Sep 082017

In 2016, Heineken released a limited edition beer called H41 as part of their Lager Explorations series.  Haven’t heard of H41?  That’s understandable – it was only released in the Netherlands and Italy.  When I first hear about the beer I was rather intrigued because this isn’t just another Heineken.  This is Heineken fermented with Saccharomyces eubayanus.Heineken H41

In what seems to be a departure from the norm at Heineken, they decided to explore some creativity by becoming the first commercial brewer to use S. eubayanus.  Heineken purchased the patent rights to brew with S. eubayanus in 2015.  This was indeed a bold move, as there was no precedent for brewing with this yeast.  But “Using [their] unrivalled expertise, Heineken®’s Master Brewers began to work with the mother yeast to unlock a spectrum of new flavours.”, according to their press release.  (I guess their unrivaled expertise means first killing the yeast.)  Heineken managed to break their own mold to make a unique beer that they describe as a “new lager has a fuller taste, with spicy notes balanced by subtle fruity hints”.  Sounds like eubayanus to me.

For quite awhile I was dying to get my hands on a bottle of this beer, but with no trips to Italy or the Netherlands coming up I figured it would never happen.  However, I was talking to a colleague about his upcoming vacation and it turned out he was traveling to Italy, at which point I not-so-subtly asked him to keep an eye out for H41.  Much to my surprise and delight, upon his return there awaited a three-pack of H41 in my cubical.

After a seemingly long day at work, I rushed home and cracked open a bottle.  It poured like a Heineken (nice white head), it looked like a Heineken (clear golden color), but it didn’t smell or taste like Heineken.  The aroma was unrefined, almost a little musty and unmistakably S. eubayanus.  The mouthfeel was medium-bodied – more so than most light lagers – with medium carbonation.  The flavors were very similar to the eubayanus beers I had previously brewed.  It was slightly phenolic and spicy with an ester profile not typical of any ale or lager yeast I’ve ever tasted.  There was some apple/pear fruitiness unique to most eubayanus beers with a somewhat rustic flavor shared by many saison yeast strains.  Basically, it tasted like Heineken fermented with S. eubayanus.

H41 was a well brewed beer that highlighted the desirable flavor profile of S. eubayanus.  Will it be a global sensation?  I doubt it.  It is definitely a novelty beer and one worth seeking if you get over to Italy or the Netherlands before they discontinue it.

May 182016

After all of the data had been analyzed, I came up with these basic recommendations for brewing with S. eubayanus.brewing with S. eubayanus

S. eubayanus is a tricky yeast to work with and not for the faint of heart. Many of the brewers were turned off to using it again because their beers did not turn out as well as they expected. And I don’t blame them. We were in uncharted territory as how to best use this yeast and explored the unknown limits of S. eubayanus can do in a beer. Personally, I see a lot of potential to make interesting and unique beers with this yeast, and plan to continue experimenting with it. For anyone else up to the challenge, here are my recommendations when crafting a recipe:

• Keep it simple at first. First, brew a pale beer with no hop character so you know what flavors the yeast produces. Then create your recipes around those flavors.
• Mash low, but not too long. While very high attenuation was seen after a 5-hour mash, the beer was horrible. I suggest mashing between 145-150°F for 60 to 90 minutes.
• Keep the roasted malt restrained. The phenols clash with high amounts of roasted barley. Pale chocolate and Carafa seem to work well.
• Test different fermentation temperatures for nuances in ester and phenol production. While the yeast performed well from 45-72°F, and beers scored well fermented at all temperatures tested, the differences between the runner up and second runner up beers fermented 50°F and 60°F, respectively, were significant enough to result in a 6-point difference in their score.
• Add some sugar. This should help dry the beer out by increasing attenuation.
• Choose your hops wisely. Be mindful of the low attenuation and compensate by increasing the IBUs. For flavor and aroma hops, be cautious. Not all hops paired well with the yeast.
• Add another yeast. Use a clean ale or lager yeast to help dry out the beer without affecting the characteristics of S. eubayanus. Alternatively, I suspect that adding a little Brettanomyces will create a fantastic beer. The Brettanomyces will consume the unused maltotriose, and the esters some strains produce may nicely complement the apple/pear/grape flavors S. eubayanus produces.

May 182016

Sensory Analysis of S. eubayanus Beers

S eubayanus beers flight

Sensory information of beers brewed with S. eubayanus was gathered through a BJCP-sanctioned competition judged by Certified, National, and Grand Master judges. To standardize and easily quantitate the judging results, the BJCP checklist scoresheet was used. Judges were also required to write notes in the comment sections so a full description of each beer was obtained.

All entries were well executed with no indication of flaws during the brewing process. This allowed the data gathered for each sample to be considered valid and not the result of contaminating yeast or bacteria. However, the beers did not conform to the BJCP styles, and they received a mean score of 27 +/- 6 points and ranged from 13.5 to 39. This result isn’t altogether surprising. S. eubayanus is a unique yeast that produces flavors and aroma distinct from S. cerevisiae and S. pastorianus. Nevertheless, brewing 25 styles of beer with this yeast yielded a plethora of information that can be used to build a beer around the strengths of S. eubayanus.

The Best Beer Styles for S. eubayanus

S eubayanus competition medalThe Best of Show beer was a Brown Porter brewed by Chris Clair (BUZZ, West Chester, PA) who received a score of 37.5 and received a gift certificate from Artisan Homebrew Shop. The Runner-up and Second Runner-up beers sponsored by Northern Brewer and Yeast Bay were an India Pale Lager and American Pale Ale, both brewed by Steve Groff (Main Line Brewers Association, Ardmore, PA). It is interesting to note that Steve’s beers were actually a split batch where the runner up beer was fermented at 50°F and scored a 39 and the second runner up was fermented at 60°F and scored a 33. Both brewers skillfully executed their beers and demonstrated the quality of beer that can be made with S. eubayanus.

S. eubayanus tended to work well for beers containing crystal and lightly roasted malts. Porters, English brown ales, Scottish and Irish ales, and dark lagers scored well with averages of 29, 30.2, 33.5, and 29, respectively. Pilsners, amber lagers, and light and amber hybrid beers scored in the low to mid 20s due to the amount of esters and phenols from the yeast. They did not necessarily taste bad; they were just off-style. The yeast did well in Hefeweizens and Belgian-style beers, both averaging in the upper 20s. The biggest criticism of the Hefeweizen in the Best of Show round was that it was not quite phenolic enough, though it was judged to be a very good beer. The yeast worked particularly well in Saisons and Belgian pale ales where the biggest flaw was the lack of attenuation. Had the beers contained simple sugars such as sucrose, these beers may have scored much higher. The choice of hops is critical for crafting a good hop-forward S. eubayanus beer as these beers tended to score in the low 20s. As one judge wryly commented on an American Pale ale, “this beer/yeast combo was not a pleasant experience”. In contrast, both of Steve’s beers were heavily hopped exclusively with Citra which seemed to complement the yeast quite well.

Here’s what we learned:

As diverse as all the beers were, there were amazing similarities. Most beers displayed a grape or white wine aroma and flavor that was very pleasing is a lot of the recipes, and one judge noted it worked quite well in a Schwarzbier entry. Another distinct flavor and aroma found was the apple and pear ester mentioned earlier. Phenols were also present in many of the beers to varying degrees. They worked well in the Belgian styles and even in the Hefeweizens, but clashed a bit with some of the beers containing excessive roasted malts. In some instances the yeast also displayed a corn/DMS character in the aroma.

The yeast appears to require some care during fermentation. There were a number of beers that exhibited serious butyric, “sock funk”, solvent, and chlorophenol off flavors and aromas. These could not be correlated to any specific brewing parameter or style. For instance, within the same style, one beer was described as “sour baby puke or rancid feet” and another as “clean, crisp, inviting”. It is possible that the beers were under-pitched or lacked temperature control or both. Absolute yeast counts were not collected for every beer, as many of the brewers did not have access to a hemocytometer. However, most brewers did perform some sort of a starter, and these off flavors did not correlate to the few brewers that did not use a starter.

One of the biggest criticism was under-attenuation, resulting in the beers being little too big for their style. However, that did not mean they were unbalanced. The yeast, despite under attenuating, can somehow produce a balanced beer. I can’t quite put my finger on how this happens, but the perceived bitterness tends to be a little higher in the beers than expected from the calculated IBUs.

Apr 132016

Designing the Experiment

In my previous post I introduced the brewing project to analyze Saccharomyces eubayanus as a brewing yeast. After collecting all of the data, they were analyzed using a concept known as design of experiments (DOE). Without delving into theory, the effects of multiple factors (e.g., starting gravity, mash temperature, mash time) on an output (e.g., attenuation) can be easily analyzed. Rather than analyzing the 10 different starting gravities (e.g., 1.025 to 1.070) mashed at eleven temperatures (e.g., 145-155°F) for three different times (e.g., 60 min, 90 min, 120 min) for a total 330 mashes, conditions can be randomized for a smaller experimental set, say 20 mash conditions, to generate a statistical response model to predict how these variables interact.

Optimizing Attenuation

In total, data from 49 beers representing 25 beer styles were submitted and analyzed.

