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Old 01-31-2011, 03:05 PM   #1
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Default British Yeasts, Fermentation Temps and Profiles, CYBI, Other Thoughts...

I love British ales and a large portion of my time as a homebrewer has been dedicated to trying to recreate the beers I tasted in the UK. I've made great leaps in the right direction, but I'm still not 100% where I want to be. The biggest problem has been a lack of that really unique malt character many british ales seem to have. I've done all the right things (english malts, english yeasts, english water profiles, etc.) but have never been able to nail it. An interesting observation I've made though is that many times a hydrometer sample right at the end of fermentation has had that malt flavor and the esters I was looking for. Then I would let the beer sit for another couple of weeks to "clean up" and the beer would end up with a much flatter malt character and reduced esters.

Then I listened to the Fuller's brew and rebrew episodes on Can You Brew It? and learned that Fuller's (and perhaps other British brewers?) are using a very regulated fermentation temp profile that the CYBI? folks discovered makes a big difference in malt expression of the final beer. Essentially, you pitch on the cool side (I guess to reduce fusels and other bad stuff), allow the temp to rise slightly in the first 12 hours or so (to get some esters and possibly reduce some diacetyl), then when the beer is about halfway attenuated you cool it back down to about pitching temp (to somehow help the malt character?) and then when the beer is at 1/4 to 1/5 OG to rapidly chill it to a cold temperature (to prevent the beer from cleaning up all the nice flavors it has created I guess).

Could this be the way for me to achieve the malt character I'm looking for in my british-style homebrews? Possibly. The only concern I have is that the yeasts I would use for this (Fullers strain and Ringwood) have always had attenuation problems for me. I'm worried that while waiting for the beer to attenuate it will clean up the flavors I'm attempting to save. I could always pitch a huge starter, but wouldn't that also limit the yeast flavors? And the Fuller's strain will drop out of the beer so fast without help, that if I start chilling the beer it seems like it would only exacerbate the problem.

I'm going to give it a try though, and I have really high hopes for it. Has anyone else attempted anything like this or noticed the "british" flavors being cleaned up when you leave a beer on the yeast at ferment temps for longer than fermentation lasts? I'd like to hear opinions, experience and thoughts on the subject. I really feel like this could be the breakthrough I need to get these beers to turn out right.

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Old 01-31-2011, 09:22 PM   #2
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I believe this has been discussed before, but since I LOVE talking about English yeast, here I go... sorry long post!

Foremost, I completely understand what you mean when you say your beer is lacking that "unique malt character" found in authentic English ales. I had the same problem when I first became obsessed with English ales and started brewing them in earnest. I believe one of the reasons homebrewers have more difficult time getting those typical "english" flavors in their finished beer is that we are going about fermenting these strains all wrong. It seems as though most American homebrewers are under the assumption that the same fermentation methods and processes that produce a good beer with one strain can be copied to the best effect for each yeast strain; which is not true.

It is no coincidence that the vast majority of English yeast strains we typically use are true top cropping yeasts and were (and many still are) fermented under various forms of open fermentation. How is then that we can expect to get the same flavors when we stick the yeast in a six gallon carboy with no head space and leave it alone for three weeks?! After three years of brewing English ales and a lot of time spent researching and testing, I feel like it only recently that I have even come close to producing a pint with the same characteristics of those that I had while living in Ireland/England.

First, I have narrowed down what yeasts I like to use and can consistently produce a product that meets my often impossibly high beer standards. Here are my thoughts on some yeast strains and what does the best for me.

- wy1968. I really like this one. Lots of esters and clean maltiness and very British character when fermented properly. I get GOOD attenuation (70-80%) and am not afraid to rouse the yeast if necessary. I pitch at 65F and raise to 68F for one week before a D-rest at 70ish and then crash cool at week two before kegging. I DO NOT bottle with this yeast and only force carb. Something about adding sugar to the beer seems to throw off the malt profile and gives funky esters. This one does well with dry hopping. Does 'ok' in closed fermenation, though much more complex with open ferment. Best within 3 months.

-wy1187. Awesome yeast, you can get a very clean tasting beer with lots of English character. I like fermenting this one in buckets and will top crop it before high krausen. Yeast rousing works great on this one. Does not like lots of top pressure and does well with the fermenter lid put on lightly. I pitch at 65F let rise to 68-70F for a week then D-rest and crash cool by day 14 or so. I get good attenuation with this one, 75-85%. Hops come through really well. Ages well.

-wy1318, my new favorite. Superb malt profile with slight sweetness that goes very well with darker cystal malts. I get 70-75% attenuation. Does well in buckets, carboy and top cropping. Krausen sticks around forever. Pitch low, raise temp to 68F for two weeks, d-rest, keg by day 17. Ages well.

