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Sandy man responsible for state microbe legislation

It’s known as brewer’s yeast, but its scientific name is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Thanks to a Sandy resident, it will be the official Oregon State Microbe, once the Senate passes the resolution. The House passed it Thursday by a vote of 58-0.

The reason for the move, says State Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, is to honor the economically robust craft brewing industry here.Sandy resident Tom Gall stands next to fellow craft brewer Todd Churchill's beer sculpture, a high-end brewing apparatus that allows for computer-controlled mixing and temperature. Gall conceived of the idea to make brewer's yeast the official state microbe. The bill passed the House by a 58-0 vote last week. POST PHOTO:  NEIL ZAWICKI

“It’s not just any old microbe,” Johnson said. “This microbe is helping our economy grow by $2.4 billion annually, and this is thanks to the craft brewing industry. It’s an industry that has been growing exponentially over the last five years while Oregon’s been mired in a recession. It all owes itself to a little microbe called Saccharomyces cerevisiae.”

Johnson described Oregon as the “ground zero” for craft brewing, and allowed that the state is the first to designate a microbe.

He helped draft the bill after a conversation with Sandy resident Tom Gall, a firefighter and home brewer who thought it would be fun to have a state microbe honoring beer making.

He came up with the idea two years ago, and was happily surprised to hear the news.

“So it passed, huh?” he said, learning of the House vote over the phone while on the job at a Gresham firehouse. Upon hearing the vote spread, he shouted out to his fellow firefighters, “Fifty-eight to nothing!”

Gall studied biology in college, which is part of the reason he wanted a state microbe. Of course, beer is the other. He said he thought designating a state microbe would be quirky, and very “Oregonesque.”

“I have a biology degree, so I have a soft spot in my heart for Mother Nature,” he said. “There’s a handful of us at the fire station that do home brewing, and we couldn’t do it without that partnership with the yeast.”

While he is amused the measure passed, Gall is also encouraged.

“It’s high time, that’s what I say! We need to give respect to our smaller friends!”