Sunday, 8 December 2013

Naked Singularity & a Cold Brew Day

Cold brew day!
Christmas is rapidly approaching - meaning that life is about to become busy beyond reason. But there is still time to squeeze in one last batch - this time a dry-style stout.  This makes for the 16th batch of beer this year; less than I had hoped, but perhaps a reasonable amount when you factor in the rounds of cider and wine also brewed this year.  Excitingly, for the first time I'm using my birthday present -  grain mill - plus a few kilos of the grain currently taking up most of my pantry. As I write this I am shivering out in my garage - its a brisk -8C outside today.  Winter brewing is officially here!

As for the recipe, it is a bit off of the BJCP style for a dry stout - the gravity & grain bill are pretty much normal, but the bitterness level is nearly half of normal - 18IBUs. This odd formulation is an attempt to replicate the first good beer I ever brewed - brewed more than 15 years ago and despite several attempts never replicated. As I've mentioned previously, I started brewing while in university, with the intent of making beer as cheaply as possible. For the first year of my homebrew career I brewed dozens of batches of beer - all mostly corn-sugar, all horridly tasting, and all over 7%. Cheap & good for getting drunk was clearly the sole goal in those days.

The story of how I got into all-grain, the background behind this recipe, and the recipe itself are found below the fold.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Labelling a Special Brew

Bottling is a labour-intensive activity; made more so if you throw labels onto the damned things. Kegging has allowed me to avoid much of this pain, with "labelling" being nothing more than making a single hockey-card sized label to load into my tap handles.

These days my bottling activities are limited to making a few bottle to give away to friends or to take to my brewclubs meetings.  The only real exception to this is when I brew a long-ageing beer that I wish to cellar for months-to-years. I recently bottled my Gnarly Roots Barley Wine. Seeing as this beer is intended to be aged & enjoyed over years I went whole-hog on the labels - "ageing" the paper, generating a front label as well as four slightly different back labels, and even waxing the caps. While the picture below is not perfect, it gives you an idea of how they turned out.

One friend who I showed these to asked how I aged the paper & waxed the caps. I agreed to do a brief post on this, so here it is - methods below the fold...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tasting Notes: Watery Tart

So the Watery Tart is brewed, kegged and truth be told, is nearly gone.  This was my first experiment with home-grown hops, included some homemade invert sugar, and was a great success.

The beer pours with a course head which subsides over a few minutes to a thin layer of foam and some lace stuck to the sides of the glass. The beer has an aroma of malt and goldings hops, with hints of fruitiness which I would expect from the Thames Valley ale yeast. The beer is dark-straw to light-amber in colour and remarkably clear.

The flavour is milder than I had expected - a slight malt/nut flavour from the Marris Otter malt is present, some fruity esters from the yeast provide a nice counter-point to the nuttiness, and all of that is build on a foundation of mild hop flavour and bitterness. The bitterness is actually much milder than I had expected - at 40 IBU I was expecting a more pronounced bitterness. The lower apparent bitterness is likely due to two things - the IBUs in my home-grown hops (used for the flavour and aroma additions) was likely on the low side, meaning the ~6 IBUs that I was expecting from the flavour addition was likely missing. Secondly, the gravity of this beer was much higher than expected - reducing both extraction efficiency of the hops as well as reducing the BU:GU ratio from 0.7 to 0.6. Despite the lower bitterness, the beer is well balanced and very easy drinking. This may be the ideal "conversion" beer for people who "don't like craft/home brews".

