It’s All About the Yeast

Most people who came to the meeting at Right Proper last night had a chance to taste the experimental comparison beers I brought. I learned a lot by brewing and tasting them, and I hope everyone else did as well. When we brew even simple batches, there are so many variables that it’s hard to know what causes a certain flavor in beer. The idea is simple: isolate one variable and alter it in a meaningful way.

The base beer was simple, an American Blonde ale clocking in at about 3.5%-4% ABV (depending on the yeast). It was an all grain batch made of 80% 2-row and 20% wheat, and mashed in at 130°F with rests at 145°F and 155°F. I used Columbus hops for a 60 min bittering addition targeting 12 IBUs. Sixty minute boil. Fairly bland.

I then cooled the wort to 65°F, divided it into 5 one gallon glass containers and pitched 5 different yeasts from the Fermentis dry yeast lineup:

S-05

  • American Ale
    • A very neutral ale yeast
    • Ferments quickly
    • Finishes dry

W-34/70

  • Lager (cooled and pitched at 50°F)
    • Ferments quickly for a lager yeast
    • Also very neutral, but with noticeable lager character (sulfur or breadiness)
    • Can lag at the end (mine seems to have not been able to finish fermentation)

S-04 (Whitbread Strain)

  • British Ale
    • Similar to the S-05, but a little more ester production
    • Ferments very quickly
    • Finishes a little sweeter than S-05

T-58

  • Saison
    • Muted ester/phenol production for a saison, but much higher than S-04
    • Ferments quickly
    • Finishes very dry with some tartness

WB-06

  • Hefeweizen
    • Distinct hefeweizen character
    • Ferments quickly, but slower than some weizen strains
    • Very tart

For most of these beers, I would have done things differently had I brewed a 5 gallon batch ─ things I couldn’t do when comparing them ─ since I wanted to keep them all uniform. I would have been able to better regulate the lager temperature (a little warmer at the start for better yeast growth, then cooler at the end to let it drop out). I would have fermented the Saison about 20°F warmer to get more flavor out of the yeast and might have even used more wheat. I also would have served the hefeweizen a month earlier and would have used a lot more wheat.

Still, the value in the experiment was not to make “good” beers─ although I did like the American and English versions. The value was in tasting them side-by-side, without the presence of overpowering hops or malts. This way, brewers are able to understand the values added to their beers by the different yeast.

And while yeast health can have a much bigger impact than the strain itself, a good understanding of what we get from each strain will help us take our beer from high quality to high precision. By tasting side by side, brewers can better equip themselves to create the beers they envision.

Good sources for yeast and yeast info:

Please leave your comments on the beers you tasted, and if you would like to participate in or conduct your own educational brew for the club, contact the Education Committee at Education@DCHomebrewers.com

 

 

Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What is a BJCP-sanctioned homebrew competition and why should I enter my beer?

By Jim Koebel

DCHB decided to have this year’s Cherry Blossom Competition sanctioned by the BJCP for a few reasons, all to ensure that we make this year’s competition, and those in the future, the best ever.

The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) certifies and ranks beer judges through an examination and monitoring process.  By judging in sanctioned homebrew competitions, folks who earn the BJCP credential earn points that contribute to their rank.  So, by registering this year’s CBC with the BJCP, we’re able to attract qualified beer judges to evaluate and score the entries.  This makes the process fairer, especially since we have some pretty sweet prizes at stake.

Speaking of prizes, by making this competition BJCP-sanctioned, we’ve been able to attract better prize donors than in the past.  And by the way, you can’t win if you don’t enter!

We’ll also be using the BJCP Style Guidelines to classify entries and organize prize categories.  This gives the competition a well-defined structure and ensures that the beers are judged objectively against the guidelines, not somebody’s personal preferences.  Check out the guidelines before entering your beer to make sure you are selecting the most appropriate category.  If you’re not sure, have a friend try your homebrew and help you classify it.

 Finally, and most importantly, you’ll receive detailed feedback from judges explaining why they scored your beer the way they did.  Your scoresheets will include a breakdown of the point allocation and total score assigned to your beer, the judges’ descriptions of your beer’s aroma, appearance, flavor, and mouthfeel, and suggestions for correcting any flaws they may have perceived.  That’s feedback you can use to brew better beer.

The CBC is limited to 240 entries, so get brewing!  We want DC Homebrewers to OWN this competition. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Farmhouse Ales

Farmhouse Ales – by Sean Gugger

There is no style I enjoy drinking and brewing more than Saison.  There’s something about the complex flavors of pepper, spice, citrus, fruit, hay, and even some barnyard in a well-crafted saison that make it a unique sensory experience.  From the brewing perspective, Saison is truly a blank canvas.  A broad style that allows the brewer wide creativity and the ability to push his or her brewing limits.  However, before I dive into brewing Saison, let’s backtrack and go over a brief history of these Belgian Farmhouse Ales.

I have to begin by giving credit to the book Farmhouse Ales (Brewers Publications, 2004) by Phil Markowski, the head brewer of Southampton Publick House and one of the pioneers of modern interpretations of the style, as I learned from it a majority of the information I am about to provide.  It’s highly recommended for any beer fan that has even the slightest interest in traditional Belgian ales.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Oktoberfest

In case you missed it:

During the recent July meeting, Pete and I led a discussion on Octoberfest/Marzen and Vienna Lager beers to prepare brewers for the September Oktoberfest meeting, which will feature a club-only competition for these styles. We talked about traditional and modern techniques for lager brewing as well as parameters for these particular styles and how to meet them. We also made sure we were familiar with the beers we were discussing by sampling a couple: Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold–close to a modern German Oktoberfest–and Negra Modelo. These two beers represent the extremes of the three styles, which are all very similar to begin with.

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment