By Sam Tierney, Firestone Walker QC Brewer
I could open with some cliché about yeast making beer and brewers making wort—it always feels so appropriate when I cover yeast in this column, but you’ve heard that one already. Put another way, yeast is the most complex and important ingredient/partner in the brewing process. Most of the flavor of beer is derived from the activity of yeast, and utilizing yeast to the greatest effect is one of the most crucial parts of good brewing. The holy grail of fermentation is adding the proper amount of healthy, pure yeast to properly oxygenated wort at the proper temperature. Easier said than done.
Part of the incredible growth of the brewing industry in San Diego has been due to the presence of White Labs, one of the industry’s leading yeast laboratories. White Labs maintains and sells an incredible array of yeast strains for brewing, winemaking, and distilling, as well as providing brewers with analytical laboratory services and products. At the Craft Brewers Conference in April, White Labs announced a newly revised system of yeast propagation and packaging, called FlexCell and PurePitch, which is the result of five years of research into a more streamlined and effective system of growing and packaging yeast.
A single-celled fungus, yeast reproduces by asexual budding. Daughter cells bud off of mother cells in a continuous process while exposed to food and nutrients. This exponential growth leads to a very fast rate of genetic drift in populations. Breweries are all too familiar with this drift. Depending on how they harvest and store yeast for use in subsequent batches of beer, the fermentation characteristics of the yeast strain continue to evolve until beer character noticeably changes, or yeast harvesting becomes too difficult to continue.
To counter this drift, breweries tend to only reuse their yeast a certain number of times. Some strains can only be used several times, while others can be used a dozen or more times. Some breweries that practice open fermentation and harvest from the top of the actively fermenting beer are able to continue to use their yeast almost indefinitely, as this method tends to place little stress on the yeast. These days, most brewers harvest yeast at the end of fermentation by taking it from the bottom of closed cylindroconical tanks. At the end of fermentation, most yeast strains flocculate (clump together) and fall to the bottom of the tank. The resulting yeast slurry is like a creamy milkshake that can be collected in a smaller vessel and stored until it is needed in the next batch of beer. The problem is that this bed of yeast is stressed by its location under all of that beer and starts to die in a short amount of time. Yeast must be harvested and reused in a short amount of time to ensure the best health and fermentation of subsequent batches.
When a brewery decides to start back at a new yeast culture, they have several options. Many larger breweries maintain mother cultures in-house and can propagate a new pitch themselves. Others acquire their yeast from other breweries. The most common method these days is to purchase a yeast pitch from a lab like White Labs, Wyeast, or GigaYeast. Breweries can buy a yeast slurry directly from these labs that can then be pitched into a batch of beer.
No matter how a pitchable quantity of yeast is acquired, the method of propagation is roughly the same. Yeast cultures are stored frozen, which halts genetic drift in the mother cells. The lab will select a colony of cells from the original culture and then add this to a small amount of sterilized wort. This process is done under sterile lab conditions as any contamination at this point in the process will lead to an unusable yeast culture. For healthy growth, oxygen is added to the fermenting starter beer, which the yeast utilizes to build new cell membranes. After several increasingly large growth steps in the lab, you have enough yeast to ferment a small batch of beer. Yeast labs will then continue to grow their strains to package for breweries, and breweries might step the yeast up further with small starter batches of wort in the brewery, eventually growing enough for a full-scale batch of beer.
White Labs’ new FlexCell process changes this system in that the yeast propagation now takes place in a single vessel instead of multiple lab vessels and brewery tanks. This allows them to save large amounts of water, energy, plastics and chemicals in cleaning and sanitizing multiple vessels, leading to a more environmentally friendly process. It also reduces possible points of contamination during transfer to subsequent vessels. Once propagation is finished, the containers are divided into smaller amounts that then become the PurePitch packaging that is sent to breweries. This results in yeast cultures that have been in one closed, sterile environment from start to finish. This process eliminates the riskiest part of growing yeast, which is the transfer to new vessels. The new PurePitch packaging also differs from the old plastic bottle packaging in that it is a flexible, breathable package, eliminating carbon dioxide buildup, which is detrimental to yeast health. Breweries will see a rollout of the new packaging this month, but White Labs is still looking into utilizing it for its homebrew packaging, which remains the same for now.
The Bistro’s Double IPA festival began in 2000, and has since become one of the staple events of San Francisco Beer Week.
Several SoCal breweries, listed in bold below, received plaudits:
People’s Choice Awards
Benefiting the Claremont Educational Foundation, Dale Bros Brewery’s 11th anniversary party is happening January 25, 2014 from 1 – 5 p.m. (or 12 – 5 if you buy a VIP ticket).
