Jurassic Beer…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader remembers being told growing up that “Tang” was a “space age drink.” It was, afterall, developed for our astronauts. Tang. Velcro. Pens that write while inverted. All tangible commercial products brought to us by the research that went into putting a man on the moon.

Occasionally the unexpected outcome of science makes for a good commerical product. Take for example beer made from million year old yeast. From the Washington Post:

Raul Cano is the real-life “Jurassic Park” scientist. Yes, there is one.

A day before that movie opened in 1993, Cano announced that he had extracted DNA from an ancient Lebanese weevil entombed in amber, just as the fictional employees of InGen do with a mosquito to create their dino-amusement park. One newspaper account said the “achievement” refuted “the long-held view of many biologists that DNA of so great an age” couldn’t be preserved.

But Cano was less interested in extinct reptiles than in Homo sapiens now roaming the earth. He next revivified ancient bacteria from the gut of an amber-encased bee and hoped to turn the strains into new antibiotics. That didn’t work, and Cano, who has a doctorate in medical mycology, put his 1,200-specimen organism collection on the back shelf and returned to more fruitful microbial endeavors, like assessment of petroleum-degrading diversity in sand dunes and the bioinformatics of Lactobacillus acidophilus.

And then, last month, a breakthrough.

The product?

Beer.

“I was going through my collection, going, ‘Gee whiz — this is pretty nifty. Maybe we could use it to make beer,’ ” says Cano, 63 , now the director of the Environmental Biotechnology Institute at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

The result is Fossil Fuels Brewing Co., which ferments a yeast strain Cano found in a piece of Burmese amber dating from about 25 million to 45 million years ago. The company — in which Cano is a partner, along with another scientist and a lawyer — introduced its pale ale and German wheat beer with a party last month at one of the two Bay Area pubs where Fossil Fuels is made and served.

Very cool. Your Maximum Leader has been trying to find some of this beer available for sale recently. To no avail yet. But he’ll keep trying.

Carry on.

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