In a bid to produce new flavours for lager beer, Finnish researchers have successfully generated hybrid lager yeasts.

For centuries, the same few yeast strains have been used in the production of lager beer in contrast to ale, whisky, wine and cider for which, there is a wide range of yeast strains available to produce different nuances of flavour.

The hybrid yeasts generated by the team at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd have inherited useful properties from their "parents".

The new yeasts accelerate the wort fermentation process and improve the production of ethanol.

"They are also more tolerant to cold than their Saccharomyces cerevisiae parent strain and settle better after fermentation than their predecessors," researchers noted.

Traditionally, even very different tasting lagers have been produced using the reliable and cold-hardy Saccharomyces pastorianus yeast species.

Studies have shown that this trustworthy brewmaster’s helper is actually a hybrid composed of two different yeast species.

One of them is the Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast commonly used in the production of ale, while the other, only recently discovered in the wild, has been named Saccharomyces 

"The findings have opened up possibilities to create new,customised lager yeasts through selective mating of strains of different yeast species," the authors wrote.

This enables the production of new flavours for beer or the acceleration of the fermentation phase in beer production.

VTT has screened its own microbial strain collection and the ale yeast strains of commercial collections in order to identify the properties that affect the beer fermentation process.

New lager yeast strains can now be generated entirely without genetic modification technology, the authors concluded. 

The study was published online in the Journal of Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology.