In March, together with a group of beer hunters, writers and plain enthusiasts from around the world – including Quebecan beer writer Martin Thibault from Beer Connoisseur, we went on a 4-day trip to Lithuanian North countryside in search of Lithuanian countryside/farmhouse ales and their brewers. It took 4 days, we went hundreds of kilometers and visited nearly 20 countryside breweries and brewers – from comparably big and established (Biržų, Rinkuškių) to one-man operated breweries in their cellars or sheds, such as Jono Morkūno, Algio Grigonio, Čižo, Aldonos Ūdrienės. The latter were extremely interesting, often using unique techniques and their family yeast and visiting them was revelatory (see more below).

Open fermentation vat at Grigonio Alaus Darykla. Foto: Martin T. Thibault

I am still writing the series of reports from the trip (for now in Lithuanian) while Martin is completing his feature article for the summer issue of Beer Connoisseur, as well as preparing a substantial section about Lithuania in his third book on beer brewing countries, or “beer paradises” as he puts it. He didn’t resort to only writing, but also took some beers back to Canada, collected the yeast from the sediment in the bottles and took it to the lab… below read the thriller unfold in a timeline of Martin’s Facebook updates-teasers:

March 12: After having visited 20 breweries and tasted tons of their beers, it is now clear to me that Lithuania needs to be recognized by the craft beer world as a distinct beer culture, just like Germany, England, Belgium, the Czech Republic, etc. Simply put, there are flavors intrinsic to Lithuanian beers that are simply not found elsewhere (i.e. the earthiness from originally wild yeast found in some Kaimiškas Alus, the supremely toasted malt character in many Šviesus brews, the rich raisin-y flavors of many Tamsuses, etc.). To make a long story short, more people should be exploring this country.

Apr 8: Putting the finishing touches on my article on the Lithuanian beer scene which will be the feature piece in this summer’s Beer Connoisseur magazine. I’m almost as excited as when I landed at the airport in Vilnius. Almost. :)

April 27: Major breakthrough today concerning yeasts used by a Lithuanian countryside brewer (Aldona Udriene), courtesy of Marie-Julie Favé of McGill University, who graciously tried to identify a yeast sample I gave her from a bottle of Jovaru Alus. More news real soon as we attempt to properly formulate these findings. For now, I can tell you it is NOT a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain. But it gets much, much better than that… :)

April 29: Lithuanian Countryside Yeast Tales, Part II: It all started when we started wondering about the final gravity of Jovaru Alus, and most Kaimiškas Alus we had brought back for that matter. All these beers are definitely malt-forward with a unique earthy yeast character, and feel quite round, sweetish. So a brewer amongst us decided to measure the final gravity of Jovaru Alus, for fun. The results were absolutely startling. For a beer that has the mouthfeel of a plump ESB, a final gravity of 1.0025(!) felt crazy. 95% attenuation! A week later, drinking another Jovaru Alus, we noticed that the finish was, indeed, very dry. But only the finish, as the body did feel as round as the aforementioned ESB… What in the world is going on in these Kaimiškas brews? The dregs of our last bottle were therefore taken to a lab and a sequencing center at McGill University… (to be continued)

Lithuanian Countryside Yeast Tales, Part III: So the DNA sequence of the yeast contained in the bottle of Jovaru Alus was compared to all DNA sequences known from yeast species in the GenBank database. This database, by the way, is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and contains virtually all known and identified DNA sequences which have been deposited by researchersaround the world for the last 20 years. The first analysis revealed that strain to be a Saccharomyces species. No surprises there. However (drum roll time…), NONE of the strains in the DATABASE matched the Jovaru yeast to undoubtedly assign it to a specific species. In other words, it is not a Hefeweizen strain, an English Ale strain, a Safale strain; it is not a sourdough strain, a bakery strain, a distillery strain, a sake strain or an artisanal fruit wine strain. It is not a biofuel strain, a super-attenuating strain (S. cerevisiae diastaticus), a wine strain or a known wild strain. It is not a lager strain (S. carlbergensis, S. uvarum or S. pastorianus), not S. bayanus, S. paradoxus or S. kluyveri.