Yeasts I don't like: wy1098, 1099, 1275, 1026, 1028, on the fence about 1469 (too fruity, but love the malt profile) and 1335. Still want to try thames valley II.

I pitch a one quart starter for a 4 gallon batch and oxygenate around 8-12 ppm. I find I get a better malt/ester profile when I pitch a bit below ferment temp and let it rise up to around 70F for D rest before I crash cool to flocc all the yeast out. Malt profile stays intact. I typically don't go more than 3 weeks in primary, with average around 2 weeks total. I start drinking them about 2 weeks in the keg with the best flavor right around the 3 week/one month mark for best bitter/ESB. Hoppier beers i drink earlier, darker ones later.

Well I hope this helps someone.

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Old 01-31-2011, 09:45 PM   #3
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Wow, great info bierhaus! That is really helpful. Have you ever tasted a gravity sample on one of your bitters/ESBs at around the 1 week mark then again when you keg it? My pitching and ferment temps are usually very similar to what you've described, but my beer seems to lose the esters and malt profile in that time period (most notably with Ringwood yeast).

Open fermentation scares me a bit. My carboys, and anything else I put in my fermentation freezer get little spots of mold growing on them after a while due to the condensation that collects in there. I wipe it out but as soon as you open the lid the sides frost up like a cold glass of beer. I'd hate for any of that to start growing in my beer. I feel like the spores are probably going crazy in there. And yes, I've scrubbed it out with a bleach solution for only a short reprieve.

I'm glad you mentioned not adding sugar to 1968 beers. That was going to be my plan to help it ferment out for me. I just ordered a thermapen so hopefully accurate mash temps will fix any attenuation problems I've had with it.

Again, thanks for all the info! That's really what I was hoping to see in this thread. Hopefully we can all compare our notes and benefit from each others experience in our quests for the perfect pint of bitter.

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Old 01-31-2011, 10:01 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingBrianI View Post
Have you ever tasted a gravity sample on one of your bitters/ESBs at around the 1 week mark then again when you keg it? My pitching and ferment temps are usually very similar to what you've described, but my beer seems to lose the esters and malt profile in that time period (most notably with Ringwood yeast).

I'm glad you mentioned not adding sugar to 1968 beers. That was going to be my plan to help it ferment out for me. I just ordered a thermapen so hopefully accurate mash temps will fix any attenuation problems I've had with it.
I usually take a gravity reading just before I start the d-rest to see how far the beer's attenuated. I know what you mean about losing esters/malt flavor over the course of the ferment. Whatever I am doing now seems to be preventing that loss, though I have encountered that problem in the past. I suspect it might be that I am cold crashing before kegging and getting the beer off the yeast by day 17ish and something to do with lower amounts of top pressure on the yeast?

Regarding, wy1968, you should be fine adding sugar to the boil if you think it will help get better attenuation, but I wouldn't add during or after fermentation. I mash pretty much all my bitters at 154F for 75-90 min and have never had a problem with attenuation. I rarely have to rouse the yeast, unless the gravity is over 1.060 and usually only with Ringwood.

Maybe we can get someone else to chime in here. Any other anglo-beer-philes?
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Old 01-31-2011, 10:02 PM   #5
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I agree with some of your points here. I have had great gravity samples tasting exactly the esters and malt character I was looking for, only to find that my beer cleans up too much over the final course of fermentation and packaging. I've had most luck with several ESB's recently by fermenting for 2 weeks at 64 without raising the temp for a d-rest. Unlike Bierhaus, my favorite is Thames Valley 1275, though I have never tried London III.

As for ringwood, I've rested the lid of my bucket without sealing for the main fermentation without issues. I've used it 4 times and it always cleaned up too much. Though this was back when I was doing d-rests and racking after 3 weeks plus. Maybe it deserves another try with my new method.

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Old 01-31-2011, 10:44 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bierhaus15 View Post
Regarding, wy1968, you should be fine adding sugar to the boil if you think it will help get better attenuation, but I wouldn't add during or after fermentation. I mash pretty much all my bitters at 154F for 75-90 min and have never had a problem with attenuation. I rarely have to rouse the yeast, unless the gravity is over 1.060 and usually only with Ringwood.
Hmm, I think I'll do a bitter this weekend with 1968 and try to get it to express those malt and ester characters with the techniques we've discussed. I think I'm going to go really simple on it so that any malt and yeast character can shine through. Something like:

1.040
35 IBU

95% Maris Otter
5% Crystal 75

Northern Brewer bittering
Fuggles at 15

I'm going to mash at 150 and if I can't get it to attenuate properly I'll know it's ok to add some sugar next time. I'll definitely be kegging it. I think something happens to 1968 when you add priming sugar. Last time I used it it was stuck firm at 1.020. Rousing, raising temp, and everything else I tried didn't get it to budge. I primed and bottled and the 1968 decided to wake back up and blow up a bunch of bottles. So it's relegated to keg only now.