The body of the beer is quite thin - but given the high OG and low FG (1.065 & 1.006) this is of no surprise. The high attenuation and starting gravity give this beer one hell of a kick - 7.8% by volume. The light body of the beer hides the alcohol, but standing up after a few pints is a bit of a challenge. It certainty doesn't help that this beer has a soft and mild finish - it is mild, nutty, shortly lingering and absent of bitterness or astringency. It tastes like beer, goes down like water, and will lay you on your ass if you're not careful!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

First Tasting: Gnarly Roots Barley Wine

It has been 227 days (7 months and 13 days) since I brewed my Gnarly Roots Barley Wine.  This beer - a creation from the mind of brewing legend Charlie Papazian - is an American-style barleywine with a twist.  On the surface the recipe is a classic US-style barley wine - 100IBU of bitterness, a SG of 1.100, and fermented with a clean US-style ale yeast (Wyeast 1056).  The twist is that it is secondaried with Brettanomyces lambicus and Brettanomyces bruxellensis.  The additions of these "wild" yeasts should create an earthly and fruity flavour profile that mimics that which was common in pre-20th century English strong ales.

I kegged the beer today, with the intent of transferring it to bottles in 3 weeks.  Once bottled this beer will be cellared and brought out for special occasions - if done judiciously, I should be enjoying this beer for years to come.  It turns out I had ~ 200ml of beer that wouldn't fit into the keg, so I put it into a mason jar and stored it in the fridge for a few hours until I had the time to do a proper tasting.  The beer is still a little young for tasting, but I'm not one to give up  a chance to sneak a peak.  Full review is below the fold.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

SWIMBO's Cider

I have to admit something a little embarrassing - my lovely wife does not like beer.  I'm not sure how we make our relationship work, but it can be a trial at times.  I get excited about a new batch of beer, give her a sip, only to be informed that she doesn't like this batch either...

...Luckily, she does like wine and cider.  We've brewed a bunch of wine, but seeing as its prime apple season we're now doing a batch of cider, largely following the instructions in this BrewingTV video:

We are fortunate that our orchard UV-sanitizes their cider, so we don't need to sulphate it to kill off wild yeast.  We're not looking to mess with things much, so we merely added 0.5kg of dextrose to up the low-ish gravity of our cider from 1.042 to 1.053 - leading to a remarkably simple recipe and process, which can be found below the fold...

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

10 Dollar, 10 minute Tap Handels

Over the weekend I built a pair of tap handles, based on a derivative of Revvy's design.  His design is quite innovative - a handle &  frame supports a magnetically-attached collector card card protector.  The label is inserted into the protector, thus labelling the brew.  My design (picture to right) is based on Revvy's, but is a little more svelte in design, easier to build, can be made for less than $10 each, and takes about 10 minutes to make (not including drying time).

The design is simple - the centre pin of a pre-turned replacement chair leg is removed and replaced with a threaded insert which allows it to be screwed onto a keg post.  A bit of the handle is cut away to allow a steel mending plate to be attached vertically to the tap - this holds the card protector/label in place via a strip of magnetic tape attached to the back of the card protector.

This has a number of advantages - aside from letting a label do double duty as both a bottle label & keg label, the labels from old batches of beer can be stuck to the keggorator/keezer - ala fridge magnets - allowing them to be reused and providing a bit of visual appeal to the fridge (and working as a reminder of the many magnificent brews that have passed through your kegs).

Very few tools are needed for this project - a saw that can do fine cuts (I used a table jigsaw, but a jewellers saw or razer saw would work equally well), a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, a hand drill, and a paint brush!

Details of the build can be found below the fold.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Watery Tart

On Tuesday I experienced the one event that al brewers fear - the empty keg.  Somehow, I have three beers in-progress, but not one ready for drinking.  So its time for an emergency brew session.

Today's beer is a somewhat special brew for me - for the first time I grew my own hops over the summer, and have a few ounces of Goldings that need to make their way into beer. Because the goal of this brew is to highlight these hops, the beer itself is simple - it would be a Marris Otter/Golding SMaSH, if not for the addition of the invert sugar I accidentally made while trying to make my own Belgian Candi Sugar.  I purchased some East Kent Goldings for bittering, as I do not know the alpha acid content of my home-grown hops.

Some may be wondering about the name - it comes directly from one of my favourite Monty Python scenes:
ARTHUR: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water signifying by Divine Providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur.
DENNIS: Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.
ARTHUR: Be quiet!
DENNIS: Well, but you can't expect to wield supreme executive power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!

