In the 1993 film Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum and a team of scientists successfully extract dinosaur DNA from fossilized mosquitos, and use the molecules to bring the ancient animals back to life. Now, one clever scientist has taken that method—well, sort of—and extracted yeast from a 45 million-year-old leaf frozen in a chunk of Burmese amber.
And what, exactly, does this researcher plan to do with his discovery, you ask? Brew the world's oldest beer, of course.
When it comes to brewing, not all yeast is created equal. But luckily, one of the strains found by Dr. Richard Cano—a molecular biologist and retired professor from California Polytechnic State University—happened to be "brewer's yeast," or, in scientific parlance, "saccharomyces cerevisiae."
“Once you’ve established that the yeast is saccharomyces cerevisiae, or a relative of it, you still don’t know if it’s a brewer’s yeast or baker’s yeast or what kind of yeast,” Cano told the San Francisco Gate. “So then we actually tested them in the brewing process.”
Once Cano discovered he had the proper strain, he founded Fossil Fuels Brewing Co. with a handful of independent brewers. Together, they set about making the ancient beverage, but things didn't go smoothly at first. According to Ian Schuster, the owner of Schubros Brewery, the yeast was "high maintenance"—unpredictable and difficult to harness.
Schuster eventually had the idea to create a French farmhouse-style saison—a brew that would compliment the natural flavors of the prehistoric yeast.
"Saison really came to mind because the yeast had this wonderful grapefruit essence to it that it imparts in the beer," he said. "Some of the most amazing beer I’ve had, in terms of their light, crisp taste but also sophistication and layers, are Belgian and French farmhouse styles. We all galvanized around that thought."
Cano and his team have been working on this project since 1992, when the scientist was first able to extract the yeast from the amber. But the project has finally progressed to the point where interested buyers can pre-order a bottle through an Indie GoGo campaign for $40.
"Fact is, with a yeast this rare and unusual, the world may never get a second chance," the site reads. "We need to get this right the first time!"