Tag Archives: yeast

Suspended Animation

As a member of the OBC, I occasionally get to see people in from Wyeast come talk to the group about yeast and how brewers can store, reuse and generally get better results from the yeast that we have. Despite this, the world of microbiology remains full of mysteries to me.

Go figure, right?

So here’s a neat article that uses the building of a new brewery spaceĀ  and the return of an older, specific yeast, as a launchpad to talk a bit about yeast in general and how some places are trying to find and preserve as many strains of yeast as they can. What struck me about this: it didn’t matter if the yeast was something brewers could use or not.

I like that. Saving something that may not have value in order to study it may seem like a hoarder principle but how else are those new strands of yeasts going to be developed? You know the ones: the kind that help us defeat zombies or brew the first stout-lager.

Stout-lager sounds gross though, so concentrate on the zombie defeat.

That was embarrassing (but not really)

On November 10th, members of the Oregon Brew Crew in conjunction with Breakside brewing, got together to review the results of a yeast experiment! With 50 gallons of a Belgian Pale as the base brewed at Breakside, the beer was then divvied up between ten lucky OBC members, who were given an anonymous yeast to pitch (I hear some were also part of witness protection) and store. The yeasts were generously donated by Wyeast but I don’t recall if anyone from that company was there or not.

Once the brews were ready, members set up shop at the Hollywood Senior Center which, because of our presence, clearly became much more hip than it had been in decades and members of the OBC and Breakside gathered to try the beers and guess which beer had which yeast in it. It was the best kind of test: a multiple choice test. With beer.

If only college had been so good to me.

Picking out yeasts is very, very difficult and I think there are a few reasons for this. First, there are just so many different kinds of yeast. Becoming familiar with each and every one is a task for scientists for a reason: they have equipment and experiments to help them make distinctions to do so.

Second, I don’t think we focus much on yeasts in the Northwest. Hops, water and grain all get attention because we have them in abundance and at a certain quality (usually high) so naturally we celebrate those ingredients.

But after this experiment, I think I may have to get some education on yeasts.

The stunning thing for me was that each beer tasted different. Not just kinda-sorta different but distinctly so. Yes, there were similarities but to any discriminating drinker, it was quite easy to distinguish from one pale to another. Which means yeast has a far greater impact on the flavor of my beverages than I ever realized! I had just been under the impression for so long that yeasts were there to make alcohol and drop out, unless making a Belgian or sour ale, that we had bred yeasts to be as flavorless as we could get them.

This experiment disabused me of that notion very quickly but in such a tasty way, I didn’t feel too bad about that.

What was a little awkward was that out of the ten ales, I didn’t get a single guess right. Completely unable to match a yeast to its appropriate beer.

My girlfriend got four. I later found out that four is the most anyone got. So amongst professionals and serious aficionados, she did as well as anyone!

Which was a little embarrassing. But not really, because that’s awesome.

Unsung heroes

Yeast isn’t something I talk about often even though it’s pretty crucial to brewing. As in: you can’t have beer without it. Mostly I (and I would guess, many people) expect that yeast to do it’s job and fa-la-la-la-la, I have beer now.

So this is a short, interesting writeup on a place in England where they are testing yeast strains. Yeast not only determines how alcoholic your beer is, it can also be noted for certain flavors-or in the case of lagers, a lack thereof-depending on your style of beer.

It isn’t the only place they test yeast of course: Oregon’s own Wyeast Laboratories is well known for their products and they’ve always been friendly to homebrewers, providing advice and occasionally giving educational talks, along with supporting the random ‘yeast experiment’ that the Oregon Brew Crew does.

However, maybe that isn’t your bag. Check out this post on how to make beer ice cream! That seems wild.

 

Note: this was supposed to go up Wednesday and I had it all drafted and looking pretty…then I forgot to hit ‘Publish’. I didn’t realize it until today that something was missing! Sorry, everyone.

And now, we wait

Before I start, I’d just like to direct everyone’s attention here, where you can add your name to the petition to stop the SOPA and PIPA bills. Anyone who knows anything about how the internet works and has (reasonably) trustworthy motives has said these bills are awful, corporate strangleholds over the internet as we know it, allowing for censorship in all but name.

Some of your favorite web sites may be blank/redirected today and their protest of these bills is why. I’m too small to make a difference with a blackout but not too small to draw your attention elsewhere-and I know that politics isn’t what you’re here for, so I thank my readers for this tiny indulgence.

stout and amber brews

So, here we are. Two beers, fermenting away. The left is a stout, the right is an amber. So far, things have been going well: the stout needs to go into secondary soon, I believe but it may be best to take some gravity readings on the amber before I make any moves there because I’m afraid I didn’t pitch enough yeast.

I’m learning now, after eight years, that I may have been underpitching my yeast all this time. No wonder the batches made with second runs of yeast or donated by craft breweries did better: there was more yeast!

Still, better to learn now than to never learn at all.

One thing not brewing for three months has taught me is: I drink a lot of beer.

I know this now because I am having to pay for a lot of beer. That shit is expensive! I think I can grok the mindset of the PBR drinker a little better. Still don’t agree with it much but I understand it.

A fellow OBC member directed me to a place on his blog where one can see where the costs of buying homebrew equipment starts paying for itself. Pretty cool and, if you ever needed a reason to start homebrewing, this might be it. According to the calculator, I save about $41 per batch of homebrew I make, instead of buying it at the store.
That’s a lot of dinero. And My Money > less of My Money.

Asplode!

airlock soakingThe photograph shows an airlock that I’m soaking in order to clean it. This is because that for the second time in as many beers, I’ve had yeast come out the airlock and overflow onto the carboy, creating a gnarly crust on the glass and a wet bread substance on the floor.

The first beer is an amber that I’ll be talking about more. The second is the third iteration of a ginger stout I made during ’09.

I just didn’t expect this kind of fevered reaction in my beers. Yes, I’ve been reusing yeast and that usually means a quicker startup to fermentation but the last two have really gotten up and gone. It’s been messy and forced me to replace the airlocks which expose the wort, for however brief a time, to the air. That’s always a cause for concern because consistency is probably one of the goals of any good homebrewer; the other is probably innovation, and having the beer exposed is a risk, albeit a small one. Even now I can hear the stout gurgling away and the amber is ready to put into secondary so I’ll know more about that soon.

I don’t mind cleaning up the mess if the beer comes out well.