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Thread: when started the use of cultivated yeast?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
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    7

    when started the use of cultivated yeast?

    Hello,
    I'm new here so I will start by introducing myself.

    I am Steven, seventeen years old and living in The Netherlands.
    I am in my graduate year of our equivalent of high school and I am writing a paper about defects in beer.

    My question is: when started the use of cultivated yeast?

    At first, beer was made by spontaneous fermentation (not sure if this is the right term) and after a while people started to grow their own cultivated yeast, since this makes the brewing more controlled.

    Thanks,

    Steven

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    346
    I might be entirely off about this, but I was under the impression that alcohol was first intentionally fermented from fruits such as grapes which contain the yeast responsible for fermentation in their skins. As I understand it, the fermentation of grains was a subsequent development that began from wild fermentation and at some point diverged from pure wild fermentation and took on a semi-controlled approach.

    Radical Brewing by Randy Mosher indicates that brewing in pre-renaissance Northern Europe (1000 AD ish), was done on a home brewing scale by each family. Each family had a particular wooden stick or fork like object they used to stir the mash and wort in order to encourage fermentation. They believed this to be a product of magic or something akin to sorcery (or miracle) but it is likely the yeast simply lived in the wood as is seen in some older breweries (particularly in Belgium I'm told where wild yeasts are so important).

    I also was under the impression that during the Middle Ages and beyond, the monk(s) that were responsible for brewing at monasteries in Europe often were in charge of the bread and cheese production for the monastery as well. This is likely due to the fact that for a long time, bread and beer yeasts were probably interchangeable (or at least cared for similarly by maintaining a live culture like a modern day sour-dough starter).

    I know that beer brewing was well documented by the Romans in Gaul, Germania and Britain (often rudely) which would indicate a more systematized brewing culture in northern Europe by the birth of the Roman Empire. However, this is only European history, I know they were brewing beer in Egypt, Sumeria, China, and Africa thousands of years ago; the question remains, was it using intentionally cultivated yeast?

    Hope this helps, you should check out JSTOR or a comparable database of archaeological or anthropological journals, I'm sure the information is out there somewhere.

    Tron
    It's like a chorus of angels riding whales through space.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    3,695
    The cultivation, intentional or not, started as soon as vessel were regularly used for fermentation. The ancient equivalent of our fermenters would have been rough-surfaced wood, stone, or metal, and would hold viable yeast in the crevices even in the face rather vigorous attempts at cleaning. Since these vessels were re-used, the yeast strains best adapted to periodic feedings of malt sugar water would predominate. Voila, cultivation.

    Of course, it was only after Leewenhouk (sp?) and his microscopically oriented ilk that people were able to understand why these deliberately infected vessels produced such great brews (and others did not).
    On deck: a clone of Carolina Beer Co's Rye Stout, clone of Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter,
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    Secondary: Dortmunder, Hopweizen
    Keg Conditioning: Dunkelweizen, Roggenbier, Okto, Ord. Bitter
    On tap: Alt, Hefeweizen, Cigar City Maduro clone, Mild
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Posts
    7
    Thanks for the quick replies.

    What I ment was was; when did they start to grow yeast colonies of one specific race, intentionally? Nowadays you can buy yeast of a specific race because of it's good beer making qualities.

    I thought people used wild yeast (they did not actually 'use' them, the yeast came into the mixture by accident, by wind), and thereby discovered alcohol and thus beer. Later on they mixed old beer (containing yeast) into new batches causing it to ferment.

    I did not know that people used 'magic stick' to help with fermentation, interesting.

    About jStor, I came across it on the internet but I can not access complete article since I am not a member of a participating school/library. Do you know if there is another way to access?

    Thanks, Steven

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    3,695
    Most of those "pure" strains that you find now are descendants of those well adapted colonies that simply inhabited breweries before the age of microscopy. Most of the yeast strains on the market now originate from commercial breweries of well known styles. (Most vendors have an "Irish Ale" strain. Three guesses from which commercial brewery that came, first two guesses don't count) Most of these breweries (or predecessor breweries) existed in one form or another before close microbiological controls became the norm. So your answer is really that most of those "races" (we call them strains) were already well established before brewers consciously tried to keep "pure" strains. Even then (and now) "purity" of the yeast strain is not the goal. Rather it is consistency, like all other ingredients and processing of that industrially produced product. Even if there might be multiple yeast strains, or even a slight bacterial contamination, as long as it is consistent from batch to batch and consumers keep buying, "purity" matters not.
    On deck: a clone of Carolina Beer Co's Rye Stout, clone of Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter,
    Primary: Schwarzbier
    Secondary: Dortmunder, Hopweizen
    Keg Conditioning: Dunkelweizen, Roggenbier, Okto, Ord. Bitter
    On tap: Alt, Hefeweizen, Cigar City Maduro clone, Mild
    Bottled: Mead, Quad Rajet, Granola Bar Braggot

    Too much of everything is just enough.
    - J. Garcia

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