The Lager Legacy: German Researchers Discover How a 400-Year-Old Mistake Revolutionized Beer

A recent study reveals that lager beer likely originated in Munich in 1602, at the court brewery of Maximilian the Great, Elector of Bavaria. While ale was the predominant beer until the early 20th century, lager, made with a new yeast species known as Saccharomyces pastorianus, now accounts for around 90% of beer consumed annually.

Researchers suggest that lager beer, which now makes up around 90% of beer consumption, originated from a hybrid yeast species in Munich in 1602. This yeast, Saccharomyces pastorianus, was created when Saccharomyces cerevisiae from a Schwarzach wheat brewery contaminated a batch of beer brewed with Saccharomyces eubayanus, leading to its spread across Europe and the world.

A new paper in FEMS Yeast Research, published by Oxford University Press, reveals the possible origin story of lager beers. Using historical records and contemporary phylogenomics research, investigators here show where lagers likely first originated: at the court brewery (Hofbräuhaus) of Maximilian the Great, elector of Bavaria, in Munich in 1602.