Brewers recorded data for every aspect of their brewing process: recipe details, mash/steeping temperature, mash/steeping time, fermentation temperature, fermentation time, starting gravity, finishing gravity, yeast starter method, wort oxygenation method, and diacetyl detection.

While this experiment might be criticized for having too many uncontrollable variables, I argue that having the uncontrollability of multiple brewers actually helps control the entire experiment. If a trend emerged for a particular output, perhaps a phenolic flavor for example, definite characteristics of the yeast can then be made. Further, the performance of the yeast would be evaluated in real-world brewing scenarios, thereby demonstrating its practical utility as a brewing yeast.

Factors that impact attenuation were analyzed by first separating entries based on whether the brewers used malt extract or performed an all-grain mash. Eight beers were brewed partially or entirely with malt extract. Excluding a single outlier with 29.6% attenuation, the mean attenuation of these beers was 61.8% +/- 7.3%. Only one of these had fermentables from a mini-mash (6.2% Munich malt steeped at 150°F), and this had no noticeable effect on attenuation. No correlation could be made between the fermentation temperature and attenuation as the beer with the highest attenuation (74.5%) fermented at 70°F and the beers with the lowest (50% and 58%, again discounting the 29.6% beer) fermented at 67°F and 68°F.

The mean attenuation of the all-grain beers was 64.7% +/- 11.1%. Of these, six attenuated 40-50%, four attenuated 51-60%, twenty-one attenuated 61-70%, seven attenuated 71-80%, one attenuated 82% and one attenuated 89%. The highest attenuation is most likely due to a 5 hour mash that started at 142°F and ended at an unknown, but much cooler temperature. The data for the all-grain beers were imported into JMP 11 software 5 to analyze the impact of the mash temperature, mash time, original gravity, percent specialty grains, fermentation temperature, and IBUs (since hops can inhibit yeast growth) on attenuation.

The impact of an individual effect in the context of the other effects on attenuation was analyzed using leveraging plots (Figure 1). The confidence curves (red dashed lines) indicate the significance of the effect on attenuation; curves that cross the blue line are considered significant. These data show that only the mash temperature has a significant impact on attenuation where a low mash temperature yields a more fermentable wort. The mash time, original gravity, and IBUs had no impact on attenuation and the fermentation temperature and percentage of specialty grains had borderline impacts.

leveraging plots

Figure 1

The impact of the mash temperature on attenuation is not entirely surprising. Several groups have reported that, unlike S. cerevisiae, S. eubayanus lacks a maltotriose transporter (1, 2). Since lower mash temperatures generate less maltotriose molecules than higher mash temperatures, a more fermentable wort is achieved at low mash temperatures.

In the model, fermentation temperature had a borderline impact on attenuation. While an early report showed S. eubayanus does not ferment or grow very well at 72°F (1), a recent paper demonstrated that not only does S. eubayanus grow and ferment up to at least 86°F, at 68°F it grows and consumes sugars faster than S. cerevisiae (2). The data from these beers support the latter observation where multiple brewers demonstrated attenuation >80% at temperatures above 68°F. Both reports were in agreement that S. eubayanus grows well at low temperatures, and consistent with these reports, attenuation as high as 70% was seen by multiple brewers at 50-54°F.

In summary, S. eubayanus requires a wort produced from a low temperature mash containing few specialty malts to achieve high attenuation. The fermentation temperature had little impact on attenuation, allowing brewers to ferment over a wide range of temperatures.

Chemical Analysis of S. eubayanus Beers

In addition to generously providing us yeast, White Labs also performed chemical analyses of the beers to determine the level of various flavor and aroma compounds in the beers. The data for all beers were plotted and the mean value for each compound was determined (Figure 2). Fusel alcohols (1-propanol and isobutanol) were very low. All but three beers had levels of amyl alcohols we

S. eubayanus flavor compunds

Figure 2

ll above the flavor detection threshold, which may account for the white wine-like flavors and aromas prevalent in a lot of the beers. A majority of the beers also had detectable levels of diacetyl. Acetaldehyde hovered between the range of flavor detection thresholds, and may have contributed to the apply flavors in the beers. Surprisingly, the levels of ethyl hexanoate and ethyl octanoate were below the threshold of detection in most samples, as these typically contribute to fresh-apple flavors. Perhaps S. eubayanus produces apple-like esters not typically produced by S. cerevisiae or S. pastorianus, and are therefore not part of the panel of compounds analyzed in beer. Ethyl acetate was detectable in most all beers. One beer in particular had an extreme level at 294 ppm. This beer was also the lowest scoring beer, and was described as cidery and astringent. The levels of isoamyl acetate were on the low end of detection, and likely contributed to some of the fruitiness, though no beer had an overt banana character (a large criticism in the Hefeweizen category). Ethyl butyrate was for the most part well below the threshold of detection.


