304 days ago
        “especially if the business isn’t doing well financially” seems like a thought terminating cliché tbh
        • Kalium 304 days ago
          Generally convents and monasteries that produce things like beer and cheese and chocolate do so quite specifically for the money. They're not doing it because it's a quaint tradition.

          It may be a thought-stopping cliche, but it also gets at the central point of why the work was done in the first place.

  • TrueSlacker0 304 days ago
    This article... It's a article...

    The oldest beer in the area HAS to be older than 400 years... But I haven't checked, but beer is old, real old, old everywhere.

    Breweries isolate and propagate yeast all the time. Could be a 400yo yeast or a 4mil yo old yeast strain, it's yeast after all. It's old. Just because it was used 400 years ago doesn't matter. It's probably older. It happens all the time, at large breweries and small breweries.

    Also Chicha is the wonderful spit based corn beer. The yeast probably won't be missed.

    Side note.. I left my orange juice on my counter and it fermented with a yeast strain that's probably millions of years old... Did I resurrect it? Nope. If I plate it and grow a clean culture? Meh it still went down great though.

    I don't mean to diss the work of the brewery but everyone does this. The article is just reaching for an article.

    • dmix 304 days ago
      > Also Chicha is the wonderful spit based corn beer. The yeast probably won't be missed.

      I was curious what you meant by this, from Wikipedia:

      > In some cultures, instead of germinating the maize to release the starches therein, the maize is ground, moistened by saliva in the chicha maker's mouth, and formed into small balls, which are then flattened and laid out to dry.[10] Naturally occurring ptyalin enzymes in the maker's saliva catalyses the breakdown of starch in the maize into maltose. This process of chewing grains or other starches was used in the production of alcoholic beverages in pre-modern cultures around the world, including, for example, sake in Japan. Chicha prepared in this manner is known as chicha de muko.

      Also like all classic Inca stories, it contained this bit:

      > The Incas themselves show the importance of chicha. The lords or royalty probably drank chicha from silver and gold cups known as keros.[34] Also, after defeating an enemy Inca rulers would have heads of the defeated enemy converted into cup to drink chicha from


    • mikro2nd 304 days ago
      Have to agree with "just reaching for an article"! No mention of the genetic line (species) this particular yeast might belong to, so almost devoid of information. "This guy isolated some old yeast and cultured it up and he's making beer with it." Reads more like a soft ad to me.
  • flobosg 304 days ago
    Related: “This Bread Was Made Using 4,500-Year-Old Egyptian Yeast” – https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/bread-was-made-usi...
  • Rackedup 304 days ago
    400 yo beer resurrected from a 50 yo sample of yeast?
    • ch4s3 304 days ago
      Maybe, but they did pull the barrel from the museum and I'd presume they tried to find one that hadn't been used in living memory. Even if it's ONLY 50 years old it's still quite the biological time capsule. It should be verifiable though, as S. Cerevisiae is a well understood organism and the rate of mutation of various genes is well understood. They could compare to a number of yeasts form the area and if it's related, get a rough estimate of the age by working backwards.
    • RadixDLT 304 days ago
      more likely
  • nonethewiser 304 days ago
    Imagine my disappointment whe. I realized it is "beer" and not "bear."
    • Tao3300 304 days ago
      The difference is that a beer has antlers.
  • iancmceachern 303 days ago
    And still no T-Rex?