Dried American Ale Yeast

wpid-2014-05-02-10.14.20.jpg.jpegI 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.


13 thoughts on “Dried American Ale Yeast

  1. Very interesting read. I know the basics of beer – taste etc – but am mainly concerned with how to drink it not how to make it. Yeast seems to be something that makes a beer though, the binding ingredient, the unsung hero. We should praise the yeast more.
    So to Hops i say this “you taste mighty fine but stop being a selfish bastard and let the yeast take some of the lime light”. Release the yeast!

  2. Just a bit more context. I find that US-05 tends to hit terminal gravity in 5 to 6 days (brew fridge @ 18°C), the NBS West Coast Style Ale Yeast took 10 days to hit terminal (brew fridge @ 19°C). Having said that, the latest brew with US-05 looks like it hit terminal after 7 days or so…

  3. Pitch calculations suggest at best you needed 14g of MMWCS & only 8g of US-05 for the respective OG’s. Therefore 22% under pitch and a 27% over pitch, respectively if you used 11g on each pitch.
    Also attenuation rates differ MMWCS 70-75%, US-05 75-80%.
    Apparant attenuation on the data above MMWCS 71% and US-05 78%, so pretty true to form.
    I would suggest with the correct pitch rates your MMWCS beer would stop around 1017 about right for a 7.4% ABV (*style dependent).
    Dry yeast are great for homebrewers (and many smaller commercial brewers) but need to be pitched at the right rates and follow the manufacturers recommendations of pitching method to ensure consistent results.

  4. Great write up! Pretty much exactly the same as me in terms of time to brew and organisation, US-05 most times for my regular hoppy IPAs. It’s reliable and I don’t want to risk something going wrong!
    I will read my Yeast book too at some point…

  5. Interesting subject and something we all experiment with as brewers. I have tinkered with starters, smack packs, vials and yeast washing, some of which I still use depending on the beer I’m making, but the old reliable us- 05 does the job just as well and a little cheaper 😉

  6. The yeast is the real brewer! I don’t think it’s a bad thing when they are slow fermenters – provided you didn’t under pitch! Note that liquid yeasts can be re-pitched several times…
    I have to admit that I am way more interested in what happens during the cold phase. It’s worth the effort!
    There are some temperamental yeast strains out there, but boy can they be rewarding once one gets to know them! I’d persist a little and keep on going w the same one for a few brews…

  7. If it is BRY-97, then watch out for diacetyl. Be sure to leave it a good few days after it reaches final gravity for it to clean it up. I’ve had diacetyl problems that after everything else was looked at can only be attributed to lazy yeast. Haven’t had the same problems with US-05.

  8. I just posted the following into google NBS West Coast yeast vs Safale US05 and who pops up top!!!

    Although i would be tempted to brew the same brew twice using the different yeasts to see if i can notice a difference in taste, but with no temp controller etc, I doubt i’d have a scientific comparison.

    Now i can save myself £5 on my malt miller Grist as I have a ton of packs of Safale in my fridge, cheers Broadford


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