S. eubayanus compounds leveraging plots

Figure 3

The influence of the original gravity, fermentation temperature, and fermentation time on the levels of all the compounds was analyzed by leveraging plots. Only ethyl acetate and 1-propanol were influenced by the original gravity. As the original gravity was increased, the levels of both tended to increase (Figure 3). The levels of ethyl acetate and ethyl butyrate also tended to increase as the primary fermentation temperature increased. No other compound appeared to be influenced by any other factor.

The mean values for each compound were compared to those published by Gibson et al. (1) and Mertens et al. (3) (Table 2).

S. eubayanus flavor compound table

Table 2

Overall, the data were consistent. These groups demonstrated that compared to S. cerevisiae and S. pastorianus, S. eubayanus produced similar or less amounts of acetaldehyde, and these levels were similar to the beers in this study. They also found similar amounts of higher alcohols (1-propanol, isobutanol, isoamyl alcohol) between the three species of yeast. The beers in this study, however, had much greater levels of amyl alcohols than what these groups reported. The levels of ethyl acetate, isoamyl acetate, and ethyl butyrate were similar between yeast in all of the studies. Gibson et al. reported the esters ethyl hexanoate and ethyl octanoate were 0.2-0.3 ppm higher than S. cerevisiae and S. pastorianus. However, the levels in our beers were similar to those seen in S. cerevisiae and S. pastorianus.

Continue reading for results of the beer judging.



1. Gibson, B. R., Storgards, E., Krogerus, K., and Vidgren, V. Comparative physiology and fermentation performance of Saaz and Frohberg lager yeast strains and the parental species Saccharomyces eubayanus. Yeast 30(7), 255-266. 2013.
2. Hebly, M., Brickwedde, A., Bolat, I., Driessen, M. R., de Hulster, E. A., van den Broek, M., Pronk, J. T., Geertman, J. M., Daran, J. M., and Daran-Lapujade, P. S. cerevisiae x S. eubayanus interspecific hybrid, the best of both worlds and beyond. FEMS Yeast Res 15(3). 2015.
3. Mertens, S., Steensels, J., Saels, V., De, Rouck G., Aerts, G., and Verstrepen, K. J. A Large Set of Newly Created Interspecific Saccharomyces Hybrids Increases Aromatic Diversity in Lager Beers. Appl.Environ.Microbiol. 81(23), 8202-8214. 2015.

Jan 082016

6 gallon fermentation bucketI never really questioned the 5-gallon standard prevalent among homebrewers.  That’s the size of the first kit I bought, and beyond doubling to 10 gallons every once in a while, I never tried out different batch sizes.  The 5-gallon standard is a standard for a reason.  The volume fits in readily available 6.5 gallon food-grade buckets and in 5-gallon glass or plastic carboys.  It also makes 2 cases of beer or completely fills a corny keg.

I’ve heard a lot about people brewing almost exclusively small, 1-gallon batches.  I’ve been intrigued for some time as to the allure of small batch brewing.  So when I received a gift for a 1-gallon brew kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop, I was excited to try it out.

Brooklyn Brew Shop’s Small Batch Kit

small batch brewing kitThe kit came with a 1 gallon glass fermenter, airlock, tubing, thermometer, tubing clamp, and sanitizer.  I was surprised that the kit was an all-grain recipe wother 2.5 lb of crushed grain.  I assumed most beginner’s kits are extract kits.  But I guess their rational is the batch size is small enough to mash in a stock pot.

Additional itemsBeyond what came with the kit, I needed a few extra items.  I decided to forgo the stock pot and used a small cooler as my mash tun.  I used an Erlenmeyer flask to measure the water, a strainer for straining the wort from the grain, and a stock pot to boil the wort.  I also grabbed a funnel for transferring wort into the fermentor.  Besides the flask, all these items are laying around most kitchens, and should make it easy for anyone to just whip up a small batch of beer with no need to invest in brewing equipment.  So far, this small batch brewing seemed like a great idea.

Brew Day

Small batch mashI mashed for an hour per the instructions, and strained the wort into the pot.  Apparently the cooler was not designed to pour liquid, and I created a mess by having wort stream down the side of it.  Not pleased that I lost some of my first runnings – strike one.  Especially since the total volume I collected was just over a half gallon.  At this scale, every ounce counts.  After cleaning up my mess I returned the grain to the cooler and batch sparked with another half gallon of water.  Again, transferring and straining the wort proved messy.  Nonetheless I got (almost) everything transfered.

