Johnson crafts official microbe proposal for Brewer’s yeast

Small but potent is the “bug” that could become the Oregon State Microbe, the first designation of its kind in the U.S.

Rep. Mark Johnson of Hood River has introduced legislation to give the honor to Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, aka Brewer’s Yeast and Baker’s Yeast.

“It’s something to have a little fun, but also to pay tribute to the success of craft brewing as an industry in Oregon that has grown exponentially in recent years, during a time of overall economic recession in Oregon,” said Johnson, who introduced the legislation Wednesday with brewers from Rogue Ales in Newport and start-up craft brewery Santiam Brewery of Salem at his side.

The organism has been used for centuries as leavening for bread and as a fermenter of alcoholic beverages.

“Where would we be if we didn’t have this stuff?” asked Lou Gehrig of Odell, a craft baker celebrating 30 years in business this year with his wife, Anne.

“Celebrating the yeast that makes fermentation possible is such a wonderful acknowledgement of what Oregon breweries, wineries and bakeries bring to the state not just in economic impact and job creation but also in tourism and quality of life,” said Irene Firmat, Full Sail Brewery CEO and founder.

Johnson said the bill will proceed to the House floor next week and should proceed to the Senate for consideration.

“I think we’ve got a clear path on this,” Johnson said, evidenced, he said, by repeated high-fives from other lawmakers from around the state.

Hood River County has the highest number of craft breweries (six) per capita in the United States, and is also home to Wy’east Laboratories, one of the world’s main purveyors of yeast products.

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