It has been a while since my last post, and what I have prepared for you is a monster of a post that will actually come in 2 parts and sort of be a dry yeast clinic. Part 1 will consist of a an argument for the use of dry yeast, and an overview of the major dry yeast varieties out there. Part 2 will be instructions on how to use dry yeast to it’s fullest potential.
I have been a proponent for dry yeast for a few years now, but I did concede that dry yeast was mostly just good for American Ale styles (American Amber, American Pale Ale, American IPA, and Double IPA, American Stout) and for stand English Styles (English Browns, English Pales, English IPA). But if you wanted to brew a Hefeweizen or Good Belgian beer….forget about it. However, over the past few years my favorite dry yeast producer, Fermentis has kicked it up a notch……actually they kicked it up a few notches. In Part 1 of this article I will talk about my experiences with the newer strains of dry yeast and in part 2 we will cover some of the techniques to maximize it’s usage. No longer should dry yeast just be a “backup” option in case your liquid yeast does not kick off. I also think you would be surprised at how many commercial breweries use dry yeast as well.
I won an online contest recently and part of my prize was a Hefeweizen kit, and in this kit it contained Fermentis Safbrew WB-06. I was reluctant to use it, because when it came to traditional hefeweizen, I always chose to use liquid yeast (WLP300 to be exact). But since it came with the kit, and I didn’t pay for it, I thought “what do I have to lose”? I fermented the beer at 68° and hoped for the best. The result? A beer that was very full of traditional hefeweizen character. The beer had a very nice banana and clove character, with just a bit more banana than clove (which is what I was shooting for, I prefer the banana esters to the clove phenol). The flavors were not muddled or harsh, and the beer fermented solid and was well attenuated. I was proud to serve it at my beer pot luck, and even sent it off to competition (results pending). I served it at a homebrew club meeting and asked some of the guys in attendance to try it and tell me what they think. All of them enjoyed it to some degree (what I like about our club is people are not afraid to tell you what they think of your beer). When I asked “can you believe this was brewed with a dry hefeweizen yeast?”, not a single person could believe it. I wouldn’t have either if I were asked the same. I do believe the trick to successful use of dry yeast, is proper rehydration. Too many people claim that dry yeast doesn’t work well for them, then when asked if they rehydrate they say no. What is funny is when you suggest they try rehydrating, they can look right at you and tell you it’s not necessary….wait, didn’t you say you had less than optimal results? I don’t understand the resistance to rehydration but the deep devoted following to yeast starters. Why does a starter make so much sense but rehydration seems like an unneeded step with dry yeast?
While I have zero illusions about the variety comparison between Wyeast’s and White Lab’s catalogs, a lot of the yeasts in these catalogs have subtle differences. I don’t know many brewers who absolutely will not brew a witbier because they can’t get WLP410 (Belgian Wit II) because the Homebrew shop only has WLP400 (Belgian Wit), or will not brew that lager because they prefer to use German Bock Lager yeast and they can only get German Lager Yeast. You may have a preference, but I know many brewers are able to make substitutions based on these slight variations. Same can be said for the dry yeast, except the styles are much more broad. For example (using my favorite Fermentis again), their catalog is 8 deep. You have Safale US-05, Safale S-04, Saflager S-23, Saflager W-34/70, Safbrew t-58, Safbrew S-33, Safbrew WB-06, and the very new Safbrew Abbaye which I just picked up myself. Most (not all) beer styles can be successfully and accurately brewed using these 8 yeasts. I will describe each one below.
This is a variant of the popular American Ale yeast strain (WLP001 or Wyeast 1056). This yeast produces a fairly clean and well balanced ale with lower levels of diacetyl. Apparent attenuation is fairly high at about 81%. Flocculation is medium. The acceptable temperature range for this yeast is 53°-77°F (12°-25° C), but the optimum range is 59°-71° F (15°-22° C). This yeast is fairly versatile and can be used in many styles that require a clean profile, and can even make a pseudo-lager if you ferment near the 59° F (15°C) temperature. Some recommended styles would be American Pale Ale, American IPA, American IIPA, American Stout, American Amber/Red, American Brown, American Barleywine, American Wheat & rye, Specialty/Fruit/Veg/Spiced beers, Robust Porter*, Cream Ale*, Kolsh**, Blonde Ale, Irish Red** and Scottish shilling beers, Dry Stout, Dusseldorf Alt .
