Hops may be the hot topic in the mainstream beer world these days, but Heineken is featuring a different ingredient for its new line: yeast.
Heineken is launching a so-called wild lager in October. Named H41, the beer is made with a yeast that has been identified as one of the parents of lager yeast, including the A-yeast that is used to make Heineken.
Yeast is essential to making beer, well, beer. Grains such as barley are combined with hops to create a sugary substance called wort. Yeast is then added to the mixture. It eats the sugar and releases carbon dioxide and alcohol.
There are many strains of yeast used to make beer, but they all fall into one of three categories: ale, lager and sour beer, according to Willem van Waesberghe, Heineken's global brewmaster. A category could emerge using wild yeast.
"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. He and his colleagues 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.