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45-Million-Year-Old Beer

In honor of yesterday's 'Audacity of Hops' - where President Obama met with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and police Sergeant James Crowley over a 'cold one' to discuss Gates' recent arrest - I thought I would mention a beer created by a scientist from some rather unique yeast. 

As you may know, beer is made when yeast cells ferment grain to produce the frothy, flavorful drink that goes so well with pizza.  Raul Cano, a microbiologist at California Polytechnic State University, had the idea to make beer out of some pretty special yeast he'd been studying.  What was so unusual about said yeast?  Cano extracted the yeast from a 45-million-year-old fossil

Just like in the film Jurassic Park, the fossil was entombed in amber. Unlike in Jurassic Park, we know we can't resurrect dinosaurs from ancient creatures stuck in amber, but Cano thought maybe he could start a little smaller and bring back to life the single-celled yeast microbes he found inside.  Amazingly it worked!  And since he couldn't think of anything else to do with the ancient yeast (which just so happened to be the same type used by brewers) Cano decided to make beer with it.

The ancient brew wasn't half bad - Cano even sent some to the Jurassic Park 2 cast party.  Want to try some?  You can soon - it will be sold starting this fall in California under the label 'Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.'   

On a personal note, as a former microbiology major, I have some heavy respect for yeast and the lovely amber fluid they create.  And I must admit, seeing that possible career choices in my field of study included working at a brewery went a long way in helping me choose my major.  Perhaps I should have studied paleontology as well - who knew fossils would play a role alongside microbiology in brewing! 
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