This is an English style Ale yeast. This beer produces a tight compact sediment which will result in a clearer beer. It’s not quite as clean as US-05, but close. The big draw is the high flocculation which is ideal for cask or bottle conditioned beers. Its tight sediment is also good for cylindro-conical tanks. Apparent attenuation is moderate, at about 75%. The acceptable temperature range is 54°-77° F (12°-25° C), but the optimum range is 59°-68° F (15°-20° C) . Some recommended styles would be English Pale Ales (including Bitters), English Milds and Browns, English IPA, Brown Porter, Robust Porter, Baltic Porter*, Foreign Extra Stout*, Dry Stout, Sweet Stout, Oatmeal Stout, English Barleywine, English Old Ale, English or American Strong Ales (Barleywines).
A dry lager yeast which originated from the VLB (Versuch- u. Lehranstalt für Brauerei ) Institute in Berlin, Germany. This lager is for producing continental lagers with some fruity, estery highlights. The apparent attenuation is listed at about 82%, but the site states that a lower attenuation gives the beers a good length on the palate. This beer is highly flocculent so you will end up with a nice clear lager. The acceptable temperature range is 48°-71° F ( 9°-22° C) but the optimal fermentation range is 53°-59° F (12°-15° C) Some recommended styles for this strain would be American Lagers, Oktoberfest/Märzen, Dark American lager, Munich Dunkel, Schwarzbier, Bocks, German Alt, Baltic Porter, almost all European lager types.
This is the dry version of the famous Weihenstephan lager yeast, and is one of the most popular lager strains in the world. W-34/70 offers up a good balance of floral and fruity aromas but yet good clean flavors. The end result is a very drinkable brew. Flocculation is listed as high. Apparent attenuation is listed at about 83%. The workable temperature range is 48°-71°F (9°-22° C) and the optimal range is 53°-59° F (12°-15°C). With this lager yeast you can produce German Pilsner, Vienna Lager, American Amber Lagers, Bohemian Pilsners, Classic American Pilsner (Pre-Prohibition Lager), Dortmunder Export.
T-58 is spicy and estery, which make it ideal for continental beer styles. The profile can tend to be somewhat peppery and spicy in flavor. The yeast forms a good sediment, but tends to be powdery which can result in a hazy beer when agitated. The suspended yeast can make for a good bottle conditioning yeast since you will ensured that a decent amount of yeast makes its way into the bottle. When the yeast does settle out, it does not clump together in clusters. Apparent attenuation is about 70%. The acceptable fermentation temperature range is 54°-77° F (12°-25° C) and the optimal temperature is 59°-68° F (15°-20° C). Some good choices to brew with this would be Belgian Blonde Ale, Belgian Tripels, Belgian Golden Strong, Belgian Dark Strong, Belgian IPA, Belgian Dubble, Belgian Witbier**.
S-33 is a very versatile yeast and is listed a general purpose yeast. This yeast is supposed to have a neutral flavor profile, and has an apparent attenuation of 70%. They suggest this yeast is best used in specialty ales and Trappist type of beers. I have used it in an IPA and it turned out fairly good. Flocculation is powdery, so it’s a good bottle conditioner as well but the sedimentation quality of the yeast is good. The workable range for fermentation temperature is 54°-77° F (12°-25° C) but should ideally use fermented between 59° -68° F (15°-20° C). When looking for a cleaner profile I like to start fermentation out in the 65° range and slowly let it rise to 70° F. Some solid choices for styles to make with yeast would be English IPA’s, English Bitters, English Browns and milds, Englsih Pale, Brown Porter, Barleywines, Cream Ale, Old Ale, English Barleywine*, Scotch and Scottish Ales.