Details are below the fold...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Tasting Notes: Dog Days of Summer ESB

A Pint of DDoS ESB in its
Natural Environment
The Dog Day ESB has been in the keg for a while, and so its time for a review.  Overall, this is a pleasant beer - not as good as my Vestigial Bitter, but certainly is a brew to be proud of.

This beer pours with a thick creamy head and the aroma of malt and goldings hops.  A bit of yeasty-ester undertones can be found in the aroma as well.  The body of the beer is is a brownish-red in colour, clear, and modestly carbonated, with a semi-dry mouthfeel.  The bitterness was not as strong as I'd normally expect - closer to an American-style pale ale than an English bitter.  Whether this was due to the use of first-wort hopping or due to recipe formulation isn't clear.  For me, this is the biggest detractor of the beer - it is a good beer, but it lacks the bracing bitterness I like in my bitters.

The beer has a real nice hop flavour, with the herbal flavours typical of fuggles and goldings hops.  Balancing this is a bit of sweetness from the crystal malt and some fruit esters.  Combined, these make for a very pleasant flavoured beer, although a bit more bitterness would balance the sweetness a little better.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

42 - A Belgian Dark Strong

42 - to some it is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything; to others it is merely the number that falls between 41 and 43. . .

. . .But today, it is the name of my next recipe.  Motivated by a Chop & Brew video and a Jamil show webcast, this is intended to be a classical Belgian Dark Strong Ale - high in alcohol, lightly bodied, long ageing and slow drinking.  A real treat for most brewers.

This recipe is taken straight off of the Chop & Brew video, aside from some minor adjustments for my system.  This beer will feature my homemade Belgian Candi Sugar (Links: 1, 2, Youtube), plus a limited release Wyeast yeast (3822-PC - Belgian Strong Ale - available in my yeast bank).  It is lower in alcohol that many beers of this style because a) I want a faster-maturing version, so I can see how my homemade candi sugar works in a beer, and b) I want to send a few bottles of this out for Christmas (edit: and c) because I screwed up my sparge somehow).  This beer should be bottleable in 6-8 or so weeks, although it will continue to age and improve for 6 or more months in-bottle.

The video that spawned this brew, as well as brew-day notes & the recipe, can all be found below the fold.

Belgian Candi Sugar II

EDIT: I have refined this process somewhat. Please see this this post for some simple changes to my procedure which leads to a better tasting and more consistent candi.

As described a couple of posts ago, I have been working on a method to prepare Belgian Candi Sugar at home.  This method uses commonly available household ingredients to prepare the sugar, and requires no more equipment than you'd normally find in your average kitchen.  I have posted my method in the following video, with this post acting as a synopsis you can follow in the kitchen.

I owe a debt of gratitude to a few bloggers for helping me find my way - in particular, I'd like to direct you to the posts on Ryan's Blog, Life Fermented and on An Engineer & His Carboy for the posts that directed my attempts.  Before I go into the details I'd also like to point out that the method outlined in my video and in this post are the product of about a half-dozen trial runs.  As such they represent a process in development, and may be subject to future improvements.  If you have any luck (or ill-luck) in trying to make your own candi sugar, please let me know in the comments.

EDIT: I have solved some of the crystallization issues people have been reporting when making candi sugar. Details can be found in this blog post.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Metric Infusion Ratios

Just a super-quick post; mostly so that I'll have this table handy for when I need it. Here is a table of for inter-converting between US (qt/lb) and metric (l/kg) infusion ratios. This is a simple calculation - multiply US units by 2.086345096 to get metric & vice-versa; you can multiply by 2 for simplicity...

