Latin America’s Oldest Beer Resurrected With 400-Year-Old Yeast

, Latin America’s Oldest Beer Resurrected With 400-Year-Old Yeast

(Javier Carvajal with vials of resurrected yeast strain: APF)

Ecuadoran bioengineer, brewer and professor, Javier Carvajal, has secured a “400-year-old yeast specimen that he has since managed to resurrect and use to reproduce what is believed to be Latin America’s oldest beer.”

The original yeast specimen was taken from splinter of wood stored in Quito’s San Francisco Convent, a historic complex built between 1537 and 1680, which is now a museum.

, Latin America’s Oldest Beer Resurrected With 400-Year-Old YeastCarvajal is not only a professor of biochemistry at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, he also owns a startup brewery in Quito.

In 2011 he harvested the yeast from old barrels at a local monastery which was started by a Franciscan monk from the Flemish region of Belgium in 1566, who historians believe introduced wheat and barley to what is now the Ecuadoran capital.

“Not only have we recovered a biological treasure but also the 400-year-old work of silent domestication of a yeast that probably came from a chicha and that had been collected from the local environment,” Carvajal told AFP….

“After extracting a splinter, Carvajal used a microscope to find a tiny yeast specimen, which after a long period of cultivation he was able to resurrect.”

“In his laboratory at the Catholic University of Ecuador, Carvajal takes a small vial containing a variety of the Saccharomyces cerevisiaerescatada yeast.”

“It lives here in a little container. It’s very humble, but it is the star” of the laboratory, said the 59-year-old.”

, Latin America’s Oldest Beer Resurrected With 400-Year-Old YeastIn 2019, Carvajal travelled to Athens, Ohio where he teamed up with Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery and Ohio University students to create 1566, an original beer brewed using the 400-year-old yeast.

Speaking with American Craft Beer Jackie O’s Adam Hoover described that “draft-only” beer as a 5.2% ABV “smoky porter meets session stout that’s medium-bodied yet surprisingly approachable.”

Unlike that project, Carvajal has now recreated a beer recipe that Friar Jodoco Ricke brewed in 1566…A recipe that is closer to chicha, a fermented corn beverage brewed by Native Americans before Spanish colonization, than it is to an IPA.

“There were a massive number of holes in the recipe and my job was to fill those holes,” said Carvajal. “It is a work of beer archeology within the microbial archeology.”

For Carvajal, resurrecting the yeast and the age-old methods used to make the ancient recipe was simply a labor of love for “the value of the intangible.”


(All image credits: APF)

About is the nations' leading source for the Best Craft Beer News, Reviews, Events and Media.
Scroll To Top