Category Archives: Yeast

Cascade Falls Hefeweizen

Map to Cascade Falls from AbbotsfordThe Story

Summer time is coming, and to us, that means wheat beers. Wheat beers are little bit more tart than 100% barely beers, which makes them more thirst quenching in warm weather. Wheat beers are generally around 30% to 70% wheat, with the remaining percentage being barley. Hefeweizens are a German style of wheat beers. What makes them different is the yeast they use. Hefeweizen yeast adds banana, clove, pepper, citrus and sometimes bubblegum flavours to the beer. Also, because the yeast takes a long time to settle out of the beer (flocculation), the beer remains hazy.

Our hefeweizen is inspired by the grapefruit taste of cascade hops, and the Cascade Falls that are close to our brewery. We wanted to make a hefeweizen that was fruity, slightly sweet, and not too bitter. It is Cascadian in its flavour, but not in its bitterness. So we named it after the Cascade Falls that are close to our homebrewery. Also, water falls look pretty.

This is also our first time using White Lab yeast. We’ve never had access to White Lab yeast until a new hombrew store started up in Mission. So thanks to Fraser Valley Hop and Grain, we are able to expand our brewing horizons. Check them out if you are in the Fraser Valley area.

Cascade Falls In Mission

The Tasting

For the tasting, we felt like we should take the beer to Cascade Falls for the first taste. As it so often does in the Cascade region, is started raining, thus our hike up to the falls was quite damp, and cold. Was it worth it? Not really. But the pictures looked nice.

AJ Pouring Cascade Hefe

(AJ, while looking incredibly foolish, pouring the Cascade Falls Hefeweizen in the pouring rain.)

Appearance: It is a dark orange, darker than your average hefeweizen. (the picture makes the beer look much darker than it actually is, as it was a dark and cloudy day)
Aroma: There is a medium citrus hop aroma with some spices and banana as well. But the hop aroma dominates.
Taste: At first, there are flavours you expect from a hefewiezen, such as the banana and cloves, but there are strong citrus notes that come in later. There is a mildly sweet flavour, yet it linger quite sometime. The hop flavour exists, but it is very mild. There is no bitterness at all. If anything, the beer is too sweet, perhaps the CaraHelle malt should not have been added, or some bittering hops should been added.
Overall: This beer is a good combination of the yeast flavour from hefeweizen, and the Cascadian hops. It is easy drinking, yet lingers a while. It is a bit too sweet for our liking, but it is nice beer for summer heat. If we remake this, we will be adding considerably more cascade hops. The WL380 yeast leaves a very strong aroma and flavour, thus we are not concerned about cascade hops overwhelming the yeast flavour/aroma.

Cascade Falls Hefeweizen

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 66% extraction efficiency, ABV 5.7%, O.G. 1.056, IBU 10, single infusion mash for 100 minutes at 66 Celcius.

Grain Bill
We created a hefeweizen grain bill with a twist. We added a little bit of Munich Light and CaraHell to give the hefeweizen a little more flavour. Also, we mashed the beer for 100 minutes (instead to the normal 60 minutes). This, as well as a lower mash temperature of 66 Celsius, will result in a drier, less sweet beer. This is because the sugars in the beer broken down more, making them more fermentable. We wanted the sweetness of CaraHell malt to balance out the dryness of the beer.

wheatfieldGambrinus Wheat Malt: 7 lb (Obviously we need wheat in our beer. Malted wheat has less ‘wheat flavour’ than flaked wheat, but malted wheat is easier to mash. Wheat makes up 48% of this hefeweizen. Plus as the picture to the right shows, doesn’t wheat just look summery?)
Gambrinus Pale Malt: 6 lb (We need some pale malt to ensure we do not get a stuck sparge)
Gambrinus Munich Light: 1 lb (This malt just adds a little bit of malty depth to the beer. Makes the beer a little more interesting without adding too much colour)
CaraHell: 8 oz (This malt is similar to Carmel 15. We used it to add a little bit of sweetness to the beer)

Hop Schedule
This is where the beer gets a little more interesting. We used no bitter hops, meaning we didn’t boil any of the hops for longer than 30 minutes. Instead, we boiled our hops for less than 20 minutes. Also, instead of using a German hop like Hallertau that would add a delicate floral aroma, we used the classic Pacific Northwest hop Cascade to add a grapefruit flavour. This means the beer will be less bitter, but have more grapefruit flavour and aroma from the Cascade hops. Also, the IBUs of this beer will be low (around 10 IBUs).

