Brewing with fungus

WESTERLY, R.I. (WLNE) — As we wrap up Fungus Week, ABC 6’s Kelly Bates shows us the smallest members of the fungi kingdom and how they make the weekend more interesting.

If you like to kick back and relax with a beer, there’s a fungus to thank for that. This bucket of bubbly froth is activated brewer’s yeast. And without it, you wouldn’t be able to make beer. Fungus is the key to fermentation.

“Yeast eats the sugars that we’re making right now. Brewing a batch of beer it eats the sugar and turns that sugar into alcohol and CO2,” said Alan Brinton, who’s with Grey Sail Brewing of Rhode Island.

Yeast is a single-celled living microorganism that is a member of the fungus kingdom. Brewer’s yeast has been used for millennia. Even its scientific name saccharomyces cerevisiae means “sugar fungus” because its job is to convert sugars and starches to alcohol and carbon dioxide during the fermentation process.

“Science is involved in the entire process starting from brewing beer, which is what we’re doing right now. I’ve got a batch that’s going into the brew kettle and we’re going to take it into the fermenter — the cone-shaped tanks behind me are fermenters and that’s where the yeast hangs out and do all their work,” said Brinton.

The brew is simply water and malt. Malt is the sugars the yeast feed on during fermentation. Bitter hops are then added to the mix then the yeast. When the brew meets the yeast is known as the lag phase.

During lag phase, the yeast multiplies from billions to trillions of cells, converting the malt of the brew into alcohol and releasing carbon dioxide. To increase the alcohol content, you would increase the malt. Yeast plays a role in flavoring, too.

“We use one primary strain, but we do use other strains in the brewery. You got ale yeast, lager yeast, souring yeasts, all kinds of different options depending upon the style of the beer you want to brew,” said Brinton.

So, this weekend raise a glass to fungus and it’s smallest members


Categories: News, Scientifically Speaking