Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Proper Yeast

I've gotten into the habit of relying on Safale US05 to ferment several of the ales I like to have on tap at all times. This is a work horse of a yeast that attenuates in the low 80 percentile with a clean profile (minimal phenol and ester by products) and performs well in temperatures in the low 60's f. I normally use it for several of my pale ale recipes, along with my India pale ale, imperial pale ale and American brown. Having said that, though I'm not real strict about this, I think it is important to use the proper yeast for the style of beer you're brewing.
As homebrewers we now have available to us a multitude of yeast strains that are specific for the numerous commercial beer styles. Using the proper yeast is important if you want to call the beer 'to style'. If you use US05 for you're German hefeweizen it won't taste like a hefeweizen but will fall into the american hefeweizen catagory which is fine but shouldn't be considered or refered to as German.

This leads me to explore what has been a growing concern in my own mind. I've sampled beers from many brewpubs that use the same yeast strain on a whole string of the varying styles of ales that they brew, sometimes even using this same ale yeast for their lagers. This results in beers that are called one thing but because of the yeast selection do not live up to the name. The beer may taste fine and I have enjoyed many on their own merit, but I always leave with a nagging desire to suggest to someone (anyone) that the beer be labeled correctly. Besides being rude to the brewer and appearing anal retentive, is it wrong of me to ask for this kind of accuracy?
For instance, a brewpub in a nearby town that I occasionally frequent has on tap what they call an 'English ale'. It is in fact not an english ale because they don't use an english ale yeast and so the resulting beer doesn't taste like an English ale. I suspect that it is fermented with Whitelabs 001 or Wyeat 1056 based on the samplings I've done in the past. My suspicions about their limited use of yeast are further supported after trying their other selections from the line up of beers on tap with names ranging from British pale ale, Irish dry stout and Pilsner that again have the same yeast characteristics dispite the obvious difference in the grain bill and hop regimen. These beers are unable to live up to the names applied to them.

Obviously, a small operation like a brewpub needs to be concerned about costs and one way to do this is by re-using a single yeast strain for multiple batches of beer. By re-pitching over multiple generations, transfering the same yeast from the pale ale to the English ale and then on to the stout results in huge savings for the brewery, so it's hard to hold this against them.

They also need to move a lot of beer by producing beers that are popular and easy to drink and appeal to the general public which means not only of good quality and flavorful but also produced quickly and available at the tap as soon as possible. As a result, they are less inclined to brew beers that require longer fermentation periods or the expense of a lot of different yeast strains. It's no surprise that you don't often see sour beers on tap or beers of unusually high alcohol that require high gravity performing yeast and long lagering times or blends of yeast that include bacteria.

On the other hand, I suspect that it could be possible economically to produce quite a number of styles of beer with just four types of yeast on hand. For instance, a variety of English ale yeast would be appropriate for not only English or British styles pale ales but also a wide selection of Irish, and American ales. One lager yeast for all styles of lagered beer. A German hefe yeast for all wheat beers and other ales that benefit from a phenolic character or maybe a Belgian strain to produce a golden, or tripel style.

Having an assortment of taster samples in front of me that vary in color, texture and aroma is an enticing vision that gets my taste buds to stand up and pay attention and it's all the more gratifying when the flavors are unique because of the unique strains of yeast as well as the grain and hops used in brewing them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Moinette Blonde Belgian Ale

I happened to have come across this beer after standing in front of the extensive beer selection at the local supermarket. I didn't have anything specific in mine, just browsing, scanning the display and wondering why beer seems so expensive these days.
Soon my eyes locked on to a new one for me, Moinette Blonde in an 11oz. bottle. To be honest, I probably would have passes on buying this beer simply because the cost was something like $3.99 a bottle. Too rich for my blood even if it was a new find and on it's own merit as a Belgian, deserved some consideration. But, it was a 'close out' item and was relatively cheap(?) at $1.99 so I bought the last two.

This beer is brewed by Brasserie Dupont which also brews one of my favorite saisons and so I had high expectations. I wasn't dissapointed. The aroma is an immediate fruit basket and at the first sip my palet was awash in assertive fruit flavors, mostly pears and apple along with a spicyness that reminded me of home baked apple pie. Some bread and yeast character and mild vanilla with just a hint of the 8.5% alcohol carried through in the finish which lingered nicely. This beer is dry with a full mouthfeel and serious carbonation although the white head is a shallow beret on top of the light gold colored beer.