Typically, hefeweizens only use very small amounts of Noble (or German) bittering hops, with no aroma and flavour hops. This allows the flavour of the hefeweizen yeast to be more noticeable.

hops2

(Dried cascade hops waiting to be added to the beer)

20 minutes: 0.5 oz Cascade (These hops will add grapefruit and citrus flavour to the beer. Also, some of the acid from the hops will add some bitterness to the beer.)
5 minutes: 0.5 oz Cascade (These hops add a strong grapefruit aroma to the hefeweizen. We didn’t want to add too many hops because we wanted some of the aroma hefeweizen yeast to be noticeable.)

Boiling Hops

(Boiling the hops in the beer, with a thermometer floating in the middle)

Fermentation
We used White Labs’ WL380 Hefeweizen yeast. Appearently this yeast will add apricot and citrus flavours. So to us, that sounded fantastic. We don’t really know too much about fermenting hefeweizens. The fermentation of a hefeweizen is very important, because hefeweizens get most of the their flavour from the yeast. We only let the beer ferment for 11 days, because some people say hefeweizens are just enjoyed young, when the yeast is still active.

Primary Fermentation: 11 days at 19 Celcius

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French Farmhand Witbier

BC farm sceneThe Story

We are in a saison making mood, mainly because we have saison yeast sitting in jars, waiting to be used. However, we were also in the mood for a witbier, with all its lovely orange zesty flavours. So we combined the two. All the ingredients are similar to a witbier: lots of flaked wheat, orange peel, coriander, and very few hops. But we fermented the beer with a French saison yeast, which should add peppery and citrusy flavours. We are hoping for a citrusy, tart beer and hints of pepper and oak from the yeast. This will be a nice beer to have in the fridge as we get closer to summer. It likely won’t last that long, because AJ is a witbier drinking fiend.

The Tasting

Appearance: A light, hazy beer, with a very strong head. AJ is colour blind, so he claims it has an orange hue. He is clearly has no idea what he is talking about.
Aroma: A punget aroma full of wheat, spice and citrus. It is amazing how much the saison yeast and coriander bring out the orange aroma. A slightly tart and yeasty smell as well.
Taste: Starts off tart, but the orange flavour comes in right after. Hints of lemon and oak as well. There are a lot of flavours, but they all work together very well. Thick body from the wheat, but is still very refreshing.
Overall: This is a fantastic beer, assuming you like witbiers. It has a very traditional witbier flavour, like Hoegaarden, but with a twist. When you really think about the flavour, you notice the lemon, oak and pepper. But they blend in so well with the rest of the flavours you might not even notice them. We don’t often recommend people brew the recipes we create, but this is an exception. If you like witbiers, but want to try something a little different, make this recipe. Or, if you live close to us (or know us personally), ask to try some. We will most certainly be brewing more batches of this.

French Witbier

Also, AJ is proud that this beer was the first beer his near-brother Braydon ever consumed. A ringing endorsement for sure. It was also popular with those at the stag of AJ’s other near-brother Greg; however, this was most certainly not their first beer.

The Process

Specifics: 23 litre batch, 64% extraction efficiency, ABV 5.5%, O.G. 1.045, IBU 14, step mash: 20 minutes at 56 Celsius; 50 minutes at 67 Celsius.

Grain Bill
We just made a fairly simple grain bill. A typical grain bill for a witbier is 50% Pilsen malt, 50% flaked wheat. We tried to follow that model, but made some changes.

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 5 lb (Pilsen malt is generally preferred, but we did not have any)
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 4 lb (We did not have enough flaked wheat, so we replaced it with wheat malt. Plus this looks like more of a middle ground between a witbier recipe and saison recipe? We convinced ourselves of that.)
Flaked Wheat: 3 lb (This cleared out our supply of flaked wheat. Now we need to head off to Dan’s Homebrew store to buy some more)

Mash Schedule
Normally, we just do a single infusion mash, meaning we keep the temperature of the grain in the mash tun at one temperature (normally for 60 minutes). This is simple, and it works well with today’s malts, which are well modified and don’t need things like protein rests, beta gluten rests, alpha gluten rests (We admit, we don’t really know what those are, but we have read a lot about them in Brewing Better Beer and How to Brew.)

