I still have not acquired a fermentation chamber so for the time being my fermentation temperature continues to remain at the will of the weather. Fortunately summer is my favorite time to brew. It is now warm and consistent enough that I can ferment with Belgian yeast in the heat and also use American yeast in the cooler areas of my home. There are a few things I have learned over the years that have generally improved the quality of my brews.
First off, fermentation temperature is one of the most crucial things throughout the entire brewing process. It can be difficult to ballpark ambient temp. At my current location I have what I consider a warm spot and a cooler spot. One thing I do to get a better idea of temperature consistency is leave a glass of water in the room I plan to ferment in. I will periodically check the temp with a trusted thermometer at different times to see what sort of variations may occur. I typically base the beer I am making off the temperature ranges observed.
This weather has finally turned a corner. I mentioned that I love fermenting with saison yeast and the season is upon us. The 3711 from Wyeast is their French saison yeast and is one of my personal favorites. There are a couple of things worth mentioning about this yeast. First it is an absolute beast that attenuates very high, particularly under warmer temperatures. This yeast produces spicy peppery esters that when paired with a simple malt build create a bold yet refreshing beverage.
The next thing I do is a pretty common practice that never fails to get funny looks but is worthy of mentioning regardless. The fermentation process produces small amounts of heat. To encourage consistent temperatures, I usually wrap my vessels as an added form of insulation. There is no better way to get curious eyebrow raise from a new houseguest than to have a bucket wrapped in old clothing sitting in the corner of your room. As a side bonus, this helps to prevent light from reaching the beer as well.
As a follow up to the last fermentation discussion, I have been taking my own advice and fermenting within my means. I made a rye beer using smoked malt and the Wyeast 1007 German Ale yeast. All in all it is a clean finishing ale yeast that can ferment cooler. My primary fermentation occurred around 59 degrees and was shockingly aggressive. It was my first time using that yeast and it will be added to the lineup of winter/spring yeasts.
For those of you who share my temperature control issues I've included a list of yeast (see below) that are versatile and don’t mind moderate heat. Come in and share your experiences with seasonal brewing with any of us at Siciliano’s Market. Brew on.