Kveik: A Saccharomyces Superstar

This once-obscure Norwegian yeast is taking the brewing world by storm.

Photo by Getty Images/Roxiller

There’s a new contender on the brewing scene — and, no, it’s not a style of beer. It’s a yeast. Kveik (rhymes with “bike”), is an ancient Norwegian yeast that’s making a comeback in the modern brewing world, thanks to a dedicated beer enthusiast and generations of tradition.

Kveik (a word used in some Norwegian dialects to mean “homegrown yeast”) is actually a whole family of yeast strains, rather than a single strain. Until recently, most homebrewers and commercial brewers only had access to a few different yeasts, primarily English, Belgian, German, and American strains. Norwegian strains weren’t even on the radar. We can thank Norwegian blogger and author Lars Marius Garshol for changing that.

Garshol’s blog, appropriately titled “Larsblog,” is a beacon for beer geeks like myself. It’s full of anecdotal, technical, and scientific information on farmhouse ales and yeast styles found throughout Scandinavia and the Baltics. Garshol, who has a professional background in semantic technologies, has gone to great lengths to document and analyze data pertaining to the farmhouse ales and yeasts he’s researched in his travels. In the time since his “discovery” of kveik, the yeast has become an international superstar.

A Viking-Worthy Voyage

Like myself and other beer historians studying the brewing history of Scandinavia, Garshol’s first introduction to kveik was in the book Brewing and Beer Traditions in Norway by Odd Nordland. He was taken aback when he first read about the ancient yeast. “My thinking then was that it sounded almost too good to be true,” Garshol says. “Could this yeast really have survived like this for so long? And what could a yeast like that be like?” This initial thought started him on a journey worthy of a Viking saga, which led to revelation after revelation in his quest to learn more about the ancient yeast. 

Photo by Jereme Zimmerman



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