Researchers are raising a glass to a Queensland first: beer brewed using wild fermented yeast, hand-picked from a jacaranda tree at The University of Queensland.

Dr Ben Schulz and PhD candidate Edward Kerr from UQ’s Faculty of Science have licensed their wild yeast variety to Newstead Brewing Co with the help of UniQuest, the university’s commercialisation company.

The favoured yeast was selected for its white peach, lychee and fresh-baked sourdough flavours and was one of more than 150 varieties painstakingly gathered from trees, leaves and flowers at UQ’s St Lucia campus.

“Yeast is everywhere, and the diversity is mind-blowing,” Mr Kerr said.

Mr Kerr spent months collecting the wild yeasts before culturing it in the lab and selecting only the best-performing colonies to be tested for the ability to convert sugar into ethanol, an essential step in the brewing process.

“This particular variety of wild yeast was sourced from a big jacaranda tree near to the Brisbane River and The Women’s College at UQ,” he said.

Mr Kerr said he started collecting the wild yeasts in May 2017, which he first isolated as a yeast peptide dextrose formula and then colonised on plates in the lab.

“We then tested which strains fermented the best and the result left us with about 20 candidates that could proceed to sensory testing and potentially be used to make beer,” he said.

Newstead Brewing Co’s CEO Dr Mark Howes said the domestic ale was still being perfected but the plan was to make it available for drinking as soon as possible.

“We see it as the first in a series of Brisbane wild yeast dominated beers and hopefully, we’ll be launching more like this in coming years,” he said.

“This particular isolate was selected from the intriguing and delicate esters that it produces.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it, with flavours like white peach, lychee and fresh-baked sourdough.

“It’s really quite amazing.”

Mr Kerr said beers made from wild-fermented yeasts took longer to brew than those made with brewer’s yeast, but the result was much more interesting.

“It really suits a nice beer with minimal hops added and a low malt profile that allows the flavour of the wild yeast to come through,” he said.

“Upscaling is our biggest issue, as it does take longer to make beer with wild yeast – up to three months compared to eight days with brewer’s yeast.”

UniQuest CEO Dr Dean Moss said he was excited by the licence agreement and looked forward to UQ researchers and Newstead Brewing Co joining forces again to create more beers in the “Wild Yeasts and Where to Find Them” line.

“This is a fantastic example of industry and UQ working together to achieve something with tremendous commercial appeal, and pushes the boundaries of what’s possible,” Dr Moss said.

Already looking at further colourful botanicals, Mr Kerr said he was currently investigating developing a wild yeast strain derived from poincianas, another iconic Brisbane tree.

Media: UniQuest, Esther Haskell,, +61 409 767 199; Newstead Brewing Company, Mark Howes,, +61 7 3367 0490.

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