Hazy wortAt this small scale and without the use of a false bottom, there really is no way to vorlauf.  So the wort you collect is a cloudy mess.  I tried to strain the wort back through the grain bed in the strainer, (per the instructions), but that did not clear up the wort – strike two.

Nonethless, I proceeded with the boil, added the 4 (yes 4) Columbus pellets, followed by the finishing hops.  After chilling the wort, I transfered it to the 1-gallon jug.


1 gallon batch of beerThe instructions say to fill to 1 gallon, but I left a little bit of headspace as I expected the yeast to foam.  However, even reducing the headspace some did not protect me from an overflowing mess – strike three.

high krausenAfter a couple days the foaming subsided and only lost a little beer.

When it was time to bottle after a couple weeks, I got to thinking if I really wanted to go through the hassle of bottling.  I had about 110 to 120 oz of beer/yeast cake.  I figured I would recover about 90% of the beer, thereby leaving me with 100 oz or about 8.5 bottles.  Was it worth the hassle of sanitizing 9 bottles and caps; dissolving, boiling, and cooling the 0.5 oz priming sugar; then filling the bottles that inevitably results in a sticky floor?  No, not for 8.5 bottles of beer.  I opted instead to transfer the beer into 2 2-L bottles and for carbonate from my kegging system.  Much simpler.

Final Thoughts

Overall I’m glad I tried small-batch brewing.  At least now I know what I’m not missing out on.  The amount of effort to brew 8.5 bottles of beer was not much less than to brew two to four cases of beer.  I can see this being an alternative way to make beer if you’re in an apartment, space is tight, and you’re stuck brewing on an electric stove.  But even then, it’s a lot of work to make a beer that you and a buddy could go through in a single evening.  Personally, I’m sticking with the 5-gallon standard.

Jan 052016

S. eubayanus brewing experiment medalsCurrently, there is very little information about brewing beer with S. eubayanus. A search of journal articles on Pubmed (retrieved February 2016) yields only two or three articles relevant to brewing with this yeast. I think this is mostly due to it not being readily available to the brewing community. The yeast can be obtained through a research-only license from PYCC, and is restricted to R&D purposes only. For that reason, only a few academic labs have published the fermentation experiments with this yeast, and there is no real-world information available from breweries.

A search of homebrewing forums and an in-depth Google search only finds a couple other homebrewers who have done anything with S. eubayanus. Bret Baker presented on his experience with the yeast at the 2014 National Homebrewers Conference. Kristoffer Krogerus co-authored two academic papers analyzing S. eubayanus, and his blog, Suregork Loves Beer, references a blonde ale he made. Both Bret and Kristoffer report similar results with their beers as I found when I brewed a German pils with the yeast.

When I tasted my eubayanus brew, I thought it was okay, but not great. That got me thinking that either this yeast just doesn’t make great beer or I just haven’t seen the yeast’s full potential.

With only three documented beers brewed with the yeast, there were still many unanswered questions: What are the optimal brewing parameters for this yeast?  What are the best mash time and temperature?  What is the optimal pitching rate?  Which hops work with the yeast?  Which malts?  What beer styles are best suited for this species?

I decided that more needs to be known about brewing beer with S. eubayanus. To obtain as much data as rapidly as possible, I enlisted the help of a couple guys and we decided to host a competition to encourage brewing of a diverse range of beers with S. eubayanus. This will allow us to see how this yeast performs in the real-world, not in a lab.

So how did this work? First, we partnered with White Labs to provide pure cultures of S. eubayanus. Everyone received a vial of yeast and could brew almost any beer they want, as long as S. eubayanus was the only yeast and maltose was the only fermentable. We then compiled the fermentation data to determine which factors contributed to the best fermentation conditions. The beers were judged in a BJCP-based competition so we could determine what styles of beer are best brewed with it. Further, White Labs performed detailed chemical analyses of the beers to determine the level of various flavor and aroma compounds in the beers.

The details of the experiment, as well as the results, will be featured in an upcoming issue of Zymurgy and will be presented at the 2016 National Homebrewers’ Conference. I will publish a summary after the article is released. In the meantime I am continuing to experiment with the yeast, so look for more posts in the future.

Continue reading for results of the experiment.


Nov 102014

S. eubayanus gorwing on a YPD agar plateI received a slant of Saccharomyces eubayanus (CBS 12357) from Bret Baker via a brew club member who was at NHC this past year. To be sure that I was using a clean, pure culture, I streaked a YPD plate for isolation. I then took 3 colonies and inoculated a few milliliters of 1.040 wort with them. Once they grew out, I pitched them into 200 mL of 1.040 unhopped wort, and allowed them to ferment around 70 degrees. I then put them in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. (I meant to just have them chill for only a couple days to allow the yeast to settle, but life got in the way of brewing… again.)

