How it all beer-gan! First lager originated at the court brewery of Maximilian the Great in Munich in 1602, study reveals
- Scientists looked through old brewing records to trace the history of lager yeast
- It was created when two types of yeast were mixed in a Munich brewery in 1602
Home to the hugely popular annual knees-up Oktoberfest, Germany has long trumpeted itself as being the birthplace of lager.
Now new research points to exactly where it originated.
Scientists scoured through old brewing records to trace the history of lager yeast back to a brewery in Munich in 1602.
Previous analysis had revealed the yeast to be a combination of two other types, but mystery surrounded when and how this had happened.
The answer, experts in Germany say, is that lager was probably born by chance when the ale-producing bottom-feeding yeast used in Bavaria since the 14th century was inadvertently mixed with Bohemian top-feeding wheat beer yeast.
Discovery: Scientists scoured through old brewing records to trace the history of lager yeast back to a brewery in Munich in 1602
History: For five years the Hofbräühaus brewery (pictured today) alternated between making bottom fermented brown ale and top fermented wheat beer, a period during which the two yeasts ended up mixing and lager yeast was born
Bohemia is a region of the modern-day Czech Republic, giving the Czechs a claim to fame in lager’s creation. However, in the 17th century it was a German state.
HOW DID LAGER YEAST COME TO BE?
Researchers say the dominance of lager yeast developed in three stages.
1. The yeast strain Saccharomyces cerevisiae first arrives in Munich from Bohemia, where brewers had been making wheat beer.
2. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is introduced to a brewery in Munich in 1602 and mixed with the Saccharomyces eubayanus yeast being used to make brown ale.
3. The new yeast Saccharomyces pastorianus is distributed around Munich breweries first, and then throughout Europe and the world.
It was not until the early 19th century that the first lager beer was actually brewed, when Saccharomyces pastorianus was extracted and isolated properly in Copenhagen by the owner of Carlsberg.
The contamination came about following the death of a wheat beer brewer whose assets were seized by Maximilian the Great, Duke of Bavaria and later Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.
For economic reasons, Hans VI von Degenberg had been given special permission to set up a wheat beer brewery in Bavarian territory, despite it being mandated that all Bavarian brewers use bottom fermenting yeast in the mid-16th century.
Just as the beer had proved extremely popular in Bohemia, it was also a success in Bavaria.
But when Von Degenberg’s grandson died without an heir in 1602, the brewery in the small border town of Schwarzach was seized by Maximilian the Great, who then transferred the yeast to his own venture in Munich, experts say.
Prof John Morrissey, a yeast evolution expert at University College Cork, told the Telegraph that the duke ‘was jealous of the economic success that the von Degenberg’s had with their wheat beer’.
For the next five years the duke’s court brewery (Hofbräühaus) alternated between making bottom fermented brown ale and top fermented wheat beer, a period during which the two yeasts ended up mixing and lager yeast was born.
After that, researchers say strains of the yeast – known as Saccharomyces pastorianus – spread all over Europe and are the source of all modern lager yeast.
However, it wasn’t until more than 200 years that the first lager beer was actually brewed, when Saccharomyces pastorianus was extracted and isolated properly in Copenhagen by the owner of Carlsberg.
Scientists say strains of Saccharomyces pastorianus spread all over Europe and are the source of all modern lager yeast. However, it would be more than 200 years later until the first lager beer was actually brewed, in Copenhagen by the owner of Carlsberg
Origins: The contamination came about following the death of a wheat beer brewer whose assets were seized by Maximilian the Great, Duke of Bavaria and later Prince-Elector of the Holy Roman Empire (pictured)
‘There is a certain irony that the inability of Hans VIII von Degenberg to produce a son triggered the events that led to the creation of creation of lager yeast,’ said lead author of the research, Mathias Hutzler.
‘As one lineage died out, another began. No heir — but what a legacy he left for the world!’
Despite being heralded for its beer, Germany is not the home of the popular beverage.
The drink has actually been made since ancient times, with recent archaeology showing evidence of brewing in the eastern Mediterranean some 13,000 years ago.
Up until the early 20th century, ale was the typical beer produced, but lager now accounts for approximately 90 per cent of the beer consumed annually.
The new research has been published in the journal FEMS Yeast Research.
WHEN DID HUMANS START DRINKING BEER?
Humans have had a long history of consuming alcohol.
It is believed the primitive cultures of Mesopotania could have been brewing malted barley scraps as far back as 10,000BC but there are no records of it.
The earliest proof of beer-drinking dates back to Northern China 9,000 years ago.
This ancient brew was made using hawthorn fruit, Chinese wild grapes, rice and honey, and is the oldest known fermented beverage in history – older even than wine.
The earliest proof of beer-drinking dates back to Northern China 9,000 years ago
To make it the corn was milled and moistened in the maker’s mouth to convert starches in the corn into fermentable sugars – before it was ‘spat’ into the beer.
Throughout history, the consumption of alcohol may have helped people become more creative, advancing the development of language, art and religion.
This is because alcohol lowers inhibitions and makes people feel more spiritual.
It is believed the Egyptians started brewing beer around 5,000BC, according to the papyrus scrolls.
They were brewing things like dates, pomegranates and other indigenous herbs.
At around 3150 BC, the Egyptians used industrial-scale breweries to provide beer for the workers who built the pyramids of Giza.
Eventually beer made its way from the Middle East to Europe where an abundance of barley crops provided lots of raw ingredient for brewers.
Experts have now found evidence of brewing in Greece during the Bronze Age.
Researchers believe that these prehistoric people enjoyed getting merry with alcoholic drinks for feasts all year-round and not just when the grapes were ripe.
Not only was it considered nutritional it was also a safe alternative to drinking water.
It was in the Middle Ages that malted barley became the main source of fermented sugar and beer became the beverage we are familiar with today.