July 5 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of Manchester in England have discovered a new species of yeast growing at high-altitude that could help beer makers brew better lagers.
The newest member of the Saccharomyces family was found growing on an oak tree more than 3,000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the French Alps.
The species preferred habitat may translate to new and improve lager varieties, researchers say.
Unlike ales, lagers are brewed or allowed to ferment at cold temperatures. They're cold-brewed, and do best with yeast that can withstand colder temperatures.
Because the newly discovered species has acclimated to higher elevations, researchers believe it is able to tolerate the cold.
"This is the first new species belonging to the brewing yeast family to be discovered since 2011," Steve James, a scientists at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures in Norwich, said in a news release. "It's really exciting to find this new Saccharomyces yeast, as it extends even further the genetic diversity from which we can draw in the yeast gene pool."
Scientists at the National Collection of Yeast Cultures collect and catalogue thousands of yeast strains, not only for brewing and baking, but for a variety of science experiments. Researchers rely on yeast as a cell model for research into genetics, evolution, disease and more.
Though NCYC currently maintains more than 4,000 strains of yeast, scientists believe there are thousands more waiting to be discovered in nature.
Researchers at Manchester continue to systematically survey high elevations and oak stands for new cold-tolerant yeast species.
"It was incredibly exciting when we realized that we discovered a new cold-tolerant species which can also ferment maltose efficiently," said Manchester researcher Samina Naseeb.