To be sure I wasn’t picking a mutated colony for my master cell bank, I tasted all of the clones and counted the number of cells and determined their viability. Each clone had a similar cell count and viability. The final gravity of each was also within one or two points of each other. As far as taste, all three tasted slightly different. They did not differ drastically from each other, just some minor differences in esters. It was so minor that I imagine if I split each clone three ways, I would taste the same variations within the same clone.

Now that I have my clone, I wanted to see how it performed in a beer. There are a couple studies that compared the fermentation of S. eubayanus with the lager yeast S. pastorianus. These were academic studies performed in the lab, and they provide some good data, but I really wanted to know how S. eubayanus tastes. I did find one other reference to brewing a beer with S. eubayanus, but that’s it.

So I scaled up clone 1 for side-by-side comparison with WLP838 Southern German Lager yeast. I inoculated 3 L of 1.040 wort from a 5 mL culture of S. eubayanus. After stirring for a few days, the starter was finished, and the cell count was 140e6 cells/mL. That’s right around the average cell counts I see for most of my ale and lager strains.

I brewed a German pilsner and split it equally between the two strains – 2.75 gallons each. I pitched equal amounts of yeast into each 3 gallon fermentor, and fermented at 50F.

S. eubayanus vs WLP838The WLP838 took off rather quickly, which I’ve seen before with this strain. The S. eubayanus lagged a day or two behind. By day 12, both beers were finished fermenting, and the yeast was mostly flocculated. I then moved them to room temperature for a couple days, tested for diacetyl (both were negative), and began lagering. After transferring the beers to secondary, I dropped the temperature 4F per day (2F in the morning, 2F in the evening), from 50F to 34F. Following 10 days at 34F, I primed each with 2.5 oz of dextrose and bottled. I kept other at room temperature for just over a week, then stored them at 34F to continue to lager.

Enough of the methods, here are the data. The starting gravity for each was 1.054. The final gravity for the WLP838 was 1.011, which translates to 80% attenuation and 5.7% ABV. S. eubayanus attenuated only 63% to 1.020 (4.5% ABV). This is constant with what has been reported in the literature, and is correlates to its inability to ferment maltotriose.

There was no difference in the appearance of the two beers. Both were brilliantly clear, and a Pale, straw yellow. The aroma for the WLP838 was typical of a German pils. The was some malty sweetness and a hint of hops, but overall very clean. S. eubayanus, on the other hand, had some notes of DMS, a very slight phenolic note, and perhaps acetaldehyde or an appley-ester aroma. Both beers were very similarly medium bodied, again surprising given the nine-point difference in the final gravity. The flavor of the WLP838 was typical of a German pils. It was very clean with a malty backbone, and a slight hint of hops. It was very balanced and easily drinkable. Despite the low attenuation, S. eubayanus did not taste sweet; WLP838 actually tasted a little sweeter. The S. eubayanus beer was very muddy. There was some DMS, slight apple-like esters (ethyl caprylate?), and a fair amount of hop bitterness. Overall it was not a balanced beer. It was reminiscent of a mass produced light lager or cream ale.

Although the beer was not as balanced as WLP838, it wasn’t not good, just not as good. With the right recipe, this strain may produce some excellent beer. It may be great for session beers. The low attenuation does not result in an overly sweet or heavy beer, and may provide the perfect balance for a light lager, a mild, or any other sessionable beer. It will be interesting to find out what influence different malts, temperatures, hops, fermentation times, etc. will have on the flavor and performance of S. eubayanus. Also, I lagered for a very short time, and I wonder what affect a longer time lagering will have. Will S. eubayanus clean up given more time?

There is a lot yet to learn about the brewing potential of S. eubayanus. I will do my best to post updates to my brewing with this new species.

Apr 262013

I’m starting to get geared up for the National Homebrewers Conference.  I’ve got my ticket, I’ve got the hotel reservation, the baby sitters are lined up.  Now I just need to get the beer ready.  I’m providing 2 kegs for my homebrew club, and time’s starting to run out.  I had better get brewing.  I decided to make my American amber Harvest Ale and try my hand at a schwarzbier.  The Harvest Ale needs a fresh hop flavor, so I’m holding off on brewing that until May. But the schwarzbier needs time for lagering, so I got brewing that right away.

