Sunday, May 20, 2012

Yeast Review: Thames Valley II

Of all the essential ingredients for brewing beer, it often seems like yeast gets the cold shoulder, an afterthought once the grain bill and hop schedule has been settled on. There is nothing wrong with using one or two yeasts for everything you brew, people brew beer for different reasons and some don't care to change things around. However, I would argue that when brewing some types of beer - English styles for instance - yeast choice should be your first and foremost consideration when it comes to formulating a recipe. Considering the number of English yeasts available, we have the opportunity to engineer our beers to the exact flavor characteristics we want. Yeast, malt, hops, and water... but mostly yeast. 

Of all the English strains I like using in my beers, I especially look forward to the spring when Wyeast releases their Thames Valley II - PC (1882) strain. This year, it took me a bit longer than normal to get my hands on it and I was initially worried that I wouldn't end up getting any at all. In the end, I bought four packs, enough to last me until the fall. For those of you who have not used this strain, it is quite possibly the the holy grail of all English yeasts, in my opinion. If you like your yeast on the more characterful side of things, this one won't disappoint. Foremost, it produces wonderfully malty and rich tasting beer, with just enough fruity esters to add some complexity without being overly fruity. Whereas a yeast like wy1968 or wlp002 can hide much of the malt character if the fermentation runs even slightly warm, this yeast makes clean and crisp, malty beers without all the heavy fruity esters. It also ferments a tad drier than similar strains and wont hide the hops - not that it is the best yeast for IPAs. One of the things I like most about this yeast, is that you can make great tasting beer in very little time with it. Four weeks from grain to glass is easily achievable and the beer tastes great, especially young. It doesn't need a lot of time for the flavors to develop and beers with this yeast taste often taste best under a month after fermentation is complete. It is especially good for bitters, milds, and low gravity session beers. Furthermore, this yeast is quite versatile in that it makes great dark beer  as well- dry stout, brown porter, and all the way up to RIS - and ages well too. If there is one downside to using this yeast, is that it can be a bit unforgiving if you don't have a good aeration and fermentation temperature control. It will produce diacetyl when stressed and tends to favor high pitch rates and well oxygenated wort. It produces the best tasting beer when fermented cool, around 62-66F. 

Yeast Stats:

- high flocculation, bright beers without cold conditioning or finings
- produces very rich, malty beer with medium stone-fruit esters and some (light) diacetyl
- balanced tasting beers even with large amounts of crystal malts and/or roast
- medium-high attenuation, drier beers possible. Average attenuation (for me) around 75-80%
- fast fermenting and quick to clear
- grain to glass in a short amount of time
- ferment best at lower temperatures with a high pitch rate and oxygenation
- supposedly alcohol tolerant

 Possible Substitutions:

- wy1968/wlp002
- wy1318
- wy1272

The first batch of the year with this yeast is a re-brew of my Nut Brown ale.

Nut Brown : Northern English Brown

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.75
Anticipated OG: 1.052
Anticipated FG: 1.012
Anticipated SRM: 15
Anticipated IBU: 24
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

79.5% - 7.00 lbs. Pale, Maris Otter
8.5%   - 0.75 lbs. Toasted Malt
5.7%   - 0.50 lbs. Medium Crystal (55L)
3.4%   - 0.30 lbs. Victory Malt  
2.8%   - 0.25 lbs. Pale Chocolate (200L) 

1.25 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 60 min for 23 IBU
0.50 oz. East Kent Goldings @ 5 min for 1 IBU

Yeast: Wyeast 1882 Thames Valley II
Mash 156F for 75 min.
Brewed 20 May


  1. These yeast diagrams you've been producing are very helpful!

    I've managed to get a hold of some 1882, so I'm going to use it in both a dark mild and an ordinary bitter I plan to make next week. Following our last conversation on no-sparge brewing, I think I'll experiment with BIAB for both of these beers.

    I tried Wyeast's West Yorkshire yeast on the last couple of batches of stuff I brewed up (a low-gravity stout and a low-gravity IPA), and while they both tasted pretty good coming out of the primary, I was shocked at how hazy they still were after sitting there for two and a half weeks; after all, that yeast too is advertised as a strongly flocculent strain! Hopefully the 1882 will be better.


    1. I've still got to refine the graphs a bit more, but the basic premise is sound... I think! 1882 is a great choice for those styles. Just be sure to pitch a healthy amount of yeast and oxygenate. This yeast sometimes gets a bad rap for diacetyl production, but that is mostly due to high pitch/ferment temp with stressed yeast. And let us know how the no sparge works out.

      1469 is one of those yeasts I love/hate. It makes great beer, though it seems to be very touchy with fermentation. I've had batches with it that got very fruity at 65F and refused to clear even months later and clean/clear batches fermented at 70F. One thing I do know it that yorkshire yeasts were traditionally roused often and fermented much cooler than we would normally assume. Like 60-64F...

  2. So, brewed up the dark mild and the ordinary bitter today. The no-sparge part worked great; I planned for about 65% efficiency, and got somewhere between 65 and 70 on both batches. The yeast was less cooperative: it was packaged on Jan 12 and was getting pretty close to the limits of its viability, and while I made a starter on Friday it hadn't really come cloe to finishing and clearing today, so I pitched London Ale III instead. Hopefully I'll be able to salvage some slurry from the 1882 starter in a couple of days...

    1. Great to hear the no sparge went well! I am planning on doing the same for a barley wine this fall, though I'll need to get a bigger mash tun. Don't think my old 10 gallon is up for the task. Bummer about the 1882, though 1318 is a great replacement.


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