Wednesday, July 23, 2014

West Yorkshire Yeast Review

Admittedly, while I didn't get around to brewing a whole series of bitters and milds with the West Yorkshire yeast as I had hoped to do, I did end up brewing two beers with it and those brews have been on tap for some time now. See, back in late May, I decided to give a few other British yeasts a go - thinking I might find another favorite - and settled on the West Yorkshire strain as the first of the bunch. I think what made me want to give this yeast another go, after a previous string of so-so beers, was that this yeast is a nice top cropper and it has a rather vocal fan base of home brewers who seem to love this yeast for every British beer style.

The first bitter I brewed was of the ordinary kind; MO/GP pale malt, torrified wheat, crystal malt, and straight EKG for hopping. I did a bit of tweaking with the yeast pitch - went through the trouble of doing a yeast count with a microscope and hemocytometer - and even tried to slightly under pitch to coax out some complex esters. The fermentation took right off and exhibited all the signs of happy fermentation. When the yeast produced a beautiful second krausen, I top cropped the yeast and pitched it into another brew, within a few days.* The only thing I did differently was that when it came time to keg the beer, instead of not dry hopping it as I had planned, I decided to rack it into a secondary and I ended up dry hopping it with 1/2 ounce of US Brewers Gold.

The resulting beer is nice and pleasant enough... but in the same vein as a company get-togethers and eating Sunday dinner with the in-laws. It's ok, but not necessarily something you'd want to do each week. When I first tasted the beer going into the keg, it tasted lovely, but from then to now, it's lost something. Hiding beneath the lemony-herbal hop character is a beer that is fruity, clean, and exhibits a crisp, bready malt character that reminds me of quality German lagers. That said, one could find fault in it for tasting a bit thin and watery and it certainly isn't the most exciting or flavorful beer I have ever brewed. Again, it's not bad... but not great. However, what really kills this beer for me, is unlike those beers brewed with my standby Bedford yeast, this beer completely lacks the richness and yeast-derived complexity that I've come to expect with many British yeasts. Also, annoyingly, the yeast did not flocculate as well as I had hoped - it performed about the same as before - and as a result, the beer has somewhat of a haze issue.

Ok, so not the best results with the ordinary bitter. So what about this second one? Well, that beer was basically a standard ESB recipe, brewed with Glen Eagles Maris Otter with a blend of medium and dark crystal malts. Hopping was all Challenger, probably my favorite UK hop, and the yeast was pitched into well oxygenated wort. Fermentation took right off and after nearly three weeks in the fermenter and time spent crash cooling, the beer was kegged without any dry hopping. It tasted fine going into the keg, a tad yeasty, and it has been there for three weeks now.

And again, the beer is just ok. As there is little late hopping to get in the way of the yeast and malt character, the yeast flavor comes through very well... almost too well. The beer has more fruity esters than I had expected or hoped for... exhibiting a slightly peachy-banana flavor. That said, the malt comes across as bready and crisp. But where that bready malt character should transition into a rich and full flavored beer, the whole thing falls off into a dry and 'flat' fruity flavor. Honestly, the beer reminds me of a more caramelly tasting Coopers Sparking Ale. Maybe this beer is still too young - I'll give it another week or two - but I don't have high hopes for it. And again, this beer has the same hazy apperance that the other beer has. Two disappointing beers in a row. Bummer.

If there is anything we can take away from this yeast experiment, it is that while I haven't had much luck with this yeast, it doesn't mean that you will. Part of the problem may be that I have formed too narrow of an idea for what I want my British ales to taste like. Not all yeasts produce the same tasting beer and maybe if I didn't have such high expectations, I might be able to enjoy these beers for what they are.

That said, I probably won't be revisiting this yeast anytime soon... although I would love to hear from people whom have used this yeast with good results.

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*Aside, I realize that I have been blabbering on about top cropping and storing yeast for years now, all the while never mentioning how I do it or why doing it a certain way might be beneficial. We'll here you go; I originally wrote this for a home brew club event I did a few months ago.

