Nice piece in New Scientist today about brewer's yeast:
Some time in the distant past Saccharomyces cerevisiae, to give it its full name, developed a chemical trick that would transform human societies. Some anthropologists have argued that the desire for alcohol was what persuaded our ancestors to become farmers and so led to the birth of civilisation. Whether that's true of not, alcohol has had a huge influence on our history and ourI'm not sure I agree with the last paragraph, where it implies that there's s selective advantage for Asian populations to carry mutant ALDH2, which reduces their ability to clear acetaldehyde, produced by the metabolism of alcohol. Acetaldehyde is a nasty molecule that acts as a carcinogen: there's a good incentive for clearing it as fast as possible. It's more likely that Asian populations, which have enjoyed teas as their traditional beverage rather than beer and wine, haven't had the same selective pressure on them to metabolize acetaldehyde as efficiently.