Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Common sense: Make dry yeast your everyday yeast...use liquids for specialty beers

There is no perfect beer yeast.  As a homebrewer I am always concerned when brewer's have a specific loyalty to one and only one yeast, or to one and only one yeast company.   As an example,  there is a guy who comes into the LHBS who only uses White Labs San Francisco Lager Yeast WL810.  In fairness he makes german style lagers, at ale temperatures.  He is relatively advanced and he knows he needs to aerate the ever living bejeezus out of the wort before pitch.   But he even makes his "IPA" (or IPL) with WL810.  uh... why?  There are so many yeast choices for us as home brewers now.

Today I thought I would present the merits of a yeast plan, and a plan for brewing in series.   I am in the middle of my All Grain Mr. Beer Lager series as many of you know.   But I also have a bunch of WLP500 that I want to get into a series of belgian style beers.

I use dry yeast most of the time.   I almost never make starters.  When I do make a starter now it is usually a 1 gallon batch of beer.   For me this is easier time wise than having to begin a starter 2 or 3 days before brew day.  You may have noticed extra pots in the background of my brew day photos.  Often those are 1 gallon batches that are for use as a starter in a week or two.   I like dry yeast because:

  • The viability of the yeast is consistent.  It doesn't lose viability over longer periods of time, up to 2 years.
  • The cell count is much higher.  1 package is generally adequate when put into a medium or low gravity beer that has been aerated.
  • Simpler to use.  Fermentis doesn't even recommend rehydration any longer.  Just open the package and pitch it into the wort. 
  • Variety is adequate.  When I started brewing, there were really only 4 dry yeast strains.  Now by my count there are 18 or 19 available to home brewers.  And any BJCP style can be made with them.  

What are your favorite yeasts?   For specialty beers, or beers I am working on for contests, I tend to select a specific yeast to create that character.   Often that means a liquid yeast. Often, but not always.

For my clean ales I prefer  Fermentis Safale US05.  I do not wash this yeast. It's to affordable to waste fridge space on.  I have made 1 gallon starters before for a DIPA that I knew would need more yeasty power.  US05 is my go to yeast strain for testing and recipe development.

I like Lallemand Nottingham for my english inspired ales and even for my brown ales and stouts.   I like the fruity character it throws off.  I also like how hard it flocculates.

For Saisons I like Lallemand Belle Saison.   It gives you the character of a Saison in a dry yeast.  When you ferment this yeast the trick it to follow a schedule.  Initial at 65 F then rise to 85 F over time.

For german wheat beers I like Fermentis WB-06.  Banana and Clove baby.

For most lagers - everyday thirst quenchers... I prefer Wyeast 2112. My champagne lager is clean and thirst quenching.  It is simple to brew, and a real crowd pleaser when muggles (non craft beer people) come over to the homestead.  The trick to getting this one to finish clean, and not give off steam beer characters is to keep it at or under 65 F, and to aerate the ever living bejezus out of it prior to pitch.

I also am known to ferment lagers with Fermentis W34/70.  When I do I do the primary fermentation at 65 F, then lager it out at 39 F for 3 - 5 weeks.   Gives a clean tasting lager.  I can assure all you nay sayers, that I have been in contact with the great people at Fermentis technical support,  they assure me that my method is sound and works just fine with 34/70.  So if all you have is an extra fridge, start lagering in smaller fermenters.  It's fun and it makes great beers.  

Series or campaigns

Whenever I use a specialty yeast that I like.  I save some of the yeast.  I don't do a traditional yeast wash.   I have been greatly educated in this by Steven Deeds at woodland brewing research.     His research and book are awesome for advanced home brewers.    I then brew a series of beers that use this yeast.

  1. WLP500 in a Chimay Blue Clone (amazing beer)
    1. Save the yeast 2 pints cleaned Steven's way
  2. WLP500 2 pints are going next into a Dark Strong Ale (partial mash)
    1. Save the yeast
  3. WLP500 2 pints are going then into a Boulevard Quad Clone

What are your favorite yeasts and why?

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