What the seed vault in Svalbard does for the world’s plants, the Cara Technology’s Research Laboratory in England does for yeast.
The Guardian’s Word of Mouth Blog recently published a feature on this lab’s large collection of brewer’s yeast strains, and its goal of making both classic and custom-made strains available to brewers everywhere.
Most of the world’s beer and wine are made with a single species of yeast: Saccharomyces cerevisiae. But that one species comprises thousands of different families, each with their own characteristic traits – much like the world’s population of Homo sapiens. Since long before Louis Pasteur discovered the actual science behind the magic of fermentation, brewers have been isolating and cultivating these different families to exploit their particular impact on the flavor and qualities of their brews.
Despite brewers’ notorious protectiveness of their yeast cultures, Cara Labs has managed to create a repository for these different families of saccharomyces. They’ve collected and preserved 850 strains, some dating back more than 100 years, and make them available to brewers everywhere. You can find the strains that give Belgian tripels their characteristically smooth and fruity flavor, or the yeast that was used to make German doppelbocks in the late 19th century. And for those brewers who wish to create a style all their own, flavor technology consultants are on hand to assist in identifying the perfect strain of yeast. At Cara Labs, tradition meets innovation in the pursuit of timeless creativity:
“Deep in the corridors of Cara Technology’s research labs in Leatherhead, southern England, a handful of microbiologists and flavour technicians hold both the past and the future of beer drinking in their hands.”