A word or two on top cropping. Unlike what is often assumed, top cropping is actually a pretty delicate operation and there is a whole bunch of very interesting yeasty science behind the procedure. In short, if you want the healthiest yeast from your fermentation, don't just skim whatever yeast is on top of your fermenter at any given time. To sum things up, the best way that we home brewers can top crop, is to pitch an adequate amount of yeast in the first place and then wait until the first krausen shows up, usually around 24-36 hours. This first krausen or "first dirt" mostly consists of proteins, hop oils, and other stuff that we don't want in our beer or cropped yeast. The first dirt is skimmed off and discarded. After that, we wait until the second krausen (or high krausen) is formed, which should be around day 2 to 4 or when the yeast has fermented just over 50% of its fermentables. This yeast should be both airy and creamy and free from all hop particles. This is the yeast we want. Using a sanitized utensil, skim this yeast off into a sanitized container and if you are planning to store the yeast for more than a few days, be sure to submerge the yeast with a thin layer of beer. Do not mix water with yeast!

Interestingly enough, adding water to stored yeast (usually via "yeast washing" - separating yeast from trub, usually with de-aerated water) is among the worst things we can do when saving our yeast for extended periods of time. See, when beer undergoes fermentation, the yeast do their part to form a rather inhospitable environment for any other yeasts and/or bacteria that may be in the solution. In the simplest of terms, they do this by consuming available sugars, eliminating free oxygen, lowering the PH of the solution, and lastly by producing alcohol. All of these things make it rather difficult for many beer spoiling organisms to survive. Now, when we take the yeast out of this environment - via top or bottom cropping - and replace the beer with water, we are in effect completely undoing everything the yeast did to help preserve itself. Adding water increases PH, decreases alcohol, adds oxygen (whether we realize it or not), and provides a friendlier environment for bacteria to replicate. In short, if you are going to store yeast in a solution (top cropped or washed), you are better off leaving your yeast under a layer of fermented beer and dumping that liquid out before re-pitching.

16 comments:

  1. I've used to discard "first dirt", and then crop the second krausen; but I've noticed that if I ignore the first krausen (using 1469 in fact, and also 1318) and then crop the second krausen, the yeast is still clean of hop oils etc. So I'm wondering: do you crop from the first krausen to make sure the yeast you end up with is clean, or to skim "dirt" from the beer? And if the latter, have you noticed any difference from doing this?

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    1. Skimming the first dirt or krausen from the beer is mostly to ensure that all the proteins and bitter hop particulate don't fall back into the beer and that the second krausen is as free from protein and hop particulate as possible. This really isn't as much an issue for home brewers as it can be for breweries that top crop and store their yeast.

      Generally, I don't both to skim the first dirt and just wait until the second krausen and harvest then; that said, if I am fermenting a beer and there is a lot of hop matter in the first krausen, I will skim that off before I collect from the second. The real take away with top cropping is to wait until high krausen - do not collect the first krausen - harvest the healthiest yeast, and reuse it quickly.

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  2. When I brewed an English ale with 1469 I was blown away by the malt character when I tried the first few bottles. Then I experienced the same washing out after it had aged a couple of weeks. Very disappointing -- although the beer was still good, the great character was gone.

    I drank the batch over a couple of months, except for a few bottles which hung around in the back of the cupboard. A year later I found them and drank one, expecting it be dead, but in fact it seemed to have revived. The great yeast contribution wasn't as positive as it was when it was first bottled, but it was greatly improved over what happened just a few weeks after bottling.

    I can't begin to explain it. It wasn't a very complicated or high ABV or highly hopped beer, maybe it's just a highly active yeast while it's in the bottle.

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  3. When you posted the first bitter a while back I brewed it as close as I could to your original recipe and water profile. I racked it into a 5.4 gallon pin and fully intended to report and compare to your results. Unfortunately my daughter was having a party that weekend and I donated the whole cask to her, my only report is that they drank the whole thing and it was delicious! In fact her boyfriend who is a brewer liked it so much that he has borrowed the cask and is brewing a golden bitter which may have come from this site also. Perhaps this yeast suits a simple bitter with little crystal and cask conditioning suits it well. The nicest beer I brewed with 1469 was all pale malt and 8 oz of goldings in one addition. Nice pointers on top cropping, which I also do, thanks and keep up the good work. I will have to try the Bedford.

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  4. Glad to hear your bitter turned out well! I would love to try one of these bitters on a proper cask. That said, I wouldn't be suprised if cask conditioning was the way to go with this yeast, as force carbonating seems to strip out some of the flavors from these British yeasts.

    I put the ESB I brewed with the 1469 on to my nitro tap and I am pleased to say I am enjoying it more now than I did before; it is far less fruity and more balanced. I may have to go back and try this yeast again.