More than 25 breweries will be on hand, along with food vendors, games and more at Cable Airport in Upland, CA.
VIP tix, which include a keepsake glass, preferred parking and a meet-the-brewer event, are $50, while general admission is $40.
Designated drivers and kids under 21 pay $10.
Tickets are +$5 at entrance.
Visit this link for more information and to buy tickets.
Boulder, CO • November 12, 2013 – The American Homebrewers Association (AHA)—the not-for-profit trade association serving as a resource and community for homebrewers—released results of a first-ever nationwide homebrewer survey today, a break-down of demographics, brewing habits and shopping behaviors of American homebrewers.
According to the survey, there are an estimated 1.2 million homebrewers in the United States, two-thirds of who began brewing in 2005 or later.
“The homebrewing community is in every corner of the country and highly engaged in this hobby,” said Gary Glass, director, American Homebrewers Association. “From the amount of money spent on supplies to the sheer number of homebrewers, it’s clear this is a growing trend and people are incredibly interested in learning about and making their own brews at home.”
Survey results include:
· Demographics: The average homebrewer is 40 years old, with most (60 percent) falling between 30 and 49 years old. The majority of homebrewers are married or in a domestic partnership (78 percent), have a college degree or some form of higher education (69 percent), and are highly affluent—nearly 60 percent of all homebrewers have household incomes of $75,000 or more.
· Location: Homebrewers are fairly evenly spread across the country, with the slight plurality congregated in the West (31 percent), followed by the South (26 percent), Midwest (23 percent) and the fewest in the Northeast (17 percent).
· Production: In terms of brew production, homebrewers mainly stick to beer—60 percent of respondents only brew beer at home, compared to wine, mead or cider. AHA members and people affiliated with the AHA on average brewed nearly 10 batches of beer per year, at 7 gallons a batch, which is 15 percent more batches and nearly 30 percent more volume than homebrewers who were not affiliated with the AHA. Collectively, homebrewers produce more than 2 million barrels of brew a year, which represents a small but sizeable portion (1 percent) of total U.S. production.
· Retail: Nearly all homebrewers (95 percent) shop in two local homebrew stores eight or nine times a year, while a majority (80 percent) also shops in three online stores five times a year. On average, homebrewers spend $800 a year—about $460 on general supplies and ingredients, and $330 on major equipment.
The survey was completed by more than 18,000 homebrewers via an online survey from July 30 to September 3, 2013. Of the respondents, 65 percent were members of the AHA, and 35 percent were unaffiliated homebrewers.
Information obtained via press release. Read about the American Homebrewers Association here.
View all the pictures from Saturday’s event over on our Facebook page.
About The Full Pint:
Located in Southern California, The Full Pint is able to taste and enjoy some of the most unique brews on the planet. Our quest to bring you the best of beer is not limited to California, but wherever there is beer to drink. Read on about how we got started, as well as an introduction to the members of the team.
Founders Jon and Dan are guys who enjoy beer, and don’t like to go to work everyday for the man. Both working in the IT field, Dan and Jon had this nightmare of answering questions, and fixing broken computers for the rest of their lives, so thinking up a way out of the rat race was a constant conversation. We decided to take our love of good beer, and put it online for people to enjoy with the goal of having content so good, advertisers would be enticed to share some space with us. In executing this plan, we found out we were here to serve a new set of customers, ones not asking computer questions, but ones who make CRAFT BEER.
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The Full Pint Team
This site wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and inspiration from these passionate craft beer lovers, who give their unique perspective. Click on their names to go to their archive of work.
Dan aka Danny Fullpint – Co-Founder/Chief Beer Drinker Dan is a student of the craft beer game. Dan provides tasting notes, a semi-regularly updated opinion blog and first hand craft beer industry news. Blood brothers with Jonny.
Jon aka Jonny Fullpint – Co-Founder/Chief Beer Drinker Jon is the smoother side of The Full Pint. If you think this site looks good, thats because of Jonny’s eye for style, photography and the magic touch of web development. While not a hop head like Dan, you could warm up to him quickly by getting him a glass of Speedway Stout or Old Numbskull.
Arne Frantzell – The guy who makes those Tomme cartoons. Arne Frantzell was publishing his craft beer lampooning Trouble Brewing series over at The Hop Press. I asked him if he’d be interested in working with us partially, and from there we decided The Full Pint is a place Trouble Brewing can call home.
Frances Lopez aka Franny Fullpint – Through some local events here in Southern California, we met this young Hollywood Rockstar named Frances. Frances isn’t limited to beer, food and wine events in Los Angeles, she might pop up anywhere to weigh in on her experience at an event.
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