However, something we’ve always noticed is a huge decrease in our efficiency when making wheat beers. Normally we have an extract efficiency around 85% (meaning we get 85% of the sugar out of the grain), but with wheat beers we normally drop to around 65%. We’ve tried crushing the wheat twice; mashing for a really long time; higher temperatures; lower temperatures. For this batch, we tried using a step mash, hoping this would increase our efficiency.

20 minutes at 56C (This is a protein rest, and it is supposed to help break down unmalted grain, like flaked wheat)
50 minutes at 67C
(This is just our regular temperature for a single infusion mash, converting the starch to sugar)

For the record, reaching different temperatures in a mash tun that is not directly heat (aka it isn’t on a burner, thus we cannot just turn up the temperature) is a huge pain. We had to start off with a very thick mash, and then add more water later to increase the temperature.

Mash at 56Mash at 67
(Left: A very thick mash in the mash tun before adding water. Right: A thinner mash after adding water)

Sadly, none of this increased our efficiency, as our extract efficiency was 64%. Maybe it will improve flavour? Let’s hope it was not all for naught. We should probably do some (poorly conducted) experiment to see if there is any noticeable difference in taste between a witbier with a single infusion mash, and a witbier with a multi-step mash.

Hop Schedule
Saaz hops are the classic witbier hop, but we had Ultra hops (similar to Saaz) with higher AA%.

60 minutes: 0.5 oz Ultra (Just a little bit of hops to balance out the sweetness of the malt. We added no flavour or aroma hops, this will allow flavour of the spices and yeast to dominate the beer)
5 minutes: 1 oz Bitter Orange Peel, 1 oz Coriander Seeds Cracked (We just threw the spices in (instead of putting them in a hop bag). So they sat in the beer as it was cooling for 20 minutes. This might result in a very strong spice flavour)

Fermentation
1 litre starter from harvested Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast. This is the third use (third generation) of this yeast.
Primary Fermentation: 14 days at 20C

French Wit Yeast Starter(The 1 litre yeast starter)

Winter Harvet Saison

The Story

winter-hay-bales-keith-burgessDespite brewing for over 2 years, we have not experimented much with yeast. We’ve stuck pretty close to yeast that produces English and American style ales. Nottingham dry yeast has been a mainstay in our brewery, while occasionally using liquid yeast such as Wyeast American Ale and Wyeast Irish Ale.

We wanted to experiment with Wyeast 3711 French Saison yeast, so we decided to make a saison (a so-called farmhouse ale because many farmers in Belgium would brew this beer to quench the thirst of the people working on their land). But to better identify the differences between Wyeast French Saison yeast and Nottingham yeast, we made a 34 litre (9 gallon) batch of beer, and fermented half of it with the Wyeast French Saison, the other half with the Nottingham yeast. We expect dramatic differences. Saisons typically have spicy, peppery and citrus taste, which is caused by the yeast. On the other hand, Nottingham yeast ferments very clean, meaning you cannot really taste any flavours from the yeast; this allows the flavours from the malt and hops be more noticeable.

The Tasting

French Saison Yeast

Appearance: Quite clear. Very strong head. Carmely colour.
Aroma: Lemony and tart, with a little bit of pepper.
Taste: Has a tart flavour followed by a lot of citrus and herby favour. Hints of oak and heavy biscuit body. Light hints of carmel and honey sweetness.
Overall: Very good beer. Has a nice tart flavour that makes it refreshing for spring. Since this was our first saison, we were most likely overcome by how different this beer is. Thus we probably did not notice all the smaller flaws. However, we did drink a Driftwood Farmhand Saison to compare with our saison. Our saison was most was considerably more flavourful, with flavours of lemon, oak, pepper, honey. Diftwood’s saison was mainly just peppery and bitter. Likely this is due to using different type of saison yeast. Our saison isn’t necessarily better, it just has more flavours. That being said, we really like this beer.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 9.06.06 PM

(Nottingham ale on the left, Saison on the right)

