Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Yeast for All Seasons

This isn't about hops or dry hopping, more on that to come, but something a little closer to my heart: yeast. Since I started home brewing and trying different yeast strains, I've always had the idea that the overall goal of my yeast testing and experimenting was to find a house yeast - something that best exhibited the flavor and character I like in my beer, but was still was clean and balanced. A few years ago, I came across the Bedford British strain and that yeast has largely become my 'house yeast.' It makes wonderful English style bitters and pale ales and still remains my go-to yeast for most of the British styles.

However, after all of these batches of bitter and pale, I am starting to feel like I've taken the Bedford yeast about as far as I can go. I've figured out how to get the same flavor from batch to batch and the repeatability of making the same tasting bitter has largely become mundane. I'm about ready for a change. So, moving from the more Southern style of yeast - drier, cleaner, crisper, and minerally - I'm heading North to Yorkshire, in search of creamier, fruitier, and more balanced beer.

I first tried the WY1469 West Yorkshire yeast back in 2011 and I've had a somewhat rocky go with it since. Some of my earliest attempts using this yeast turned out well enough, producing beers that were a tad more fruity than I liked, but flavorful and well balanced overall. Then I had a string of bitters that had serious flavor and flocculation issues, with some batches not flocculating at all and others where the yeast never formed a krausen and the resulting beer tasted yeasty and muddled. Not good stuff.

Scottish Porter
My plan for this round of experiments is to brew a series of English bitters and milds with WY1469 and see how the yeast performs in a more controlled environment. This time I'll be using the healthiest yeast possible and I'll be able to control everything from pitching rate (soilds/deads) to oxygenation and fermentation temperature. Moreover, as this yeast is a true top cropper, I'd like to be able to go back and revist some of the fermentation techniques that I've not used in a while... including open fermentation, top cropping, and yeast rousing.

The recipe for today is a typical ordinary bitter, brewed from a mixture of Maris Otter and Golden Promise, with a good dose of torrified wheat and some medium crystal thrown in for color. Hopping is all organic EKG and the water profile is low alkalinity with a moderate amount of sulfate and chloride. For the fermentation profile, I'll be pitching on the lower end (100-130 billion cells) and following a typical 'pitch low and let it rise' temperature schedule- pitch at 62F and let it free rise to around 68F for a diacetyl rest by day 10. Given this yeast produces a healthy krausen, I would like to top crop it for future use. We shall see.

Yorkshire Bitter I : English Bitter  

Recipe Specifics:
Batch Size (Gal): 4.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 7.25
Anticipated OG: 1.042
Anticipated FG: 1.010
Anticipated SRM: 6
Anticipated IBU: 22
Efficiency: 70%
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

48.3% - 3.50 lbs. Pale Malt, Golden Promise
41.4%  - 3.00 lbs. Pale Malt, Maris Otter
6.9%  - 0.50 lbs. Torrified Wheat
3.4%  - 0.25 lbs. Medium Crystal

0.50 oz. EKG @ 60 min for 14 IBU
0.50 oz. EKG @ 20 min for 8 IBU
1.00 oz. EKG @ flameout

Yeast: Wyeast 1469 West Yorkshire
Water: 62, 5, 8, 104, 36, 16
Mash 156F for 60 min
Brewed on 25 May

* It is interesting to note that Yorkshire yeasts have found their way across the globe, with many breweries now using yeasts of Northern origin; including Ringwood of the UK and the US East Coast, Cooper's yeast from Australia, and possibly even Conan of Heady Topper fame, which came from a yeast deposited at the NCYC in 1960, the same year a number of Yorkshire strains were deposited. For those interested, Conan is originally #1188.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Coming Soon...

In the coming weeks and months, I'm going to make a concerted effort to post more often and more importantly, start talking about things that are of significance to us home brewers. I am in the rather unique position of having access to some of the best information coming out of the brewing industry these days and I think it would be worthwhile to share some of that info with people who may not normally get to see it... in ways other than irrelevant tasting notes and ramblings.* In particular, I'd like to talk about hops and yeast - how we use them and the ways in which we can optimize their use - and those beer styles that don't always get the attention they deserve. That's pretty much all of the English styles. And a thing or two on IPA's.

The next post will have something to do with hop oil concentrations in dry hopped beer and how we can mimic some of the processes that craft breweries use to maximize hop character from kettle and dry-hopping additions. Should be fun. Suggestions for topics are always welcome.

*Maybe just a few ramblings.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hops for Wimps

Here's an old beer tasting that I wrote months ago and forgot to post until now. I probably wouldn't have posted it either, but I was reminiscing with some friends about our earliest college-drinking days and it was brought up that I was once a complete wimp when it came to hoppy beers, barely tolerating a pint of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. And that is the truth. While my buddies drank cans of Dale's Pale Ale and pints of Stone IPA, I'd drink Michelob Amber Bock and complain that hoppy beer made my stomach hurt. I admit this now, because this beer tasting is a perfect example of how things have changed. This beer was brewed, initially, to be a somewhat sessionable and hoppy pale ale/bitter... but somewhere along the line morphed into a hop monster. When all was said and done, this 4 gallon batch of 5% beer had over a half pound of hops pass through it. Galaxy. Centennial. Simcoe. I wish I could go back in time and see the 19 year old version of me drinking this stuff. 

Hoppy Bitter: American Pale Ale

Appearance - Slightly hazy amber/copper color with a large, fluffy head that has good retention.

Aroma - Big tropical fruit - mango, passionfruit, pineapple - with citrusy hop character in the mix. The galaxy hops particularly stands out with its dank and passionfruit-y aroma.

Taste - Typical American IPA+ hop flavor supported by some English malt character that actually provides some balance. Again, the galaxy hops are all over this beer; passionfruit, pine, and citrus peel. Bitterness is high and the beer finishes clean and crisp.

Mouthfeel - Carbonation is somewhat low and the beer has a full mouthfeel.

Drinkability & Notes - Hop character of a double IPA in a 5.0% bitter/pale. This is the type of beer that I wish most commercial session IPA's were... instead of weak and watery malt and grassy hops, the combination of Maris Otter, dark crystal, and a touch of amber did a fine job of supporting the tropical hop punch. That said, next time I'll dial back the dry hopping, as 5 oz is a bit overkill in a beer this size. Recipe Here.

O:G: 1.048, F:G: 1.010. 4.9% ABV. 40 IBU. MJ44