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Herlinda Heras opens the show with a live phone call from Aveiro, Portugal, where she is a judge in the Ibeerian Beer Awards (Ibeerian spelled with two EEs). Portugal and Spain have a great emerging craft beer market. Portugal in the past didn’t attract so many American tourists but Herlinda saw many fellow Americans in Lisbon on this trip. Aveiro is a beautiful old town with canals and is known as the Venice of Portugal. The Ibeerian Beer Awards have judges from 13 countries.
Steve Jaxon and Mark Carpenter welcome Kevin Verstrepen, a yeast expert from Belgium, and Vinny Cilurzo from Russian River Brewing Co.
Vinny Cilurzo has brought Kevin to the show because there is a big convention in Rhonert Park, right here in Sonoma County, this week, all about the yeast in beer and wine. The American Society of Brewing Chemists and The American Society for Enology and Viticulture held the Joint Yeast Symposium (April 24-26, 2019).
Mark tells about how the author Michael Pollan has said that yeast are smarter than people because they have gotten people to propagate them and grow them all around the world. Kevin says humans have domesticated yeast the same as we have done with dogs and cats.
Pasteur proved that yeast cells were the engine of beer brewing, without it you don’t get alcohol or carbon dioxide. It’s not like yeast has its own flavors, but it also makes other products in much lower quantities that produce taste. Some are similar to the substances that give fruit its flavors.
Mark notes that you can also get flavors you don’t want, so you have to make sure you control time and temperature so you don’t get that.
Yeast is a fantastic microscopic world. Kevin describes lots of different kinds of yeast that may be very different from one to the other. There is a family tree of yeast. Vinny notes that some wineries use native natural yeast.
Vinny describes the right side of their menu board as the Belgian-inspired side. Many of those beers use different yeasts that they have to be careful to keep apart. Those are the more yeast-driven beers that they do, with wild yeast or Belgian yeast. Belgian white beer uses a special kind of yeast.
VIB, where Kevin works, is a university lab. They work with yeast to develop products also for science and industry. Sometimes they work for yeast companies or big breweries that need special characteristics.
Many great breakthroughs in Medicine have come through yeast cells. Kevin says they are similar to human cells, but simpler, and they lend themselves to research to unravel the basic secrets of life.