Tim Decker hoped some lichen he found in the California hills last summer would contain an exotic strain of yeast that would give a unique flavor to his home-brewed beer.
Have an old one
Mr. Decker put the lichen in a jar with a sugary solution to see if the liquid would ferment, a sign that yeast, which consumes sugars and releases alcohol, could be present. Weeks later, a small wormlike grub appeared, likely crawling out of a bit of wood attached to the lichen.
“I knew pretty quickly that wasn’t going to be something I was going to want to put in my beer,” says Mr. Decker, 33 years old, who writes the AltBrau beer blog and plans to start a commercial brewing operation. In another such experiment, he found a spider floating in the jar.
But finding new yeasts and successfully using them in a modern brewery can take years of work—and there is no guarantee of success. Brewers sometimes have to dump thousands of gallons of undrinkable beer.