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Old 02-14-2013, 04:39 PM   #1
Chemfreak
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Default How to pick a strain?

Hi, I have been having a great time venturing into the homebrew world. I have completed 4 ale batches, and a lager is currently in primary.

I really enjoy learning about how all the different steps/ingredients affect the final outcome of the beer. I feel somewhat confident in what different malts, hops, temperature changes, and to a lesser extent my tap water does to my beer (compared to distilled).

For some reason I can't wrap my head around why there are so many different strains of yeast.

Why would I not want the most aggressive yeast that can convert sugar in the highest ABV setting possible? Discounting why you would want a lager yeast vs ale yeast of course.

I know how temperature can affect the "buttery" flavor and how to counteract that, but that is about all that I know that yeast can vary the flavor profile of the finished product.

Basically, where can I find out more information on what different strains do to the final profile? I want to educate myself enough that I can make good decisions on picking out my own strain.

And, in general, could two identical batches of wort that were fermented with two different strains under identical conditions have wildly different character profiles?

Thanks

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Old 02-14-2013, 04:50 PM   #2
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Basically, where can I find out more information on what different strains do to the final profile? I want to educate myself enough that I can make good decisions on picking out my own strain.
The only way to really educate yourself is to brew the beers and taste them. You just have to start training your palette to be able to pick out the different flavors that you get with yeasts. Unless you live near San Diego and can stop by White Labs new sample room and try all of their examples of beers brewed with different yeasts.

What most people do is find a yeast that they like for each style and keep brewing with it to learn how to handle it.

Examples of popular yeasts for different beers-
American styles-WLP001
English styles- WLP002(for lower grav beers) or 007(higher OG)
Lagers-WLP830 or 833
Belgian Strong- WLP530 or 500

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And, in general, could two identical batches of wort that were fermented with two different strains under identical conditions have wildly different character profiles?
Absolutely. Try splitting a batch between WLP001, WLP002, and WLP530. You will see a HUGE difference in all those beers.
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Old 02-14-2013, 05:10 PM   #3
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I've been using one strain for all my beers. It is US-05. Solid performer. Easily harvested, not too expensive even if you don't harvest. I'm planning to stick with this yeast as I develop my own house recipes. Expecting that could be another 30-50 batches before I try adding a new yeast strain.

Discussed this strategy with local micro brewer last week and he liked the plan because by holding my yeast constant, I'm getting the opportunity to really learn what my other ingredients taste like. There are a lot of variables in brewing, and if you don't control a few of them it is difficult to really learn much.

On that same theory I'm really thinking about narrowing down the number of specialty grains and hops I use. It is fun to try something new every time I brew, but difficult to evaluate the contribution of the new thing if I change more than one thing at a time.

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Old 02-14-2013, 05:13 PM   #4
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When I started brewing a few years ago I would spend time looking through Wyeast's website (www.wyeastlab.com) and looking at their characteristics for each strain, and experiment from there. In fact sometimes I still do when I want to try a different strain on a proven recipe.

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Old 02-14-2013, 06:07 PM   #5
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The White Labs website can be helpful as well- check out the style charts, where they tell you what they think the best yeast for a given style might be.

They make this determination based on a number of factors. Some beers need to be dry (e.g., Saison), so the best yeast for that beer would be one that attenuates well. Some beers need a little residual sweetness or body (e.g., Southern Brown or Mild), so the best yeast for the beer is one that doesn't attenuate well.

American Ale typically emphasizes American hop flavor, so you don't want esters that get in the way of the hop flavor. So you typically use a neutral strain. British ales need a little fruit and malt emphasis, and British yeast generally add fruit flavor and emphasize malt. Belgian beers are generally dry and rely on malt and spice and fruit from yeast esters, so you use a yeast that will attenuate well, bring out the malt, and that will leave a lot of flavor.

And there are some styles that are essentially based on one beer, and the only way to make that style is to use the yeast they use for that beer. Belgian Golden Strong is essentially a category for beers that are supposed to taste like Duvel. So you use the Duvel strain to make a Golden Strong.

All of that was very broad, and I am sure that a BJCP judge could blow massive holes in most of those statements. But the point is that if you want to make beers that taste like the beers that got you into his hobby, you have to pick the right yeast.

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Old 02-14-2013, 08:56 PM   #6
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Thank you everyone! you answered most of my questions. I have been looking for somewhere to compare strains of yeast, similar to a few tables that compare hop aroma/flavors ect, and was having a hard time. I feel like an idiot not checking wyeast and whitelabs websites directly.

I think I will use your suggestion of sticking to just 1 or 2 strains (a lager and ale strain), which is convenient because I just started saving my yeast.

Quick question on some nomenclature:

Attenuation: Is attenuation the relative percentage of fermentable sugars that are completely fermented, or the speed at which it ferments?

Floculation: I believe this is how clumped together the yeast cells are after fermenting. If this is the case, why would you want high flocculation or low flocculation?

High Gravity Yeast: I'm purely speculating here, but does this mean the yeast will survive and ferment in higher alcohol concentrations (more fermentables)? Is there a downside to pitching a high gravity yeast in low gravity wort (obviously the opposite would have a downside)?

And finally, are there any yeast strains that preserve the "malty" flavor? Or is that mainly dependent on the grain used? I ask because this is a flavor my dad enjoys most in beer, and I want to try to make a special batch for him (he isn't too fond of my hoppy ales).

Thanks for the help.

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Old 02-14-2013, 09:01 PM   #7
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If you want to taste a difference in yeast, try WLP500 in the same recipe you've made a lightly hopped pale ale or lager. You'll be blown away at the difference in flavor. Someone off the street would swear they weren't even remotely related, the two beers. It's amazing how much flavor (or how little) a yeast can add to a beer.

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Old 02-14-2013, 09:11 PM   #8
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http://www.mrmalty.com/yeast.htm

This is also a good way to get an idea of how a particular strain might perform if you're able to get a bottle from one of the commercial brewery sources. Granted, your results won't be identical to what you can buy off the shelf, but you'll at least have an idea of what to expect before taking the plunge with a full batch.
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:03 PM   #9
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Attenuation is the percentage of sugars fermented. Usually stated as "apparent attenuation". The formula is (OG-FG)/OG.

Example:

1.062 OG
1.010 FG
Drop the 1.0- 62-10=52 52/62=83% apparent attenuation



Flocculation is how well the yeast clump together or form flocs. Whether you want high or low flocculation depends on what you are trying to achieve. Most times you go for the yeast that will give you the flavor that you want and deal with the flocculation secondary.


High gravity yeast does do well in high ABV beers. However, all brewers yeast can handle up to 12-15% if they are taken care of with the right nutrients, oxygen, and pitching rate.

Most English yeasts are great at bringing out the malty flavor of beer. Give WLP002 a try in a nice English bitter or brown ale

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Old 02-15-2013, 12:40 AM   #10
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I would highly recommend the book "Yeast" by Chris White and Jamil Zaneishef.

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