PORTLAND — Bubbling up in the Oregon legislature this session is the idea of designating yet another state symbol: brewer’s yeast. It’s used in Oregon’s craft beers and would become the state microbe.
“Oregon is regarded nationwide as ground zero in the thriving craft brew industry,” said Rep. Mark Johnson of Hood River, citing Full Sail Brewing Co. in his district.
“They have spun off at least four other brewing companies within Hood River,” said Johnson, a Republican. “It’s just an example of what this microbe has been involved in and led to.”
The yeast is known scientifically as Saccharomyces cerevisiae, a name with a mouth feel perhaps not so pleasant as the ales the microbe produces when it turns sugars into alcohol during fermentation.
Should Johnson’s resolution succeed, the new state microbe would join a lengthening list of Oregon icons such as the beaver (animal), pear (fruit), thunderegg (rock) and hazelnut (nut).
Often, but not always, passage of such feel-good measures is a sure thing, but less so in recent years, The Oregonian newspaper reports.
There was vigorous debate before lawmakers designated a state soil, the red Jory prized for growing pinot noir grapes.
And an effort to designate the Marionberry as the state berry failed when a grower of another blackberry variety objected.
Legislators approached Johnson’s resolution warily at a committee hearing Wednesday.
“Is there any other microbe that anybody else likes better than this one that is in competition with your microbe?” asked Rep. Vicki Berger of Salem.
“I’m not aware of any other microbes that generate $2.4 billion for the state economy,” Johnson responded.
What about brewers of lager beers, wondered Rep. Michael Dembrow of Portland. Those brewers use other varieties.
Not to worry, answered Ian Croxall, who owns Santiam Brewing Company and came to support Johnson.
“Ale yeast is the type of yeast that is used in the majority of the ales brewed by the Oregon craft brewing industry,” Croxall said. “I don’t believe there are any lager brewers, including myself, who would be offended at acknowledging Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the predominant yeast for brewing.”
The House Rules Committee approved the measure without opposition and sent it to a floor vote.