With unseasonably warm autumn temperatures casting a balmy breeze over green suburbs, it’s as though nature herself decided to give us a few extra weeks of summer. And with this perpetual summer – extra baseball games, shorts season projected to last into the middle of October, and plenty of opportunities to beat the heat – who doesn’t like to crack open a cold brew and drink in the last few weeks of warmth we’ll get before winter arrives?
Or, in the words of Homer Simpson: “Beer: The solution to, and cause of, adrinkabll life’s problems.” Beer is a brew that stretches all the way back to the heady days of 800 AD, when Adalhard the Elder described a revolutionary new technique of brewing with “hops,” tiny flowering plants that added flavor and stability to alcoholic beverages of the time, and yeast – the fast-rising microbes that we find in bread and other pastry treats. Together, these ingredients provide flavorful refreshment for even the thirstiest of days.
In recent years, hipsters and foodies the world over have turned their attention away from mass produced alcohol and back to nature in search of the next big revolution in brewing. No toilet moonshine is this, however: these brews are carefully tended and nurtured to create something new.
Matthew Bochman is an Indiana biochemist who – when he’s not studying cellular DNA repair at Indiana University— has taken up brewery as a hobby. Like a mad scientist endlessly pursuing his dream of a superhuman race, Bochman has turned his attention to creating the first 100 per cent all Indiana beer. That means locally sourced everything – hops, sugar, yeast, brewing machinery. This two year quest saw Bochman and some of his fellow brewers scour the plains and forests for authentic Indiana yeasts. Beer yeast is a special strain, different from the kind that lives in our bread dough – the yeast in question is designed to eat the sugar maltose in wort (the liquid extracted from grain mash that becomes beer), and the culture must survive a lengthy submersion in otherwise toxic alcohol as the beer ferments.
A few early strains made beer that smelt and tasted like used bandages – not exactly the kind of thing you want to crack open on a summer’s day. It took several more years of intensive testing and experimentation before Bochman finally produced something workable, or, more accurately, something drinkable. The winning strain of yeast? A humble blend of yeasts, chief among them a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain called YH166. YH166 has more potential applications out there – for one thing, experiments with it have proven that it is able to make “sour” beer without any additional bacteria, saving on both resources and brewing time.