qt/lb L/kg
qt/lb L/kg
0.75 1.56
1.65 3.44
0.80 1.67
1.70 3.55
0.85 1.77
1.75 3.65
0.90 1.88
1.80 3.76
0.95 1.98
1.85 3.86
1.00 2.09
1.90 3.96
1.05 2.19
1.95 4.07
1.10 2.29
2.00 4.17
1.15 2.40
2.05 4.28
1.20 2.50
2.10 4.38
1.25 2.61
2.15 4.49
1.30 2.71
2.20 4.59
1.35 2.82
2.25 4.69
1.40 2.92
2.30 4.80
1.45 3.03
2.35 4.90
1.50 3.13
2.40 5.01
1.55 3.23
2.45 5.11
1.60 3.34
2.50 5.22

Monday, 9 September 2013

Making Belgian Candi Sugar

The Belgian Candi Sugars
Left: Attempt #1, Right: Attempt #2
With the Krampus Kristmas Ale transferred to the secondary & spiced my thoughts have turned to the next big beer - probably not to be brewed for a few months (some stouts & porters are in my new future) - but I like to think ahead.

One style I've always enjoyed, but rarely brewed, are the strong Belgian (trappist-style) ales. With lots of fruity esters and spicy phenolics, these beers are flavourful & well balanced. Their high-alcohol & dry finish makes them easy to drink, with the dryness deceptively hiding their strength.

The key to making these beers strong (7-12% alcohol) with a dry finish is the use of Belgian candi sugar - beet sugar which is heated & otherwise treated to create a candi (or syrup). Depending on how it is prepared, this candi can be anything from a light-amber with little flavour through to near-black candis with flavours of coffee, chocolate and dark fruits (e.g. plums & dates). It is the cost (often over $16/kg), and difficulty finding this product in Canada which has largely held back my ability to brew & explore Belgian strong ales.

So imagine my joy when finding out that it may be possible to produce Belgian candi sugar at home. Armed with one youtube video & a short write-up I embarked on my first experiment. After nearly two hours of heating, with little colour formation, I started reading further. It turns out I - and many other brewers out there - are doing it wrong!

Below the fold is my attempt to fix my mistake, and perhaps establish a method others can employ...

EDIT: I have solved some of the crystalizaiton issues people have been reporting when making candi sugar. Details can be found in this blog post.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Krampus Kristmas Ale

Krampus probably should have
visited me more at xmas...
Its September 2nd, the time of the year the brewers thoughts turn to cool fall evenings, pints of ESB after racking the leaves . . . and Christmas. Yep, it is time to start brewing those over-strength ales that we all love to enjoy around yule-time.

Over the past 12 or so years I've brewed a variant of my "Bad Santa"; a light-coloured, light body strong beer with hints of honey, ginger & cinnamon. Every year I tweak it slightly, aiming to make it ever better. Around 2008 this recipe hit its peak and has been on a downward slide since. Indeed, last years batch was a mild disappointment, as chronicled over these posts: 1, 2 &3. Needless to say, it is well-neigh time for a new Christmas beer.

Enter Krampus Kristmas Ale - which is everything Bad Santa isn't. Instead of a light-colour, this beer should have a deep-red hue provided by a mix of melanoiden & caramunich malt. In place of a honey-induced dryness, this beer uses a hot mash to provide a thick, sweet, malty finish. In place of subtle ginger & cinnamon tones, this been has a kick-in-the-face spiciness provided by ample amounts of of cinnamon, allspice & nutmeg. What better name for Bad Santas darker brother than Krampus - the demon who drags naughty children to his lair for punishment?

Recipe & brewnotes below the fold...

Tasting Notes: Droit du seigneur Blonde

Its been a while since I brewed my Droit du seigneur Blonde. In fact, its been in the keg for over a month and the keg is nearly empty. While it may appear that I've been tardy in my tasting notes, this is not the case. Instead, I've been waiting for it to improve.

Yep, this batch is a rare miss. And a miss for two now-obvious reasons. But lets step back for a second and talk about what this beer is supposed to be. US-style Blondes are the homebrewers response to the "light lager" brews that are all too common (Bud, Molson, Coors, etc). Light in body, minimal maltiness and a mild hoppiness, these beers are nice for a hot summers eve, and are an entry point regular brewers into the world of home brewing. In many ways I achieved this end - the beer is light, clear, refreshing & has a soft but enjoyable hop character.