Nottingham Ale Yeast

Appearance: Slightly more hazy than the saison. Oaky colour. Very strong head as well.
Aroma: Slightly hoppier than the saison, with an earthy aroma. Yet also very malty
Taste: Initially quite a bland flavour, yet when swallowed more of the hop and malt flavour comes through. It is almost like a dark beer, with a light colour. It is very heavy and rich with a strong sweet flavour.
Overall: A heavier beer than the saison, as the Nottingham yeast did not eat nearly as much sugar as the saison yeast. It is an ok beer, but it seems very boring next to the saison. The flavours are limited to malty, sweet and light hops. It an interesting comparison to the French Saison yeast, because it shows much of a difference yeast makes in a beer. Furthermore, the French Saison yeast produced a beer that seems best for spring and summer because of its refreshing qualities, while the Nottingham yeast produced a heavier beer that is best suited for fall and winter because of its heavy, malty qualities.

The Process

Specifics: 34 litre batch, 87% extraction efficiency, French Saison Yeast ABV 6.6% Nottingham Ale Yeast ABV 6%, O.G. 1.054, IBU 25, single infusion mash at 66 Celsius for 60 minutes

Grain Bill
We had really no idea what to put in a saison, as we had never made one (to please feel free to leave comments about what grains you like to put in your saison). However, we did want to avoid carmel malts. Our reason was we didn’t want toffee and carmel flavours in our saison; we wanted to yeast to shine. Perhaps this wasn’t the best choice, but we wanted to start fairly basic with our saison.

Gambrinus Pale Malt: 10.5 lb (We have no Pilsen malt, as that seemed to be the suggested base malt for saisons)
Gambrinus Munich Light: 2.25 lb (This only made up 14% of grain bill, as we wanted a little malty characteristic balance the beer. We’ve generally found the beers without a little Munich Light boring)
Gambrinus Wheat Malt: 1.5 lb (It seemed most saison recipes had some wheat in them, so we threw some in just for good measure)
Flaked Barley: 12 oz (We added flaked barley to everything to increase body and head. Saison’s apparently are supposed to be quite light in body, but that didn’t stop us!)
Belgian Biscuit: 12 oz (We’ve never used it before. Plus there was ‘Belgian’ right in the title. We had to use it)
Gambrinus Honey Malt: 6 oz (Honey malt is pure love. It must be added to everything)

RobertandOliver

(Robert and our brewing compadre, Oliver, grinding grain. When the grain bill gets too large, the drill comes out, because our arms are too weak to grind the grain by hand.)

Hop Schedule
Our incredibly brief and remarkably un-thorough internet research told us that English hops and Saaz were the preferred hops for a saison.

60 minutes: 1.8 oz Willamette (Our Willamette has an AA% of 7.8%, so they worked as bitter hops. Willamette hops are not really English hops, but they were the closest thing we had)
15 minutes: 0.75 oz Saaz (We wanted a little flavour from the Saaz, though 15 minutes is arguably too long to boil Saaz)
2 minutes: 0.75 oz Saaz (We wanted a little spicy/floral Saaz aroma)

Fermentation
IMG_20130112_153134We put 17 litres of the wort into each fermenter. In one the fermenter, we pitched the Nottingham Ale Yeast. In the other fermenter, we pitched Wyeast French Saison Yeast. We did not ferment them at the same temperature (as the saison yeast likes it hot, between 18-25 Celsius).

Nottingham Batch
Primary fermentation: 16 days.
Fermented at 17 Celcius

French Saison Batch
Primary fermentation: 15 days.
Fermented at 20 Celcius (apparently this is a bit cold for the yeast, but it was as warm as we could get the house in the winter without spending tonnes of money on a heating bill)

saionsbeforebottling

(Just before bottling: Saison batch on the left, Nottingham batch on the right. The saison batch is actually slightly clearer)

Pitching on a Yeast Cake

Yeast can be expensive. Liquid yeast from Wyeast and White Labs costs between $6 – $20 (depending on your location). As frugal people, we like to reuse our yeast. There are two ways to do this: pitching on the yeast cake or yeast washing. We often prefer pitching on the yeast cake. The yeast cake is all the gunk that is left at the bottom of your primary fermenter. Don’t throw that yeast out; it can be reused.

How to Pitch on a Yeast Cake

The beauty of pitching on a yeast cake is it’s simplicity.