Schwarzbier is a dark German lager.  It is smooth, a little malty, with a hint of roastiness.  It should not have burnt, acrid flavors like those found in a porter or stout. There is typically little hop flavor and aroma. If you’ve never had a schwarzbier, think along the lines of Yeungling Black & Tan mixed with Tröeg’s Sunshine Pils.  I think a lot of brewers make the mistake of misinterpreting the roastiness description as needing to add roasted barley.  The result is usually a lagered stout that is far too roasty for this style.  A good schwarzbier malt bill is actually very simple: pilsner malt, possibly munich/vienna malt, and dehusked carafa. The carafa provides the color and the slight roastiness found in this style.  Save the roasted barley for your stouts. Regarding the hops, shoot for about 25-30 IBU with an ounce or two of noble hops at the end of the boil if you’d like.
My recipe was quite simple. For an 11-gallon batch, I used 15 lbs Pilsner, 6 lbs Munich, and 1 lb dehusked Carafa III. For the hops, I used 14.5 IBU of Styrian Golding at first wort hopping, 14.5 IBU Magnum at 60 min, and 2 ounces of Spalt at 5 min. I used the Styrian Golding because I wanted a subtle floral character.  I intended to use Tettnanger, but my LHBS was out of them.  The yeast I chose was WLP 838 Southern German Lager Yeast.  I liked the flavor of it in my Pils, and I thought it would work well here.
Brew days don’t come around often for me, and I couldn’t justify brewing a beer to just give away.  With just a little more effort, and a borrowed 15 gal pot, I made an 11 gallon batch to split in two, keeping one for myself and sending one to NHC.  Since I can’t just split a batch and not provide some sort of variable (and since my fridge can really only hold one 5-gal bucket), I opted to ferment the two at different temperatures. I’ve often wondered just how much difference fermenting at low and high temperatures impacts a beer, and this is a perfect opportunity for me to test this. The NHC beer was fermented at 48°F, and my beer was fermented at basement temperature which was about 60°F.
Brew day went well, and I hit my numbers as expected.  The wort was split evenly by weight into two identical fermenters.  The worts were aerated by shaking for 5 minutes, followed by pitching the exact volume of yeast slurry into each.
To my surprise, the 60°F beer fermented in about 3 days.  That’s fast.  I let it sit for another week to clean itself up from any diacetyl or acetaldehyde.  The 48°F beer took a little longer at about 9 days to finish fermentation.  At this point I performed a diacetyl test on both.  The 48°F beer was a huge butter bomb, but there was not much in the 60°F.  That’s not surprising given it’s about a 5 days ahead of the 48°F beer.  After a few more days I kegged the 60°F beer, and started lagering it at 34°F.  I let the 60°F have a diacetyl rest of about a week, then again performed a diacetyl test.  This came out clean, so I kegged it and began lagering as well.
In a couple weeks I’ll do a comparison of the two in a blinded triangle test to see if I can really tell the difference between them.  I’ll keep you posted.
Apr 222013

Last night a couple guys from my homebrew club put together a nice tasting comparing different English hops. They made a simple bitter with Maris Otter and some crystal malt and single hopped 3 gallon batches to about 50 IBU at 60 and 10 min with 0.25 oz at flameout. It was a great way to taste how different and similar these hops are (without doing any work). Up for comparison were East Kent Golding, First Gold, Brewers Gold, Glacier, Challenger, and (to mix things up) Nelson Sauvin.  The tasting was done blind, and cups of each hop were also provided for reference. This was a great format to form an unbiased opinion of each hop.

The easiest hop to pick out was the Nelson Sauvin. It tasted nothing like the rest – and I don’t mean that in a good way. I can hands-down say I hate this hop. It tasted like cat urine-soaked newspaper. Horrible.
I very much enjoyed the Brewers Gold. It had a smooth and pleasant bitterness. The flavor and aroma were noticeably grassy with fresh-cut hay and a little bit of spice. It was not overpowering, and I think it would be perfect in an English IPA.
Challenger came across very grassy/hay-like in the aroma and finish. It had a nice bitterness, but the flavor was a bit too harsh. I think if the amount of hops at 10 and flameout were cut in half, it would be much better. Personally, I would use this only in bittering.
East Kent Golding was the most clean-tasting hop of the bunch. It was mildly spice, slightly earthy with some possible hints of black currants  It’s no wonder that almost 300 years ago it was remarked “that the Kentish Hop is equal to, if not exceeds all others.” (The London and Country Brewer, Part II, 2nd edition, page 47, 1736)
I found First Gold to taste almost identical to EKG. It had a little brighter flavor than EKG with a little more grassiness. But if I were to taste them separately, I could not tell the difference. Very good.
Glacier was my favorite of the evening. This was also very similar to EKG with some slight spiciness/earthiness, but it also had a bit of orange-citrus flavor that became more pronounced as it got warmer. The citrus was much more balanced and mild than the citrus flavor of American hops. Very good and very smooth.