My problems stems from the light flavour of this beer - sadly, due to a renovation I'm performing in my basement, the usual 18C temperature my basement reliably stays at increased to over 23C. At these temperatures the yeast produced more esters than is appropriate to this style. The esters add a fruity note that is not unpleasant; but unfortunately it is accompanied by a stale/rubbery phenolic note - likely due to topping-up the fermenter with raw tap water. The chlorine in the water would make chloroamines, which have a rubbery flavour to them.

Lesson learned - pay more attention to volumes while brewing & control your fermentation temperatuers; doing so can save you a lot of headaches!

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Brew Day: Dog Days ESB

Beautiful day to brew!
It has been a while since I last posted a recipe. This is simply because I try not to brew much over the summer - its too hot to stand over a boiling pot of water, and lacking proper temperature control, results are not always as good as I would hope. Indeed, my attempt at a Blonde had an overly estery finish (tasting notes coming soon), largely due to the heatwave that decided to break out hours after the brewday was complete! So my normal approach is to brew a bunch of beer in the early summer, and hope against hope that it lasts the summer.

As you would expect, the archived beer never lasts the summer. So its time for a brew day - and today I'm brewing a beer that is fit for both cooling down on a warm summers eve, and is fit for those early fall days. Crisp, refreshing and modestly bodied, with a bracing but not overpowering bitterness, an extra special bitter is just the beer for the dog days of summer.

I'm also taking this opportunity to try two new things - well, one new thing plus bringing back a thing I used to do religiously. The new thing is going to be an attempt at first wort hopping - based on Denneys notes, I have moved all my bittering additions to FWH addition (you add the hopes to the brew kettle before your collect the sparge - that way the hops soak in the wort prior to boiling). This is supposed to give a smoother bitterness.

Mash outs are a classical part of brewing, but something that many batch-spargers have done away with. My mash efficiencies are consistently low (65%-ish), so I'm going to try adding adding the first sparge water (5L) at boiling (update: this upped my efficiency to 72%, bu I under-collected the sparge water by ~3L, so this could have been better). This may improve the liquefaction of the mash, thus improving efficiency.

Recipe and notes below the fold...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Welcome Visitors!

So without me noticing it the 1-year anniversary of my blog has come and gone (for the record, it was July 6th).  Over the past year my traffic has grown exponentially - from a few hits per month for the first four or five months (most of which were probably just me) to the past three months where I've averaged 1500-2500  per month (most of which may still just be me).

Hits aside, the sources of my traffic have been a surprise, and have identified a number of cool brewing resources that I had no idea existed.  I thought I'd do a bit of a shout-out; both as a way of thanking the people at these sites for their readership, and to share some cool resources that may be of interest:


  • Bootleg Biology: An attempt to create an "open-source"  wild yeast resource for home brewers.  While in the early stages, bootleg biology is seeking to create a "library" of local yeasts from across the USA (and perhaps beyond?).  Includes a mix of blog posts & information pages.  A project worth following, and to join.
  • BKYeast: A blog by Dimitri - a man with a very similar background to my own (cell biologist, home brewer).  Lots of information on brew science, wild brewing, and a yeast collection I'd love to get my hands on!
  • DC Yeast Lab: A great blog on brewing science & wild brewing.  This blogger and I have enjoyed a successful yeast exchange.
  • Eureka Brewing: A blogger with similar goals to my own.  This was one of the blogs that motivated me to start my own.