Quote:
Originally Posted by jmo88 View Post
As for ringwood, I've rested the lid of my bucket without sealing for the main fermentation without issues. I've used it 4 times and it always cleaned up too much. Though this was back when I was doing d-rests and racking after 3 weeks plus. Maybe it deserves another try with my new method.
I was attempting to perfect a special bitter recipe and was experimenting with ringwood yeast. I tasted the beer once fermentation looked done and man, it was awesome. Just what I wanted. I let it sit on the yeast for a couple more weeks and at that point all the character was gone. The weirdest thing though is that I went ahead and bottled it and like always, I had my wife pick up the bottling bucket and kind of slosh it back and forth to get that last bottle full like always. I'll always label that bottle with an "ox" so I know it's oxidized and it will be the first one I open to check carbing. When I opened that bottle, all that character was back and I was like holy damn, this beer is going to be awesome. Then I started drinking the rest of the bottles and they were all bland and lifeless. I know open fermentation is said to give beers a different flavor and I wonder if a little oxidation or oxygen working with the yeast has an effect. I know that when yorkshire squares are used, the rousing process purposefully oxygenates the fermenting beer and the brewers say that is what gives the beer it's unique character. I wonder if some oxygenation could be helpful after fermentation for some yeasts?
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Old 01-31-2011, 11:33 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KingBrianI View Post
I was attempting to perfect a special bitter recipe and was experimenting with ringwood yeast. I tasted the beer once fermentation looked done and man, it was awesome. Just what I wanted. I let it sit on the yeast for a couple more weeks and at that point all the character was gone. The weirdest thing though is that I went ahead and bottled it and like always, I had my wife pick up the bottling bucket and kind of slosh it back and forth to get that last bottle full like always. I'll always label that bottle with an "ox" so I know it's oxidized and it will be the first one I open to check carbing. When I opened that bottle, all that character was back and I was like holy damn, this beer is going to be awesome. Then I started drinking the rest of the bottles and they were all bland and lifeless. I know open fermentation is said to give beers a different flavor and I wonder if a little oxidation or oxygen working with the yeast has an effect. I know that when yorkshire squares are used, the rousing process purposefully oxygenates the fermenting beer and the brewers say that is what gives the beer it's unique character. I wonder if some oxygenation could be helpful after fermentation for some yeasts?
I think you're on to something with oxidation. I don't remember where I heard this or if I read it in a book, but I remember JZ mentioning something about how British beers gain some of their character from cask conditioning. Once a cask has been tapped, the beer contained inside becomes slightly exposed to ambient air and is thus subject to a bit of oxidation and micro-organism "contamination". After a while, the beer develops additional character as it is exposed beyond that of simple aging. Also, since each pub and bar is different, the same beer would develop slightly different depending on where it is conditioned.

Is it possible these uniquely derived characteristics are responsible for the malt character you are seeking in your British ales? I'm trying to brew good British ales myself and to help me out I've tried sampling commercial examples but I've only had access to stuff like Fuller's and Boddington's. I've never had the chance to sample the stuff fresh from the tap. By my experience, it seems the bottle versions we mostly get here are fairly tame as far as fruity estery character (although still very tasty imho). Of course, I would give my arm to be able to sample a bottle version and a cask conditioned version of the same beer side by side.
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Old 01-31-2011, 11:39 PM   #8
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I don't think it is the oxidation in a cask that I'm trying to recreate since that character I'm looking for is also present in bottled and kegged british beers, not just the casked ones. That experience with the oxidized bottle was really weird though and I've often thought about intentionally oxidizing a couple bottles and letting them sit a week or so then comparing them to unoxidized bottles. I really have no good explanation as to why that one bottle tasted so good.

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Old 01-31-2011, 11:48 PM   #9
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You can use a poly-pin in place of a cask, Northern Brewer has a guide that details how to achieve some of that oxidation character
http://www.northernbrewer.com/docume...nditioning.pdf
Read page 2 of that for more info.

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Old 02-01-2011, 03:52 AM   #10
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What mash thickness do you use?
I've found that mashing with 1 US qt water per lb grain gives great results, but using a mash thickness of 1.25 qt per lb or greater results in an anemic tasting beer.
I also find that I need to mash at ~150F for at least 90 minutes.
I've never tried the fermentation temperature controls that you mentioned (I ferment at 168F from start to finish), but I did find on my last trip to England that my bitters tasted much better than anything available commercially. However, in the town I visited, the only draught beer available was produced by Adnams (which is not my favorite).

-a.

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