Modern beer was born in Munich in 1602
Germany, home of the famous annual Oktoberfest celebration, has long prided itself on being the birthplace of lager beer. Now, new studies have revealed the exact origin of this beer. Scientists analyzed old brewing records to trace the history of lager yeast to a brewery in Munich in 1602. Previous analyses had revealed that the yeast was a combination of two different types, but how and when it was produced was unknown. Experts in Germany claim that lager beer was probably born by chance, when the bottom yeast used in Bavaria since the 14th century to brew ale beers was inadvertently mixed with the Bohemian wheat yeast used for top-fermented ale beers.
Use of bottom-fermenting yeast
Although Bohemia is now a region of the Czech Republic, in the 17th century it was a German state, giving the Germans a copyright in the creation of lager beer. The contamination occurred after the death of a wheat beer brewer whose assets were confiscated by Maximilian the Great, Duke of Bavaria and later Holy Roman Prince Elector. For economic reasons, Hans VI von Degenberg had been granted special permission to establish a wheat brewery on Bavarian territory, despite the fact that in the mid-16th century all Bavarian brewers had been ordered to use bottom-fermenting yeast. When von Degenberg’s grandson died without heirs in 1602, the brewery in the small border town of Schwarzach was confiscated by Maximilian the Great, who then transferred the yeast to his own company in Munich.
The duke was jealous of the economic success
According to Professor John Morrissey, an expert on yeast evolution at the University of Cork, the duke «was jealous of the economic success the von Degenbergs had had with their wheat beer.» For the next five years, the duke’s court brewery (Hofbräuhaus) alternated between brewing bottom-fermented beer and top-fermented wheat beer, during which time the two yeasts were blended and lager yeast was born.
Spread throughout Europe
After that, researchers say the yeast strains, known as Saccharomyces pastorianus, spread throughout Europe and are the source of all modern lager brewing yeast.
200 years before the first lager beer was brewed
However, it was more than 200 years before the first lager was brewed, when Saccharomyces pastorianus was properly extracted and isolated in Copenhagen by the owner of Carlsberg.