Saturday, February 9, 2008

Trillions of Cells: 5 Yeast Blended Starter

(click images to make them larger)

I'm lucky enough to know Dr. MB Raines. She not only makes some of the best beer I've tasted (and the single best Lambic I've ever tasted), but knows more about brewer's yeast than basically anyone. And by basically I mean anyone.

MB showed up at a Flacons meeting one day with a strong Belgian golden ale called "Sextuplet." It was something nutso like 14 or 15% alcohol. On top of that, it was delicious. I had made beers this strong before, but my Belgian attempts (which tend to feature simple grain bills and very few hops) were always hot alcoholic bombs. Not so with MB's Sextuplet. The secret? Different types of yeast.

I forget the specifics, but she had at least three distinct strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Belgian, of course. Obviously, different strains of yeast develop different phenols and esters. They also have different alcohol tolerances. I wish I could speak more to the science of how and why (I can't), but suffice to say that blending yeasts increases the number of flavors in your finished product. Is this always better? No. But you can get lucky. And so far I've been lucky.

My first experiment with blending yeasts was a beer called Steve French (if you don't get the name, watch the "Trailer Parks Boys," season IV). It featured five different types of yeast. I still remember when I was transferring that beer into secondary. I checked the gravity. Steve French had dropped from 1.090 to 1.008. Moreover, it tasted fantastic. Nearly as dry as a saison, but with tropical fruity esters all over the joint.

Then, on that yeast Cake, Jimmy and I whipped up a 1.158 monster called Westy 16 that dropped to 1.034 for an abv of 16.9% [UPDATE -- I checked my notes -- 1.139 down to 1.012. So there you go]. So, we changed the name to Westy 16/17. That monster won some medals, including a first place in the 2007 DKM Imperial Anything 1.100+ category. Tomorrow, we're brewing up 20 gallons of the Westy as a 35th Anniversary Falcons beer. So, I'm making a huge ass starter.

The 5 yeasts going into this starter are:

WYeast 1288 Belgian Strong Ale
WYeast 3787 Trappist
Wyeast 3944 Belgian Wit
White Labs 530 Abbey
White Labs 510 Bastogne

Above you can see the amount of yeast made after 24 hours on the stir plate. Tons of yeast is still in suspension. I figure about one more finger. Still, not nearly enough! Here's one more pic:

Again -- not nearly enough. Time to step it up, and debut my new 3000 mL flask:

OK, I'm thinking this will give me almost enough for 20 gallons of 20 gallons of 1.155+ wort. Jamil's butt-kicking yeast pitching rate calculator is telling me I need just over 2 trillion viable cells. Which seems just about right.

I'll let you know. And it looks like I'm going to need a bigger stir plate!


Anonymous said...

That's pretty cool. I'm actually about to start something like this this weekend. I'm going to make a tripel-ish beer with Wyeast 3787, WLP500 and two packets of Safbrew S-33, then pitch a bigger (no westy 16/17) dark trappist style on to that cake.
p.s. Did you get booted from the BeerAdvocate forums for the reused hop thing? I was trying to find the link to this blog and couldn't find it. If so, that is a huge loss for them. The HB forum was the only regular participation I had on that site anymore, and your knowledge was a big part of that.

Lawrence said...

That re-used hop thing was hilarious. Thank god that forum was so much better 4 years ago when I was learning grain brewing. I fear for the new brewers who are reading that crap now

Jonny Lieberman said...

Yeah... I got booted for telling people not to be morons... Go figure.

I guess "Zealots of Beer" grow on trees.

Let me know how the yeast experiment goes.

Craig said...

If they'll delete Venom, they'll delete anyone.

I'm pissed I missed the thread. I'd like to think I have a pretty good eye for skipping shitty threads by now though.

Daniel Conde Perez said...

Hey Jonny! I've a plan to do a six yeast blend. Can you tell me how you do you the blend with 5? You make differents percentage additions or 100% of all? How it going with the beer?