  • Homebrew Talk: To my knowledge this is the largest discussion forum on the 'net for homebrewing, and a site I am an active member of.  A fantastic resource.
  • Canadian Home Brewers: Another web forum I participate in - and apparently in which I self-promote a little too much...
  • Reddit: I get a lot of hits from reddit; and often from odd sections.  My #1 source is a reddit thread on. . .Why do we have different sized dogs but all the domestic cats are (roughly) the same size?  Yep, I don't get it either.
  • A German homebrew forum.  My German is quite rusty, but my limited Germanic capacity makes me believe that it is an active & interesting forum.
  • BeerBorg: A beer-brewing forum with a Star Trek bent.  I'm not sure if this is a regional group or a more general board.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Mailing Yeast Part II

The original "lab-based" mailers in action
I am happy to announce that my post on mailing yeasts has been well received and has led to a number of productive exchanges with other yeast ranchers. But aside from greatly expanding my yeast bank, these exchanges have also identified a few flaws in the mailing and recovering methods I described in my original post.

These flaws appear to stem from the modification I made to the mailing protocol. A modification I had meant to 'convert' the method from a method intended for use in a biology lab to a method that the average home brewer could use. In this post I will discuss how to optimize the sending and receiving process, in order to maximize your chance of a successful yeast exchange. In addition, at the end of the post I will go over the original (lab-based) method, for brewers interested in trying it.

Its worth mentioning that the lab-based method is likely superior for two reasons, although the modifications I'm describing here for the home brewer method may eliminate these advantages:
  1. Because the lab-based method works by transferring colonies of yeast off a plate onto the mailer, much larger numbers of yeast are transferred to the paper compared to the original home brewers method.
  2. The lab method uses yeasts growing on an agar plate - these yeast are better adapted to being dried on paper, as they are already growing in (and thus adapted to) a non-fluid, high-yeast-density environment.
As always, the details are below the fold...

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Another Wild Yeast Identification Test

Micrograph of the Wild Yeast (left) versus
conventional ale yeast (right)
Over a series of posts, listed below, I've covered my work designing a method to identify what species I'm purifying in my attempts to isolate wild yeasts.  This technique has concentrated on the sequencing ribosomal DNA; stretches of DNA which are frequently sequenced for the purpose of species identification.  My first attempt at this did not work well, but I had a higher degree of success upon re-targeting my sequencing attempts to a different region of the ribosome.

In parallel with these experiments I have been purifying a range of wild strains (edit: completed here) which will soon be tested for their fermentation characteristics.  Once good brewing strains are identified, I will further characterize them - including identifying the species via ribosomal sequencing.

Before I go down that road I want to test the sequencing method on a bona fide wild strain.  For this test I am using a strain kindly provided by fellow wild brewer Doc_Drive.  This yeast was featured in an earlier post of mine as an example of suing old yeast-identification methods.  In this post I tentatively identified this yeast as Kloeckera apiculata based on its morphology and described fermentation characteristics.

I have now positively identified this yeast as Kloeckera, based on ribosomal sequencing; the full story can be found below the fold...yes, I was right!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Results: First Wild Yeast Hunt

Thirteen mini-ferments on the go!
A few weeks ago I brewed a Blonde ale.  This batch was slightly oversized, in order to give me enough wort to do a series of mini ferments in beer bottles, using a selection of the yeasts isolated in my first wild yeast hunt.  The goal was simple - to brew a light beer that would let the yeast characteristics dominate, while at the same time producing a beer that would act as both a flavour control, and as a lawnmower beer to get me through the beginning of August.

This is going to be a fairly extensive post, so here is the brief summary.  As per usual, the meat is below the fold:

I selected about half of the 25 strains of yeast I isolated as part of my first wild yeast hunt, and grew up 1ml mini-starters, using 1.040 wort (no hops) and a shaker set at 32C.  These 'starters' were then stored in a fridge for a few days until I could brew the Droit du seigneur Blonde; a low-hop (17IBU), modest-gravity (1.044) ale.  I  brewed an extra 5L of this beer, in order to give enough volume to setup 13 100ml mini-ferments, which were inoculated with the mini-starters.  A month later I ran a flavour testing series, to see what these wild yeasts had produced.  A month may seem like a long time, but since wild yeasts can sometimes be slow, a month gives a long enough ferment for even the slowest of yeasts to ferment to completion.