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  5. This year I brewed a dark mild (significant amount of sugar + colorant) that I served "on cask" over a period of two months. The low initial carbonation was provided by the yeast upon priming but I had to keep it on CO2 to serve. Serving temperature was 50-55F. Surprising malt character/aroma that lasted quite some time, though not much fruitiness noted. I think I top-cropped the yeast for an Old Peculier-like ale later (generation 2) that also has some dark invert. That batch I feel has lost its initial character in the bottle. I've got a six-pack left I'll let age and see if I get results like Anonymous above.

    Will, what are you carbonating your kegs at with this yeast? I find it very interesting that the source of CO2 or the packaging has such a great affect on English yeast. How can that be?!? The inconsistency or unpredictability is disheartening.

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    1. I'll usually hit the kegs with 30psi to seal/vent and then hook them up to 10-12psi and let it sit for a week or two. Although with the English styles I often just carb it for a day or two at 12psi before taking it off the gas and letting it sit, adding more co2 as needed to maintain a steady pour... although these beers would be considered to have low c02 levels by American standards.

      As per a loss of yeast character, I can't say what exactly causes it, but for kegging I have noticed that shaking the keg to get faster c02 absorbtion and carbing at higher pressures does seem to affect the overall flavor more negatively than those left to absorb c02 at a leisurely pace.

      If I had to guess what was behind the loss of flavor and c02 source/packaging, it would prob be something to do with carbonic acid in forced carbed beers. C02 is acidic in large amounts and acids decrease the perception and character of certain flavor compounds. If you've ever put a slice of lemon in a hefeweizen or witbier, you know how the the acid in the citrus helps mellows out the yeasty and higher ester flavors from the yeast. Same is true with sour beers.

      Eh, who knows...

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    2. First of all, thanks for an excellent blog. I was particularly interested in
      your evaluation of W-1469. I'm still coming up the learning curve in my quest
      to create authentic UK bitters, but after a half dozen attempts, 1469 has been a
      repeated source of frustration. I never get the "wonderful malt profile" or
      "fruitiness" that people rave about. While I feel I can crank out very
      respectable bitters using W-1318, 1469 has been my nemesis.

      In general, I've found 1469 brews to be surprisingly characterless in the malt department but with a seemingly unavoidable tendency to produce a slight but -- to my taste -- intensely annoying diacetyl sweetness in the background no matter how I control fermentation temperature and time. The subtle but cloying background sweetness isn't apparent at the end of fermentation (I do 14-21 days in the primary with DR at 68-72 F) but appears after a couple weeks of maturation in the keg/bottle. I usually keg and/or bottle condition after priming to about
      1.8 CO2 vol equivalents using corn sugar.

      Recently, I was about to ditch some leftover bottles from yet another disappointment when I decided to pop one open out of curiosity. To my surprise, after sitting for 10 weeks at 65-69F, the beer had gone from very hazy to almost perfectly clear. More significantly, the overall flavor was far cleaner, much drier and closer to style. I'm beginning to think this strain takes a very long time to
      condition, and that priming with sugar is a mistake because once in a closed,
      pressured vessel, this yeast just can't clean up efficiently. Just my current pet theory. I'm curious what others are doing to get good results with 1469. I think I'll
      experiment with only force carbonating the next batch.

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  6. Thanks for posting Will.
    Im trying the 1469 on cask at 1.2 vol natural carbonation with:
    Maris Otter Floor Malted (TF UK) 90%
    Light/Pale Crystal Malt (TF UK) 7.3%
    Dark Crystal Malt (TF UK) 2.6%
    Hops (Bittering) 90 min
    East Kent Goldings UK (T90) 20g
    Styrian Goldings SLV (T90) 15g
    Fuggles UK (T90) 15g
    Hops (Taste) 20 min
    East Kent Goldings UK (T90) 20g
    Styrian Goldings SLV (T90) 15g
    Fuggles UK (T90) 15g
    Dry hops (in Second fermentor)
    East Kent Goldings UK (T90) 20g
    Styrian Goldings SLV (T90) 15g
    Fuggles UK (T90) 15g

    Brewhouse Efficiency: 91 %
    Knockout: 23.5
    Kettle Loss: 3.5
    OG Target: 1.040
    FG Target: 1.010
    Estimated ABV: 4.02%
    Bitterness Target: 31
    Boil Time: 90
    Colour Target: 22

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    1. My taste experience of the 1469 was unpleasant bananary esters with soft malt and hop accentuation.
      Im not overly impressed with the flavour profile and it has not cleared .
      Ideas further on replacements?
      Im thinking of WLP022 ESSEX ALE YEAST, WY1026 British Cask Ale, Wyeast 1203-PC Burton IPA Blend or Wyeast 1768-PC English Special Bitter Ale
      or Wyeast Ale Blend 1087

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  7. Hi Great blog by the way!