Latest update:

May 3: The DNA analysis revealed that all top-fermenting Saccharomyces cerevisiae are very closely related to each other, to the point that they are almost undistinguishable based on a short DNA sequence alone. The Jovaru strain, however, is not closely related to ANY of the aforementioned strains and thus CANNOT be assigned to any of these species. This strain shows almost the same degree of divergence to S. cerevisiae than to other Saccharomyces species included in the analysis. These results therefore suggest that the Lithuanian strain might belong to a species yet to be identified. However, we cannot test for the possibility that the Lithuanian strain is the result of hybridization of two Saccharomyces species, as it has recently been confirmed in the case of the lager yeast. In other words, we might have found a new frog species. Or simply a known frog species with a fifth leg and a third eye…


Panašūs įrašai:

15 Responses to Lithuanian Countryside Yeast Tales

  1. PPJ says:

    Įspūdinga. Gal bus įtraukta į duombazę kaip Saccharomyces Jovarensis? :))

  2. Naminis says:

    Labai įdomu ir netikėta! Žiū, gal tuoj Wyeast ar White Labs pradės pilstyt šią išskirtinę lietuviškų mielių rūšį? :)
    Gaila Martinas rašo savo blogą ir feisbuką prancūziškai, angliško neradau, gal galėtumėte pasidalinti, kur ten angliškai jis rašo?

  3. ramtyns says:

    @Naminis: jo tame savo bloge tik prancūziškai rašo, o feisbuke – tiek pranc., tiek angliškai. Apie Lietuvą bloge dar nėra tekstų, bet Martin’as patikino, kad bus 12-13 postų, “maybe more now that this yeast story has evolved into something beyond expectation.”

    Beer Connoisseur pagrindinė vasaros tema bus Lietuva, ir ten tekstas turėtų būt angliškai – Martin’as pažadėjo atsiųst, tikiuosi iš žurnalo gaut sutikimą perpublikuot lietuviškai.

  4. I want some. I want to play with that yeast and see what I can create.

  5. ramtyns says:

    @Séan, this is Aldona Udriene’s family yeast, so we have to check if she’d be happy to share her family pearls:)

    • Well if they bottle condition with their primary strain, which it appears they do, they are potentially sharing it every time the sell a bottle of beer.

      • ramtyns says:

        As far as I know, Aldona doesn’t bottle condition, her beer is served from tap only in two or three places in Vilnius. She bottles some of her beer to sell in local festivals though. Since the beer is unfiltered, indeed it’s possible to harvest the yeast from it.

  6. […] , šios ponios Aldonos "šeimos" mielių DNR sekos analogų neaptikta DNR duomenų bazėje. Šalia Čižo ir Aldonos naudojamų mielių, norėtusi paminėti Paliūniškio […]

  7. ramtyns says:

    Naujausiame savo alaus blogo poste M. Thibault iš naujo aprašo “neįtikėtiną mielių, kurios neegzistavo, istoriją”:

  8. […] Lithuanian Countryside Yeast Tales (updated) | Tikras Alus […]

  9. Lee Haseley says:

    I am interested if Sean ever managed to get some yeast,as I would also love to try my hand with some”third eye fifth leg” Lituanian yeast.

  10. John L says:

    I am interested in brewing with some of these yeasts. Does anyone have a resource of how to get them to the US?

    • ramtyns says:

      John, unfortunately they’re not yet available commercially. There was an idea to try to convince one of the brewer families to share their yeast with some of yeast companies, but this hasn’t materialised yet.

  11. […] Lituanians usually leave it in as a ‘living ingredient’. This fact came in handy when a group of beer fanatics needed a yeast sample to give to the GenBank database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States. To […]

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