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NCYC visitors on the yeast trail

IFR's Chris Bond with Jack Hibberd from Truman's Beer and Roger Protz

IFR’s Chris Bond with Jack Hibberd from Truman’s Beer and Roger Protz

The National Collection of Yeast Cultures, the BBSRC-supported National capability based at the IFR recently hosted a visit from leading beer writer Roger Protz as well as a blogger from Spitalfields Life. They were here following the story of how NCYC is helping resurrect Truman’s, the London brewery that closed down in 1988 after hundreds of years of brewing.

NCYC has over 4,000 strains of yeast stored in its freezers, many of which have been deposited there by breweries large and small, as a safe place to keep them in case their working stocks if yeast get lost or contaminated. In some cases, the yeasts end up outlasting the breweries, which either fold or were bought up by larger breweries. This was the case with Truman’s, but now a growing taste in the market for different beers, microbreweries and drinks with heritage is bringing back some of the lost beers and ales. And as Truman’s have shown the NCYC is playing a key role in making this happen. As Jack Hibberd, the General Manager of Truman’ s said to Spitalfields Life – “Anyone can follow a recipe but it is the yeast that makes the beer great.”

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Jack contacted NCYC when he heard that the original yeasts used by Truman’s were deposited in the NCYC collection. NCYC supplied samples and these are now being taken forward in test brews, with preliminary results showing that the yeast is performing well. Jack Hibberd made the trip up to visit NCYC in person in June, along with beer writer and editor of the Good Beer Guide Roger Protz and “@thegentleauthor” writing for the SpitalFields Life blog. As well as talking about NCYC’s services in storing and identifying yeasts, Steve James talked about some of the fascinating research into where yeast comes from historically, and where yeast researchers are now looking for new yeasts to increase diversity. From the cloud forests of Ecuador to the frozen wastes of Antarctica, yeast is everywhere, even in the poisoned waters of an old Welsh mine. Collections Manager Chris Bond then showed the storage facilities where the thousands of yeast strains are kept under liquid nitrogen, ready to be revived. The NCYC staff are hoping for a return visit to celebrate the resurrection of Trumans when the beers are back in full production.

NCYC have also recently helped bring back Lacons Ales, the Great Yarmouth brewer that returned to brewing again in 2013, 45 years after closing down. NCYC’s curator Dr Ian Roberts spoke about this project on the BBC Norfolk website 

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