Trapped inside a Lebanese weevil covered in ancient Burmese amber, a tiny colony of bacteria and yeast has lain dormant for up to 45 million years. A decade ago Raul Cano, now a scientist at the California Polytechnic State University, drilled a tiny hole into the amber and extracted more than 2,000 different kinds of microscopic creatures.
Activating the ancient yeast, Cano now brews barrels (not bottles) of pale ale and German wheat beer through the Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.
"You can always buy brewing yeast, and your product will be based on the brewmaster's recipes," said Cano. "Our yeast has a double angle: We have yeast no one else has and our own beer recipes."
The beer has received good reviews at the Russian River Beer Festival and from other reviewers. The Oakland Tribune beer critic, William Brand, says the beer has "a weird spiciness at the finish," and The Washington Post said the beer was "smooth and spicy."
Part of that taste comes from the yeast's unique metabolism. "The ancient yeast is restricted to a narrow band of carbohydrates, unlike more modern yeasts, which can consume just about any kind of sugar," said Cano.