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:
- American Ale
- A very neutral ale yeast
- Ferments quickly
- Finishes dry
- 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
- Muted ester/phenol production for a saison, but much higher than S-04
- Ferments quickly
- Finishes very dry with some tartness
- 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:
- DCHB Resources: Yeast (links to manufacturers, guides, and other resources)
- Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation – By Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff
- American Academy of Microbiology FAQ
- This is a great source for yeast health tips to keep your beer tasting clean
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