Yeast as the state microbe? 'Craft brewing is huge here in Oregon'

SALEM, Ore. -- Over the past few decades the Pacific Northwest has grown to be the nation's capital for microbrews and craft beers.

While milk still reigns as the state beverage, Oregon's brewers might have another chance at an emblem as representatives hear a bill to make yeast the state's microbe.

"Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. That's the species of yeast used for ale," said Ian Croxall the Co-owner of Santiam Brewery in Salem.

Croaxall testified before the house rules committee in favor of making that strain of yeast the state's microbe.

"Some of the representatives and senators actually stop by here for a drink on their way home from work," Croaxall said, gesturing around the Santiam Brewhouse. "We're very close to the capitol building and one of them just asked me about it."

State representative Vicki Berger tried to declare the Marionberry as Oregon's state berry back in 2009.

"They're not - you know - thinking we're serious. But there is some seriousness," said Rep. Berger. "One of my more bizarre moments in legislative history."

She said the problem was other berry proponents came forward to declare their berry more exemplary of Oregon.

"So when we came to this thing, that was my first question - is there some other microbe out there that is gonna come in and say 'oh no we're a more important microbe'," Berger said.

State representative Mark Johnson - who is spearheading the state microbe bill - was prepared to take that problem head-on.

"There really aren't any other microbes that I can think of that have $2.5 billion worth of economic impact behind them," Johnson said.

Rep. Johnson said it was only a matter of time before someone took up the challenge of making it an official part of Oregon's emblems, joining the 26 others that range from the state flower (the Oregon grape) to the state crustacean (Dungeness crab).

"State emblems, they're sort of representative of our culture," Coaxall said. "All the flora and fauna of the state and craft brewing is huge here in Oregon."