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Repro or Retro?

At the core of almost every hops-forward lager, Pilsner, or otherwise brewed in America is one of two families of industrial yeast strains.

Stan Hieronymus Nov 9, 2016 - 12 min read

Repro or Retro? Primary Image

Earlier this year, brewers at the Carlsberg Research Laboratory in Copenhagen demonstrated just how many original ingredients and other contributors to the brewing process must be replicated to perfectly, or almost perfectly, reproduce a nineteenth-century beer. This small-batch repro beer illustrated that the term retro beer does not refer only to brands such as Pabst that lean heavily on nostalgia.

First, a Bit of History

Lager brewing likely began in Bavaria in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, although neither the date nor the geographic region is known with any certainty. Founded in 1842, the Carlsberg brewery (Copenhagen, Denmark) used yeast first provided in 1845 by Gabriel Sedlmayr of the Spaten brewery in Munich. In 1875, Carlsberg Founder J. C. Jacobsen established the Carlsberg Research Laboratory and in 1876, the Carlsberg Foundation to manage the laboratory. The foundation owns about one third of the Carlsberg Group, the fourth largest brewing company in the world.

Because of discoveries that Emil Christian Hansen made in that lab, Carlsberg became the first brewery to sell beer made with a pure yeast culture. Carlsberg shared both the yeast and the technology, allowing breweries around the world to brew more consistent lager beers and on a much larger scale. The brewery first bottled beer made with this pure culture in the fall of 1883, and 130 year-old yeast cells collected from an early bottling (“We can’t say exactly when,” says Erik Lund, head brewer at the research center) became the center of “The Re-Brew Project.”

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