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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Matt's Chats: Picking the Right Yeast for Spring Brewing

Welcome to Matt's Chats, a new monthly Buzz series featuring the homebrew adventures of Siciliano's staffer Matt Ross.

I love my homebrew system but it is lacking temperature control fermentation. This has been a gift and a curse because it has made me become creative but has also caused me a sizable amount of heartache. There are few things more frustrating than having a perfect brew day spoiled by inconsistent fermentation temperatures. Needless to say it's for this reason that spring is my least favorite time of the year to brew.

I chewed on this for a while and decided I am probably trying to brew the wrong beers at the wrong time. More specifically, I need to use a flexible yeast that is alright with some change. Spring is a huge transition in weather. Everything is melting and the snow is gone but we still live in Michigan so there is always a chance to have 65° outside one day and 35° the next. My home generally sits around 62° this time of year but with outdoor fluctuations it is common for me to come home to 57°. This does not bother me but yeast is a little more temperamental.

I know that I am not the only one out there who has had yeast stall out or had an off flavor because of fermentation temperatures. I know what styles I like to make and am the first to admit that I can be stubborn about it. The yeast in my wheel house include saison and American ale yeast. Neither one of these has any business being pitched at 57° for the ambient temperature.

Part of working smart is using the right tool for the right job. In this case the right tool would be a different strain of yeast. Underneath this rant are 4 yeasts that can create very different beers and have a temperature range from the mid 50s up to the 60s (some into the 70s). I am making an effort to expand my fermentation horizons and brew a style of beer that I normally would not. As always, we at Siciliano’s encourage our patrons to do the same through experimentation. Try something new and make a recipe your own. Brew on.

  • Wyeast Kolsch - "This strain is a classic, true top cropping yeast strain from a traditional brewery in Cologne, Germany. Beers will exhibit some of the fruity character of an ale, with a clean lager like profile. It produces low or no detectable levels of diacetyl. This yeast may also be used to produce quick-conditioning pseudo-lager beers and ferments well at cold 55-60°F (13-16°C) range. This powdery strain results in yeast that remain in suspension post fermentation. It requires filtration or additional settling time to produce bright beers" (source).
  • Wyeast Scottish Ale Yeast - "Our Scottish ale strain is ideally suited for the strong, malty ales of Scotland. This strain is very versatile, and is often used as a “House” strain as it ferments neutral and clean. Higher fermentation temperatures will result in an increased ester profile" (source).
  • White Labs San Francisco Lager/Steam - "This yeast is used to produce the "California Common" style beer. A unique lager strain which has the ability to ferment up to 65 degrees while retaining lager characteristics. Can also be fermented down to 50 degrees for production of marzens, pilsners and other style lagers" (source).
  • Wyeast German Ale Yeast - "A true top cropping yeast with low ester formation and a broad temperature range. Fermentation at higher temperatures may produce mild fruitiness. This powdery strain results in yeast that remains in suspension post fermentation. Beers mature rapidly, even when cold fermentation is used. Low or no detectable diacetyl" (source).
Stay tuned for more articles on homebrewing from the Siciliano's staff. Have a question you'd like to see answered on the blog? Leave it on the comments section below.

2 comments:

  1. Good info. You know you could also use a Swamp Cooler approach to temp control. It's more hands-on that a fridge and controller, but it's really cheap. You could even pick up a cheap/used aquarium heater to put in it and run that on a temp controller (Which you can build for about $30, and will still be useful if you upgrade to a fridge later...)

    But yeah, I think many people focus on brewing a specific beer with the precise yeast called for, and don't try to brew with the seasons, or substitute with a yeast strain that's more accepting of the current environment.

    A swamp cooler would still provide a bit of stability in temperature due it's thermal mass. So even if the temp isn't what you would prefer, at least it wouldn't swing high and low every day.

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