While budget cuts have put a damper on some research sectors in Argentina, the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) has channeled funds into an area most Argentines can get behind — a plan to develop a 100 percent national, artisanal beer. The project was realized by the Andean-Patagonian Institute of Biological and Environmental Technologies (IPATEC, or should we say IPA-tec), using yeast sourced from the forests in Patagonia. The brew will be released this Friday in Buenos Aires and Bariloche, at the “Ciencia y Cerveza” (Science and Beer) event hosted by CONICET.
Over the last year, artisanal beer has grown between 25 and 30 percent in Argentina. Nearly every block offers a dive with happy hour tap deals, and it seems a new cervezería sprouts up in the neighborhood every other week. With a growing Argentine fan-base for artisan brews (but really, how hard is to convert from Quilmes?), a sort of national pride has developed in the race to make the best tasting pint.
However, most brewers’ yeasts are internationally-sourced, making your honey ale pint last week only partially Argentine. Thankfully, researcher Diego Libkind Frati, with help from his Portugese-US team, discovered an Argentine yeast strain in 2011, and has been working to cultivate it since. The yeast grows in forests within the Patagonian Andes Mountains, and its brew-ability is out of this world.
The yeast, whose scientific name is Saccharomyces eubayanus, is a parent of a lager yeast variety that is responsible for about 95 percent of beer fermentation around the world. But Saccharomyces eubayanus holds great promise as the next yeast to rule them all. Even Heineken, a Dutch brewing corporation, has signed an agreement with the researchers to use the yeast.
After years of study and cultivation, Frati and his team, after working with five Baroliche breweries, are ready to release the first tastes of Argentina’s first nationally-sourced beer. During Friday’s tasting premier, the researchers will also hold an information session on the vital role science and technology play in Bariloche’s diverse water, forest and animal ecosystems.
After the event, the scientists and breweries will hold training courses for other local producers who want to incorporate the new yeast into their brewing, including international competitors from Chile and Uruguay. Don’t panic; releasing our secret yeast weapon to competitors is a great move financially. A market dependent on Argentine yeast will bode well for funding in the area.
If approached ethically, the cultivation of the yeast will also bode well for the financial and ecological investment in the Bariloche area. Just when you thought scientists couldn’t get any smarter, they surprise us by giving us what we want (beer) and by using our investments to get what they want (ecological and scientific advancements).