While I was tasting these, I kept asking myself “How would I uses this hop?” They all were very good bittering hops, but I think the Brewers Gold, First Gold, and EKG make very good bittering hops since they all have a very smooth flavor even when added at late additions. There was no vegetal flavors or harsh hops bitterness in any of these samples.

Any of these three would make a good English Barleywine, as they provide a low flavor profile that would let the maltiness shine through, while providing a firm bitterness to balance any malty sweetness.

The Brewers Gold inspired me to make an English IPA. The spiciness and hay-like flavors would be perfect to add that English Hop character to an IPA.

I think I found a new favorite hop for English bitters. While had the classic English hop spiciness/earthiness it also had a nice citrus flavor to give something extra to an “ordinary” ordinary bitter. I think using this at 1 oz at 10 or 15 min and another ounce at flameout will give a bitter a nice, pleasant hop profile.

I highly recommend taking several similar hops, making some single hopped beers, and tasting the differences. It’s a great way to really understand what exactly the hops are contributing to your beer.

Mar 082013

Since I acquired a refrigerator from a neighbor I had been meaning to finally brew a lager. I had been putting off making one for some time, as brewing one can make brewer feel very vulnerable. There is your beer with nothing to hide any flaws. No roasted barely to counter balance any residual sweetness. No ale yeast to blame excess fruitiness. No excessive happiness to bury a poor malt backbone. It’s just you and your brewing techniques on display.

Feeling somewhat daunted, I enlisted the help of a master lager beer, Mark. We decided on a brewing 10 gallons of a German pils, then splitting the batch, hopping each differently. Both would be buttered with Magnum, but I would use Hersbrucker for flavor and aroma, and Mark would use Spalt. With a recipe in hand, I entered the seemingly elusive world of lagering.
The grain bill was pilsner malt with a touch of CaraPils. Since my water has a little bit of residual alkalinity, we added some acidulated malt to drop the calculated mash pH to about 5.2. Notice I said “calculated”. After adding the water, the mash temperature was perfect at 148F. This looked like it was going to be an easy one. Then we got out my pH meter. “Hmmm, 3.5 seems a little low.” Fortunately Mark brought his as well. Mine is a cheap $7 meter from Amazon. I had calibrated it at work, checking it against a real pH meter, and it was pretty good. But we got out Mark’s super fancy meter because my cheap pH meter had to be wrong. There couldn’t have been a miscalculation. “3.5”. Well, at least my pH meter works.
We reasoned that a low pH isn’t anything a little baking soda can’t fix, and a half tablespoon into 8.5 gallons of water plus malt sounded about right. After a good mixing, the pH had indeed risen – to 6.5. That couldn’t be right, and thought perhaps it wasn’t fully dissolved. We let it sit for about ten minutes, stirred and reread it. Still 6.5, are you freaking kidding me? Fortunately I had purchased lactic acid. Since just a little baking soda raised the pH so much, we slowly added 1 mL, stirred and reread. No change. We did it again. A little change. Then again, again, again, you get the idea. Finally, after an hour of this we hit 5.4. We did a starch conversion test, and dispute the screwy mash pH, everything converted. We drained the first runnings, added slightly acidified sparge water, and batch sparged.
After a thorough mixing of the first and second runnings, the wort was equally divided, boiled, hopped, and cooled. At least this part went smoothly. I kept my portion in my fridge at 55F overnight to cool the wort even more. The next day I pitched, set my fridge to 45 F, and let this ferment.
After a few weeks, fermentation had significantly slowed down, and i ramped up the temperature to 60 F for a diacetly rest. After a few day, I performed a diacetyl test. I took a small amount of beer, and divided it into two cups covered in foil. One was heated to 155 F for fifteen minutes, after which I removed the foil and smelled. Definite diacetyl. We used WLP838, which apparently throws off a lot of diacetyl. I let the beer at 60 F for a few more days, and tested it again. Still diacetyl. After a week, I tested it again. It was faint, so I left the beer at 60 F for a few more days. This time there was no diacetyl (and it tasted pretty good as well).
I racked to my keg, and moved it to 32 F for lagering. After a couple weeks I began carbonation. The yeast settled out after a couple weeks, and I pulled that off through the tap. It’s been two and a half months since brew day, and I can say the beer is quite good. It’s crisp, bitter, and refreshing. Comparing Mark’s beer and mine, I can say that the Hersbrucker I used gave mine a distinctively different flavor. It’s more floral, and some slight vegetal undertones.
Overall, I think the beer was a success. I’m not as bad of a brewer as I feared I was, and it turns out that lager brewing isn’t too much harder than brewing ales. As a wise man once said, “The waiting is the hardest part”.