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.


  1. As I have been wanting to make a less fruity 1469 beer, and I like everything else about it, I'm going to brew your recipe and see if I get similar perceived results. Did you do a half hour hop stand as the IBU's seem a bit low?

  2. Could you verify the water numbers as I'm not sure my calculator, (brewers friend) has the same order

    1. Sure. The hop additions come out to around 22 IBU in beersmith, with 6.4% AA EKG. My actual utilization rate is bit higher than what the program calculates, but the bitterness difference is hardly noticable. Also, I did do a 30 min hop stand, as I normally do, after dropping the wort temp to around 180F with my chiller.

      The water profile was 100% RO, with Ca-62, Mg-0/5, Na-8, CaS04-104, CaCl2-36, and bicarbonate 16. I used gypsum and calcium chloride, in the mash and sparge water.

      I also oxygentated with pure 02, 1 min or around 12ppm. Hope your beer turns out well. I'm looking forward to getting mine on tap.

    2. Brewed this today, it went well, did a 6 gallon batch as I'm going to put it in a stainless steel pin cask. Didn't realise the two packs of 1469 I had were so old so I may have underpitched a little, but I did give it oxygen for a minute as you suggested. Got the water around the same and pitched at 62.

  3. Oddly enough, I've never gotten fruit out of 1469. I've must have always pitched at low temperature. Do you have the capacity to do split fermentations to alter variables in a single batch? Can't wait to see what you've got in store for us.

  4. I first used 1469 when it was a seasonal and loved the malt but hated the fruit and weird behaviour (floccing out early only to be roused and blowing out 45minutes later). I recently did a series of batches with it and liked it a lot better. One problem I noted was the attenuation increase dramatically between batches. I've top cropped 1318 for 6 batches without any change in attenuation but by the 3rd batch of 1469 my attenuation climbed from 71% to 77% to 85%. Unlike 1318 which doesn't seem to mind getting cropped late in fermentation, I think you really need to crop 1469 early before high krausen. If you have success with cropping it, please post your method.

  5. Im about to embark on my first use of 1469 in a few weeks. Awaiting the results of these batches..
    Im also interested in anyone's experience of using Nobel hops (eg goldings) in the 60 boil as opposed to bittering hops (eg Target)
    Do you think it makes any difference to flavour?

    1. Hi there. Sorry for the tasting notes delay, I felt bad so I wrote a quick post about it.

      Regarding the hopping, using lower AA% hops in the boil does have an impact on the final beer flavor, compared to just using a small amount of a high alpha variety. For some beers the difference will be somewhat minimal, but it does have an impact. A perfect example is as found with Czech pilsners, where if you sub out all those 3.4% AA Saaz used for bittering, for something like Magnum @ 14% AA, and don't add much hops later in the boil, it is remarkable how much Saaz hop character you will get in the beer just through the boil addition. And with maltier styles, using a low AA% hop in the boil can help impart back ground hop character without having to use late additions. That said, the more hops you use on the back end, the less you probably need or want to use on the front. That said, there is nothing like an English IPA loaded up with tons of EKG early in the boil.

  6. Thanks for your input Will.
    I was told sometime back by a Brewer that early Bittering hops only added Alpha acids / bitterness.
    But batch after batch I find even with late hops (even 30g EKG) im not getting enough aroma.
    My last ale, a mild with EKG at 90, 20 and dry exploded with aroma. Hence the question, to eliminate the yeast as the culprit.

    I would like to try the recipe above this weekend. But wouldn't enjoy the % T wheat.


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