Lager Beer, Born in Patagonia? Scientists Unravel Clues to a Mystery

Patagonia may not have many micro-breweries to call its own, but scientists have discovered it has a bigger claim-to-fame in the world of beer.

Frequently found on southern beech trees in Patagonia, these galls harbor the variety of yeast that produces lager beer, scientists recently discovered.

For years, scientists have puzzled over the origins of lager beer–or, more specifically, the yeast used to brew it, which ferments at a lower temperature than the yeasts used to produce other beer.  Since lager beer originated in Bavaria in the 15th century, Europe seemed the obvious place to look for wild yeasts with similar DNA.  Even after gathering thousands of samples, none appeared a plausible ancestor for lager’s yeast.

So scientists started hunting farther afield, and in the cool forests of Patagonia, found a yeast that closely resembled the domesticated variety.  This yeast thrives in the sugar-rich galls of southern beech trees.  It turns out that Patagonian natives used to make a fermented drink from these galls.

But a mystery remains: Europeans did not reach Patagonia for centuries AFTER they invented lager beer.  How did this yeast make its way across the Atlantic?

To read the full story behind this remarkable discovery, see this recent LA Times article.

And who knows? When you visit us at the future Patagonia National Park, we might be serving up our own home brew.

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