Beer Yeasts Are Like Dogs, Wine Yeasts Are Like Cats, Study Says

If you are tired of the debate between cats and dogs, here’s a new one for you: Beer yeast versus wine yeast. The latter goes deeper than a simple preference of beverage. In fact, it’s essentially just a one-off from the dog versus cat debate, according to researchers from the Belgian college Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie who state that beer yeast is more domestic and wine yeast is more wild.

“In that sense, beer yeasts are like dogs, completely ‘tamed’ and adapted to their relation with humans, whereas wine yeasts resemble the wilder character of cats,” Brigida Gallone and Jan Steensels, two researchers who recently published a study on industrial yeasts in the journal Cell, said in a press release.

Gallone, Steensels, and a team of researchers from Belgium and the United States found that beer yeasts are more domestic than wine yeasts. Sometime in the 16th century, the researchers state in their study, alcohol-producing yeasts were domesticated. After that, the yeasts forged their own path.

“Interestingly, although wine yeasts share their origins with beer yeasts, they show fewer signs of domestication,” Gallone and Steensels state in the press release. “This is probably because wine yeasts are only used to ferment grape juice once a year, and survive in and around the winery for the rest of the year, where they may interbreed with feral yeasts.”

The researchers analyzed more than 150 industrial beer, wine and bread yeasts in their study. They found a lineage that traces back to original yeast domestication for many of the yeasts used today. Those yeast strains persisted because of what is known as “backslopping,” which is when a part of the brew is put into the new batch for consistent fermented tastes.

The industrial strains of yeast created from backslopping, the researchers state, were more curated in beer making (although some beer makers prefer wild fermentation just like some dog owners prefer wolves). Wine yeasts and cats, on the other hand, tend to be more frisky and independent.

So what are you? A beer yeast person, or a wine yeast person?