Monday, October 29, 2012

Important Facts About Yeast

My first introduction to home brew was via my friend Will's bathtub.

I guess that isn't entirely accurate. According to Will, my first introduction to his homebrew (notably consumed after a cocktail of generic beer, red wine, and hard liqour) was a memorable one. At least for him. As any seasoned drinker knows, balanced consumption has a tendency to tip over when combined with enthusiastic inexperience and a hedonistic world view, all of which inevitably lead to at least 40% post-consumer regret, so to speak.

Fortunately for me, I'd already forgotten about that unhappy incident and have managed to minimize my post-consumer regret to at least %5 on a regular drinking day. Ah, wisdom.

Anyway. Back to the bathtub.

The home brewing process is much like the process of making bread (something I do regularly this time of year). In fact, they operate around the same organism. Yeast.

Yeast enjoys warm, moist, sugary conditions, not unlike a woman's vagina or a wet and sticky concoction of water and flour. It lives wild in the air, and aside from infecting people and possibly killing them, it also is the key ingredient in most breads and obviously, also beer. In fact, I've read that you can use the byproducts of beer making to make some interesting breads. More on this later.

Yeastman asexually propagates his own sidekick. Copyright White Labs ©. 

The process of brewing and bread making have in common the creation of this hospitable environment in which yeast eats, reproduces, excretes, and dies. Both processes are fairly simple, involve some stirring and a lot of waiting around, and when done properly, leave the stewards of this fine organism with either beer, bread, or a bad itch.

It could also be summed up thusly:

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If Michael Pollan's theory about corn is right, then it might also be possible that yeast has actually been cultivating us for survival and enjoyment, rather than the other way around.

"We don't give nearly enough credit to plants," says Pollan. "They've been working on us – they've been using us – for their own purposes." from a PBS film overview of The Botany of Desire
Pollan was talking about plants, but I've read some literature that indicates other organisms might work the same way. He's either brilliant or just another conspiracy theory nutjob with a Masters in English. Takes one to know one, I suppose.

For a more detailed explanation of home brewing with dorky but functional visual aids, please click here. It helps explain the bathtub. I mean, you expect to find surprises from time to time in other people's bathrooms, but two big carboys and some plastic hoses might make some people suspicious.

You are now sufficiently informed.
You're welcome.


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