    Have you tried the fuller's fermentation schedule? There is a great thread about it over on hbt http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/british-yeasts-fermentation-temps-profiles-cybi-other-thoughts-221817/

    The reason I ask is that I notice you do a 3 week primary plus 3 weeks in the keg before drinking- I think that might be why you are loosing the yeast character. Thats way too much time for the yeast to clean up!
    1469 is my personal favourite- but I do a 64 degree pitch with a free ride to 68-70, then at 1020 drop down to 64 and then crash down to 44 as I get down close to fg and get it off the yeast asap. It helps to lock in those yeast characters. Personally I bottle so it sits for another 3 weeks which is probably too long. Most commercial breweries follow a similar regime in the uk I believe. I absolutely love the character of 1469 with this method. Its biscuity, chewy and malty! Its peachy, its complex, its british with a heavenly ester profile. I notice that in a few of your posts you mention that it tastes great coming out the fermentor but then looses character. Well a british cask ale would never sit around that long before being drunk. Drink it fresh! I challenge you to try the 64-68-64 routine -I’d love to hear how you got on with that regime with that famous timmy taylor yeast! IMO these long primaries are just not good at all for british beer. We don’t want the yeasties to have all that time to clean up!
    Finally, if you are really looking for that authentic british flavour you simply must NOT keg! I cant stand the though of all that great beer being ruined in a keg! To an Englishman “keg beer” is the ultimate insult, and any CAMRA member will tell you it kills the beer! KILLS IT DEAD! Keg beer is such a crime in the UK that it is banned at the Great British beer festival, and if camra had there way it would be illegal. Maybe try a portpin? Even bottling I think is closer to the real thing than kegging!
    Apologies in advance for my rant!

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    1. Sorry for the late reply, but I was one of the main contributors to that original HBT thread... "bierhaus" if you will.

      I still follow a fermentation schedule similar to that with some yeasts, although I now realize that such a thing isn't exactly ideal for all yeasts. In particular, with 1968, diacetyl can become an issue with reducing the temp during fermentation, especially if there are issues with yeast health. Rather, I've more or less adopted a similar fermentation schedule of pitch low (62-64F) and let it free rise to around 68F for a D rest and then I'll crash cool it.

      As for the Tim Taylors yeast, I certainly agree that freshness and aging the beer can be an issue with loss of yeast character. In an ideal world, I would love to cask condition my English style beers, although at the moment it's not going to happen... and I'm ok with that. I still get good results with many of the English yeasts, achieing a yeast profile that suits my taste... which is actually tends towards "clean" beers with some esters in support. I do not appreciate beers that taste like a fruit coctail, or show diacetyl or acetaldehyde.

      And while I appreciate your enthusiasm for cask, both have their merits. There are some beer styles I cringe at the thought of serving on cask, as I do for some beers served in kegs. I really think it all boils down to that if you put great beer into a keg or cask, you'll get great beer out of it.

      Thanks for the comment. Cheers.

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  8. Given that fresh, in a pub in Yorkshire, Timothy Taylor Landlord, is one of the finest pints on earth, and that from a bottle it's devoid of almost all character, I would suggest our previous ranting commentator might be on to something (although I don't actually agree there is anything wrong with kegs per se and as a Brit I think Camra are mostly a bunch of conservative bores), beer made with this yeast needs drinking fresh, probably within two weeks of brewing.

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  9. I love this yeast. It produces an outstanding beer.

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  10. I too think this yeast is wonderful. That "stone fruit" taste is quite evident in the bitter I brewed.

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  11. 1469 is one of my favorite strains and I'm surprised to hear others are having trouble with it. I find it reliably produces complex, estery, malty beers that drop crystal clear after a week or so. I do not keg though, I bottle, and I suspect as others have mentioned that this makes all the difference. My fermentor is also wider than than the typical 5 gallon bucket (perhaps 1:1 ratio) and I leave the lid on loose for the active fermentation phase for 'open' fermentation. With these techniques it performs for me exactly as promised on the Wyeast website. I highly recommend!

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