Traditional Norwegian kveik are a genetically distinct group of domesticated Saccharomyces cerevisiae brewing yeasts.
The widespread production of fermented food and beverages has resulted in the domestication of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeasts specifically adapted to beer production. While there is evidence beer yeast domestication was accelerated by industrialization of beer, there also exists a farmhouse brewing culture in western Norway which has passed down yeasts referred to as kveik for generations. This practice has resulted in ale yeasts which are typically highly flocculant, phenolic off flavor negative (POF-), and exhibit a high rate of fermentation, similar to previously characterized lineages of domesticated yeast. Additionally, kveik yeasts are reportedly high-temperature tolerant, likely due to the traditional practice of pitching yeast into warm (>28°C) wort. Here, we characterize kveik yeasts from 9 different Norwegian sources via PCR fingerprinting, whole genome sequencing of selected strains, phenotypic screens, and lab-scale fermentations. Phylogenetic analysis suggests that kveik yeasts form a distinct group among beer yeasts. Additionally, we identify a novel POF- loss-of-function mutation, as well as SNPs and CNVs potentially relevant to the thermotolerance, high ethanol tolerance, and high fermentation rate phenotypes of kveik strains. We also identify domestication markers related to flocculation in kveik. Taken together, the results suggest that Norwegian kveik yeasts are a genetically distinct group of domesticated beer yeasts with properties highly relevant to the brewing sector.