It's a beer world after all!
Brewing is a dynamic process, and predicting the outcome is challenging enough. When we’re evaluating whether
a particular input is worth adjusting—in this case, whether it’s worth it to tune each recipe to a specific yeast
strain—we should also consider whether we’re adding risk and/or uncertainty along with that input. I propose that
when it comes to yeast-strain selection, from the perspective of a homebrewer (and even a commercial brewer),
there are good reasons to resist the urge to custom-fit your yeast choices to your recipe.

Getting a good sense of how and why a yeast performed as it did and contributed what it did (or not) is difficult.
That learning process is much more robust if you’re returning to the same strain for similar “families” of beers
because identifying similar fermentation characters is easier across multiple batches even if the recipes aren’t
precisely the same. In genera, brewers use five “house” strains to ferment the vast majority of beers. Those
strains are in the following beer “families”: generic ale, generic lager, English, Belgian, and weizen.

For a lot of styles, fermentation character isn’t especially unique. They give a lot of “low-to-moderate esters,”
“none-to-low phenols,” etc. They’re just sort of generally “ale-like,” by which I mean they have more fermentation
character than a lager, but the character of that character isn’t specific or meaningfully tied to a certain flavor
profile. These are your amber ales, your altbier and kölsch, nearly all of your porters and stouts, and more.For
example if a brewer wants no fermentation character because it’s a lager then  they'd llikely use a generic ale
yeast. like Wyeast 1007 (German Ale). Why that one? Because it attenuates well, works quickly at cool tem-
peratures, and even at warm temperatures produces only a modest amount of fruit/berry flavors. It’s a catch-all.
Sure, there are differences among lager strains, but they’re pretty subtle, and all are fine so long as you get a
clean fermentation. That plus good attenuation at cold temperatures is why Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian Lager) gets
the job done for me and countless home and professional brewers.

Brewers have great success making English styles with an English strain (London III). Why? Because English
beers are somewhat identifiable by their fermentation character. Strawberry and a touch of diacetyl are relatively
noticeable and notable when they’re absent.  

On the other hand, Belgian beers are highly identifiable by fermentation character. Famous breweries that feature
this style often use three to four different Belgian strains” even on their core Belgian beers. However, if you’re not
a world-renowned Belgian-style brewery, you don’t need to go that route.  Wyeast 3522 (Belgian Ardennes)
produces a flavorful and reliable “Belgian” (pears, oranges, a little pepper) character while never going overboard,

There are few beers as easily identifiable by their fermentation character as weizens. If you’re not rocking a nice,
full isoamyl acetate (banana) note and some clove, people are going to notice. But are people really going to
notice the difference between Wyeast 3068 (Weihenstephan) and Wyeast 3056 (Bavarian Wheat) strains?
Doubtful, even though one might be a slightly better fit for hefe and another for dunkelweizen. Try them all out
and pick the one that gives you the balance you like! .

Many professional breweries use a ton of different strains as they are an important part of the palette from which
we paint. Using a particular house strain limits creation. They look at each beer as a blank slate, so the yeasts
they use vary dramatically even within the same style of beer.  However it is also true that pro brewers often
tend to brew several recipes off of a single yeast profile.

Homebrewers are a bit different.  They can  benefit from the same kinds of cost savings that the pros realize from
focusing on a stable of “regular” yeast. There are also benefits that aren’t an issue for them, in that it lets them
learn a yeast in a way we never could without brewing the same recipe weekly, year after year. The sacrifice of a
small level of “customization” of the recipe is one that is unlikely to be noticeable, and the advantage of it is one I’m
glad to defend. So home brewers remember Fewer yeasts—better beer.


Hope you found this month's column of interest.  If you have any questions about beer or brewing
or just want to submit a word for me to discuss here just
e-mail it to me.

Thanks and Cheers!
Fewer Yeasts Could Mean Better Beer
A new column by
Jack O'Reilly
Jack O'Reilly attended the
famous Siebel Institute/ World
Brewing Academy in Chicago.
I'm very excited to be part of the BeerNexus team.  I think my many years in the
beer business both as a brewer and manger will enable me to explain and
investigate many topics of interest for those who really love craft beer.
Hope you join me every month.  
More by Jack: #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14,
#15, #16, #17, #18, #19, #20, #21, #22, #23, #24, #25, #26, #27, #28, #29, #30,
#31, #32, #33
Techniques and insights
for the serious ceft beer
fan and home brewer