Step 1: Remove (rack) beer from the primary fermenter
Maybe you are bottling the beer, maybe you are transferring it to a secondary. It doesn’t matter. Just remove the beer. Ensure that nothing unsanitized touches the beer, the inside of the fermenter or the yeast cake.  Once the beer is out the primary, the yeast cake is exposed. Put the lid/airlock back into the primary fermenter to seal it. Try to make sure the yeast cake is exposed to the open air as little as possible. This reduces the chance of infection.

primarybeer(A French Witbier waiting to be racked out of the fermenter for bottling)

Optional Step: Remove the remaining the beer
If there is beer still remaining in your fermenter, you can dump it out.

yeastcake(Yeast cake at the bottom of the primary fermenter. Don’t take pictures of your yeast cake; you have more important things to do)

Step 2: Add new beer to the fermenter
Just pour/siphon the new beer onto the yeast cake. The yeast in the yeast cake should be more than happy to start fermenting another beer (unless you’ve abused the yeast in some way, then the yeast will get back at you by making your beer taste awful)

Note: The more air and foreign material the yeast cake is exposed to, the greater the risk of infection. This does not mean an infection is bound to happen, but be aware there is a risk.

Pros:

  • Save money
    • You can use one yeast packet to ferment multiple beers, saving you the cost of buying new yeast.
  • No need for a starter
    • There is a very high yeast cell count in a yeast cake, which allows it to ferment nearly any beer without stressing the yeast. We often put our high gravity beers (Original Gravity higher than 1.070) on yeast cakes.
  • Less esters/fusels
    • This is related to the previous comment. Since the yeast cell count is so high, the yeast does not have to reproduce as much, producing less yeasty flavours that may be undesirable depending on beer style
  • Simpler than yeast washing
    • Yeast washing is another technique for reusing yeast. It requires you to remove the dead yeast cells from the living yeast cells. It is a very useful techinque. However, it is more time consuming and requires more caution to prevent potential infections. We wash our yeast if we are concerned the previous beer (if it is very dark or hoppy) will impart unwanted flavours t0 our new beer.
  • Ferments very quickly
    • Since there is so much yeast in a yeast cake, there is nearly no lag time. We’ve had beers finish the fermentation stage within 24 hours. It might be necessary to use a blow-off tube because the fermentation is so vigorous

Cons:

  • Increased risk of infection
    • Anytime you open up your fermenter, you are at risk of infection. However, this is a risk that can be managed. If you have good sanitation practices, this should not be a concern for you. If you have poor sanitation practices, you should probably not pitch on a yeast cake; you probably should not make beer either.
  • Less esters (over-pitching)
    • Repitching on the yeast cake is not recommended if you want flavour from the yeast. It is difficult to know how many yeast cells are in your yeast cake, making over-pitching very likely. Generally, we are not concerned with over-pitching because we rarely want yeasty flavours (we brew so few Belgian/German styles).
  • Off flavours from dead yeast cells
    • The yeast cake contains a lot of dead yeast cells. These cells can start to affect the flavour of your beer if you reuse the yeast too many times or you let the yeast cells sit in the fermenter too long. However, this should not be an issue if you reuse the yeast just a couple times. We’ve never had an issue with this, but we generally do not use a yeast cake more than 2 times. We recommend not keeping the same yeast cake for more than 5 weeks. Also, do not pitch onto a yeast cake that was used to ferment a high alcohol beer. High alcohol stresses the yeast, and can result in off flavours.
  • Time constraints
    • A yeast cake with no beer on top of it should be used as soon as possible. We don’t like to let it sit for more than a day before pouring another beer on to it (some people say it can be kept for several days if it has a thin layer of beer to covering it, but we have never tried this).
  • Flavour from the previous beer
    • There are two factors to keep in mind to prevent this problem: colour and hoppiness
      • Do not ferment a light coloured beer on the yeast cake of a dark beer, or you will have dark flavours in your light coloured beer.
      • Do not ferment a un-hoppy beer on the yeast cake of a hoppy beer, or you will have hoppy flavours in your un-hoppy beer.

Our position is the pros outweigh the cons (as most of the cons can be mitigated). But that is for you to judge. We don’t think this technique necessarily makes better beer (unless you really don’t want esters), but it does make more efficient beer: spending less money on yeast, and fermenting the beer more quickly. These issues may not be of primary concern to you as a homebrewer, but they are things to consider nonetheless.