NETHERLANDS – Heineken has launched a new series of wild lagers named H41, beer made with yeast that has been identified as one of the parents of lager yeast, found in nature.
According to Willem van Waesberghe, Heineken’s global brew-master, many strains of yeast are used to make beer and fall into three categories; ale,lager and sour beer.
“When you look around the world, you see a lot of breweries varying in ingredients, and we love that. But yeast is something different,” van Waesberghe said.
“It’s very difficult, and in this moment, until now, there were three types which you could use to make beer. And we discovered the fourth one.”
Heineken tamed the wild yeast, but Diego Libkind, a scientist from Argentina, found it. They detected the strain growing on trees in the mountains of Patagonia.
They tested the strain in 2011 and identified it as the saccharomyces eubayanus species, one of lager yeast’s long-lost parents.
Van Waesberghe later learned about Libkind’s findings and wondered how it could be applied to beer.
However, it took Van Waesberghe two years to create the beer that today is H41, named for the latitude where the yeast was found.
He used the same recipe the traditional Heineken uses, only substituting the domestic yeast for the wild one.
The new Heineken brew is already available in some European markets and will make its American debut in October, where it will be available in New York City.
“We are on a real storytelling journey. We’re almost educating people again on what a natural product like beer is about,” Van Waesberghe said. “It’s all about yeast.”
Hundreds of diverse strains from Patagonia and a handful of rare strains from North America, Asia and New Zealand have been found since the saccharomyces eubayanus species was discovered in Patagonia according to Chris Todd Hittinger, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who ran the gene sequencing for Libkind.
“That’s one of the exciting things that we’ve learned: The current brewing strains used industrially have a narrow swath of the genetic swatch of what’s found in nature, so there’s a lot more genetic variation out there in the wild,” Hittinger said.
“For me as a brewer, this is paradise,” he said. “We can just start making all new beers and styles, and I will for as long as they let me.”