Ethanol is a chemical stress factor that inhibits cellular growth and determines metabolic changes leading to reduction of cell viability during fermentation and yeast storage. To determine the effect of time, temperature and ethanol during storage of brewing yeasts we have monitored viability of cells stored for 72 h, at 6 degrees C or 12 degrees C, in the presence of various ethanol concentrations. Under the conditions tested, 6 degrees C is the most favourable temperature to store brewing yeast creams emphasizing the importance of a tight temperature control in the storage vessels. Because W210 is less resistant to storage in the presence of ethanol than W34/70, the optimal storage parameters obtained under our laboratory conditions vary significantly. The ale strain is sensitive to storage under ethanol concentrations higher than 5% (v/v) for more than 48 h at 6 degrees C whereas at the same temperature the lager strain tolerates ethanol up to 7.5% (v/v) for 72 h. Also, the viability assays indicate that the antioxidant protein Yap1 is an important factor to storage resistance of BY4741 laboratory strain. To investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying tolerance of brewing yeast strains to ethanol, we have performed phenotypic analysis, localization studies and have monitored the activation of antioxidant and protection genes as well as the intracellular contents of glycogen and trehalose. Overall, our data suggest that the ale strain W210 has a defective antioxidant defence system and that ethanol may induce the antioxidant defences as well as glycogen and trehalose protection mechanisms in laboratory and brewing yeast strains. (C) 2013, The Society for Biotechnology, Japan. All rights reserved.