I don’t know enough about yeast, yet. I have White & Zainisheff’s book – Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation, and I should make an effort to read it through. Instead, I rely on yeast to do its thing – and do as many homebrewers do – focussing on the possibilities available through hops; malted barley and other adjuncts. This is not to say there aren’t homebrewers who aren’t students of yeast, nor is it to say that all commercial brewers would pass Pasteur’s inspection, were he around today. Yeast is often something brewers pitch nonchalantly into their precious hopped- wort, hoping that it doesn’t muck everything up after 8 hours of toil.
I’ve used liquid yeasts, and have experimented with pitching directly from the vial, and with making yeast starters. My enthusiasm for liquid yeast has only waned because there is a need to plan ahead i.e. identifying a brew day, and working back 48-72 hours (or whatever the time required) to grow your yeast big enough for the intended wort. My brewdays happen on a whim. I see a break in the clouds, and go for it. Like many other homebrewers, this means that I rely on dried yeast. Yeast that will happily sit in it’s foil packet, high up in the fridge, alongside the parmesan cheese; eggs and a chocolate supply the kids can’t reach. Yeast that will be ready for action at a moments notice. Yeast that is reliable, and that will point it’s finger at you should the beer go wrong. I am of course talking about Fermentis Safale US-05, an American ale yeast which – in the right quantities – will make short work of even high-gravity worts, and won’t interfere with the flavours and aromas you hope to achieve in your blonde, pale, IPA, porter, stout etc. There are many other dry yeast strains available, but in my opinion, few can offer the reliability and ability to be sympathetic to fairly uncontrolled fermentation temperatures. It’ a gem.
I shop for most of my homebrewing ingredients and sundries from The Malt Miller, and noticed they now sell their own West Coast Style ale yeast. I bought a sachet, and used it in a recent brew. I also brewed another beer a couple of days later, and pitched my usual US-05. While this is not a scientific comparison (different recipes, no temp control etc), I thought it would be interesting to blog something anecdotal about their performance, not least because of a comment I received on the West Coast Ale Yeast – from Bob Arnott (@RecentlyDrunk).
I followed this up with Bob, and he added a little more context:
“It started slow, took a few days to krausen and then took it’s time to chomp to FG. I had the brew fridge set at 19C +/- 1C”
And then another comment from Anthony Davies (@ploddingonwards):
“Isn’t Malt Miller West Coast basically [DANSTAR] BRY-97 [American West Coast Beer Yeast]? Eats hops but attenuates like nobodies business”
Here’s how they compared:
Brew date Yeast OG SG 23/04 SG 27/04 SG 29/04
19/04 Malt Miller West Coast Style 1.072 1.040 1.021 1.020
21/04 Fermentis Safale US-05 1.042 1.039 1.020 1.009
I took another gravity reading this morning and the Malt Miller yeast is stuck at 1.020. As suggested by a few folk on Twitter, I’ll get hold of some US-05 and pitch that. In the meantime, I’ve gently roused the beer in the FV.
There is no reason why another brew, different temps, OG, etc. might suit the Malt Miller West Coast Ale Yeast, but I’ll be sticking with US-05 for the foreseeable. Although, I might give the Wyeast American Ale 1056 a chance too.
Comments welcome below, or on Twitter (that’s usually the easiest way). I’m aware this isn’t the most thorough of posts, given the complexity of the subject, but hopefully a decent topic for discussion.