I would highly recommend this beer as a refreshing break on a hot summer day. Crisp, flavorful and quenching that is easy to swallow except for the price.
How much are you paying for this beer in your area? Should I shop elsewhere?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fermenting In A Bag

I like to salvage and re-use yeast especially the Whitelabs liquid yeast that I prefer. Some of this yeast may cost me six or seven dollars a tube from my local homebrew store. Salvaging the yeast or brewing a new batch of beer and racking directly on to the yeast cake from a previous batch are two options for making the most out of the money I spend on an ingredient in homebrewing that tends to be the most expensive when it comes right down to it.

In this post I thought that I would elaborate on one technique that I've been using successfully over the years and which I also teach to the new students in my brewing classes. I wrote about it here in one of my 'brewing tricks' segments and I refer to it as 'fermenting in a bag'.

The following photos demostrate how it's done.

To begin with, I line the inside of my open fermenter with a food grade plastic bag, taping the top edges to keep the bag from collapsing into the fermenter. I then transfer the freshly aerated wort into the fermenter and allow the fermentation process to complete as normal.

In the image below you can see an active ferment inside the open fermenter that is lined with the food grade bag. Also note that I cover the fermenter with another bag to keep your run-of-the-mill vectors out during this stage.

When fermentation is complete I racked the beer into my kegs. At this point, I cover the fermenter until I'm ready for the next step which is to gather together the open end of the bag and lift it out of the fermenting vessel bringing with it the trapped yeast cake at the bottom.

I then lower the bag into a bucket of sanitizer (in this case, Iodophor) which will sanitize the exterior lower portion of the bag and at the same time I sanitized a knife which I will use to perforate the bag allowing the yeast to flow into a sanitized container. I used a funnel to catch the flowing yeast in this case but in the past have used Mason jars and just let the yeast drop in but sometimes it's a crap shoot on which direction the yeast runs.

I got lucky here in that the flow of yeast was a direct shot.

Once captured, I will store in the fridge until I'm ready to pitch in the next batch of beer. Labeling the container of yeast is important and I simply attach a sticker to the cap and write the yeast type and date and I also put the generation, usually discarding after six or eight uses. Another added benefit to using these bags is you don't have to clean the fermenter, just dispose of the bag and you're done.

One note of caution: Initially, leave the cap loose until the yeast has cooled down to fridge temperatures. There may be pressure building in the jar since the yeast is still active at room temperature. Once cool, tighten lid.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Temperature Control For Fermenting Chambers

Here's an excellent beer tool/device I found at Orchard Supply recently that I think is worth sharing. Since I'm not fermenting my beer at home now, I can't monitor the temperature obsessively like I normally(?) do. So, I was looking to put in some type of thermostatic control installed in a box I built to place my fermentation vessels.

The room (storage unit with a roll-up door) I ferment in stays cool (65f.) during the day which is perfect for ales but at night it gets pretty cold, I would say somewhere around 50ish this time of year. This cold environment can cause the yeast to become inactive and essentially prevent them from fulfilling their responsibilities, they will go dormant and settle to the bottom of the fermenting vessel, resulting in an under attenuated beer. Not good.

Line voltage thermostatic control

My idea was to have a thermostat inside an insulated box big enough to contain two fermenters. The device would control a 60 watt light bulb inside the box to keep the temperature at 65f. turning the light on and off as needed. In my situation, (a small enclosed space) it doesn't take more than a light bulb to keep it warm. Well, I wanted to avoid using a standard thermostat along with a transformer and had heard of a 'direct line voltage thermostat' but didn't think I would find one. To my surprise Orchard had them and I purchase one for about $45 with tax. The ease of use is what is so valuable here. The line voltage thermostat plugs directly into the 110v outlet and then the devise that you want to control plugs into the thermostat. Set the temperature that you want and when the temp. drops below that setting it powers on the devise of your choosing, in this case a light bulb, but could also power on a heater or cooling unit just as well. The unit I bought is the LUX win100 which is also programmable.

If you don't have a lot of electrical skills but want to create this kind of controlled environment, I would recommend getting one of these thermostats. This would be perfect for a small room or shed that already has an electrical outlet in place and you wanted to turn on/off a space heater or cooler.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Keggle Sight Glass Video

Because of the popularity of Google searches for my home made keggle sight glass, I have made this video to show how to make the extruded portion that supports the rigid plastic tubing. This length of copper pipe works as a sleeve to keep the plastic tubing from bending over time because if its exposure to the high temperature water.

Also, go here to see my example of a home made counter pressure bottle filler, and here for more tips and tricks.

Let me know if this was helpful.
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