This yeast is specifically designed to be used with wheat beers. This yeast provides the clove phenol and banana esters one would look for in a heffeweizen style of beer. I have personally used this yeast in a heffeweizen with good results. Flocculation is low, as one would hope for in this type of yeast. The apparent attenuation is listed at about 86%, so you end up with a crisp refreshing beer. The working range of this yeast is 54°-77° F (12°-25° C) but ideally should be used at 64°-75° F (18°-24° C). I ferment this one at 68° and end up with a good amount of clove-like esters but the balance leans towards the banana esters. The beers you want to ferment with this yeast are the traditional heffeweizen beers, dunkelweizen, weizenbocks, Belgian Wit**.
This is a newer one from Fermentis, and it was a touch pricy for dry yeast. I paid $7 for a package of it, but I wanted to test it out. I will be brewing up a Belgian Dubble with this soon and compare it to the one I made with White Labs Abbey. This yeast is supposed to be perfect for the abbey styles known for their higher alcohol content. This yeast ferments fast and offers up subtle well-balanced aromas. Flocculation is high, so the finished beer should have great clarity. The apparent attenuation is listed at 82%. The acceptable fermentation range is 54°-77° F (12°-25° C) and the optimal temperature for this one is 59°-68° F(15°-20° C). Beers you want to brew with this strain would be Belgian Dubbel, Spiced Beers, Trippel, Christmas/Winter Warmers, Saisons.
To achieve the right ester/phenol levels consider the recommendation of fermenting slightly warmer or cooler.
*=Ferment on the warmer side of the scale
**= Ferment on the cooler side of the scale
While Fermentis may be my go-to choice for yeast, they are not the only producer out there. Brewferm offers three types of dry yeast, one is a very standard ale yeast and the other a lager yeast. But the niche that Brewferm fills is in the witbier arena. Brewferm Blanche is specifically designed to be a witbier yeast. You could use this yeast for witbiers or even a saison.
You also have the 2 grandfather yeast strains. Windsor and Nottingham produced by Lallemand/Danstar. These are great general purpose yeasts, geared for the most part towards English styles with Windsor being a bit more estery than Nottingham. Nottingham was produced to be a “catch all” yeast for ale styles. Below are the major offerings from Lallemand/Danstar
Windsor Ale Yeast
Windsor Ale yeast is a common variant of the English Ale yeast. You can brew just about any beer style with this yeast that you would with S-04. It produces a moderate amount of esters and provides a fresh yeasty flavor. Typical application would be if you were looking for a full bodied, slightly fruity English Ale. The recommended temperature range for this yeast is listed as being between 64°-70° F (17°-21° C). Flocculation is listed as low, and they suggest using a clarifying agents to get a crystal clear beer. They don’t list the attenuation percentage, but they do list it as moderate. So you can probably compare it to the other English ale strains.
CBC-1 (Cask and Bottle Conditioned Beer)
As stated in the name CBC stands for Cask and Bottle Conditioned beer. This strain is known for this refermentation properties which make it ideal for a second mini-fermentation in the bottle or cask. This yeast has a relatively high alcohol tolerance and will recondition beers up to 12%-14% ABV. They also claim this yeast can handle higher pressures. This yeast is not really intended for a primary fermentation and should be used at packaging, they do say you can produce good high alcohol and/or effervescent fruit beers with this strain. The yeast will not contribute any flavors or aromas to the finished beer. It’s recommended to condition the beers at 59°-77°F (15°-25°C). Flocculation is fairly high and the yeast will form a tight mat on the bottom of the vessel after fermentation.
Nottingham Ale Yeast
This is the jack of all trades yeast, and has been the champion of dry yeast for a long time. Nottingham was the first dry yeast I really liked using on a regular basis. It’s clean, consistent, and fairly forgiving. This train is highly flocculant and is highly attenuative. This can give you a clear, crisp, and fairly dry beer. The ester profile is on the lower end, and is a good alternative to American Ale Yeast if you are in a pinch. The yeast works best between 57°-70° F (14°-21°C), and if you ferment on the lower end of that scale you will have a very clean profile. You can push the low end temperature threshold down to about 54°F (12°C) and treat this as a lager yeast. That is why many people keep this yeast on hand as a backup option. You can lager with it and you can produce an ale with it. Where you end up is completely temperature dependent. Just be aware that if you plan to lager with this yeast, you should ramp up your pitching rate. The yeast also has a fairly high alcohol tolerance level.
Diamond Lager Yeast
This is the only lager yeast offering from Lallemand, but it’s fairly versatile and you should be able to produce quality lagers of just about any style with this. Granted, there is not the versatility you get with liquid cultures, but generally speaking you do want lagers to be fairly clean and leave most of the malt and hops to speak for themselves. This lager yeast has a high attenuation factor and has moderate flocculation capabilities. The optimum range is 50°-59°F (10°-15°C) and the sweet spot is 53°F (12°C). A high pitch rate is vital to producing a good lager with Diamond Lager yeast. But with a good solid pitch rate, good temperature control, and good aeration you should be able to produce just about any lager you need to fairly successfully. From my personal experience, it seems to be a fairly high producer of sulfur, so a decent lagering time of at least a few weeks will help give time to drive that off.
Belle Saison Yeast
A specialty strain specifically designed for use with Saison (no duh, right?). There is not much on Lallemond’s website on the specifics of the yeast, but I would think it’s going to be a moderately estery and phenolic dry yeast. By varying the temperature you could probably make a case for brewing witbiers and some other Belgians based on the peppery/spicy character one normally expects from a Saision yeast. The flocculation on this beer is low. So you can expect a powdery and slightly hazy beer. You can fix this by using clarifying agents though, so that’s not a huge deal breaker. The optimal temperature for this yeast hovers around 63°F (17°C). The warmer you get from that point, the more phenols and esters you will get, and the cooler you get the lower the levels. So be aware of the variations. You can produce a good beer if you practice smart fermentation practices.
BRY-97 American West Coast Yeast
BRY-97 is Lallemond’s answer to US-05, WLP001, and Wyeast 1056. This culture was selected from the Siebel Institute Culture collection and is a fairly neutral yeast when used properly. There is low ester production, but easily controlled by fermentation temperature. Attenuation is medium to high and fairly flocculant. The sweet spot for this beer is in the 63°F (17°C) range but you can go as low as 59°F and as High as 70° (15°-21°C) and be fine, just be aware that the warmer you get you will slightly increase the ester production.
Munich Wheat Beer Yeast
I have zero personal experience with this yeast, but this is Lallemond’s version of WB-06 and I’m sure the characteristics and quality are similar. Munich Wheat is billed as a strain from Bavaria, Germany. Attenuation is medium to high and flocculation is pretty much non-existent, as would be expected in a hefeweizen yeast. The aroma is estery on both flavor and aroma and produces the typical banana esters. Some mild clove phenol production is also there. It’s best to use this yeast at about 62°F (17°C) and the more you vary from that sweet spot, the more ester and phenol production you will have.
Dry yeast is not what it was 5 or 10 years ago. Technology has advanced to the point where you have a very stable, reliable, hearty, and pure strain of brewers yeast. The trick is you cannot shortcut on it. In part 2 I will cover how to get the most from your dry yeast. If you want to be the brewer that just sprinkles the dry yeast on the top because “it works” then that is up to you. But if you are mashing your beer with a goal of 152 do you want to be in the mid to high 140′s because “it works” and you will get sugars, or do you want to have a healthy mash so that you get the body and right combination of sugars to produce a well balanced tasty beer? The same goes for fermentation health. Just because sprinkling the yeast on top of the beer works, does not mean it is producing a healthy and vibrant fermentation.