I did not get any particularly stellar yeasts out of this - about half were oxidative yeasts and barely reduced the gravity of the beer.  I was more successful than I had expected - finding four strains with potential.  But what really came out of this project is a  usable method.  SWMBO'd has a garden full of veggies right now all of them covered in local wild yeast!

All the nitty gritty below the fold.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Tasting Notes: Summer Lemon Hefeweizen

A pint of Summer Lemon Hefeweizen
I've been tardy. . .half the keg of my Summer Lemon Hefeweizen is already gone and I haven't posted any tasting notes yet.  The fact I've been drinking it, instead of writing about it, may give you a hint about how it turned out.

It is great!

Aroma: The aroma of this beer is what you'd expect of a hefe - yeasty, with a bit of fruitiness.  I was hoping for a bit of lemon on the nose, but sadly, it is lacking.  None-the-less, the aroma is pleasing and dead-on for a hefe.

Appearance:  The picture is somewhat misleading - this beer is cloudy, just as a hefe should be.  The cloudiness has faded as the keg has aged, but it retains a nice white haze that typifies most wheat beers.  This beer is a hard pour - a thick, creamy head forms as quickly as you can pour the beer.  If I'm in a rush I sometimes end up spooning off the head so I can to off the glass!  This thick head does something I've never seen before - it condenses into thick "islands" of almost clumpy head - it looks almost like kraussen.  I'm not sure what to make of that.

Flavour:  The flavour of this beer is very refreshing - a perfect pint for a summer afternoon.  The American Hefe yeast imparted a modest banana flavour, but not nearly as bold as a conventional hefe yeast.  Unlike conventional hefe yeasts, there is no clove flavour.  As you would expect, the high amounts of wheat give a bit of body to the beer.  Behind the banana and wheat flavours is a subtle bit of lemon.  The one thing I would change with this batch is the mount of lemon I add - I'd double-up and use two lemons + their zest.

Mouthfeel:  Silky, like a wheat beer should be.

Overall:  I love this beer - easy to brew, quickly maturing, and a real refreshing brew to enjoy on a hot summers day.  As I said above, the only thing not as I'd prefer it to be is the degree to which the lemon comes through - so brew it with 2 lemons, or add a slice of fresh lemon to each glass!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Brewday - Droit du seigneur Blonde

Beer in the front, desk in the back!
Finally, its a summer brewday.  Meaning I'm brewing a blonde on the driveway where all the neighbours can see.  Blondes are a quintessential summer brew - light, modest alcohol, modest hoppiness, means these can be enjoyed pint, after pint.

I'm making an extra 5L of this brew, to act as a test wort for a fermentation test of my recently purified wild strains.  The low IBUs will let the yeast characteristics shine through, while the conventionally fermented portion of the brew will act as a flavour control.

I'm helping SWMBO'd refinish an antique maple desk during the brew, so I'll have to keep this post short...

Droit du seigneur Blonde
Blonde Ale
Type: All Grain Date: 14-06-07
Batch Size (fermenter): 25.00 lBoil Size: 30.69 l
Boil Time: 60 min
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
4.75 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM) Grain 1 95.0 %
0.25 kg Caramel/Crystal Malt - 10L (10.0 SRM) Grain 2 5.0 %
28.35 g Fuggles [5.10 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 3 15.8 IBUs
1.00 g Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] - Boil 60.0 min Hop 4 1.5 IBUs
1.00 tbsp Irish Moss (Boil 15.0 mins) Fining 5 -
1.0 pkg

Safale  #US-05




Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.044 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.045 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.009 SG Measured Final Gravity: TBA
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 4.5 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: TBA
Bitterness: 17.3 IBUs Measured Pre-Boil Gravity:  1.035
Est Color: 3.8 SRM Measured Pre-Boil Volume: 33L
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Single Infusion, Light Body, Batch Sparge Total Grain Weight: 5.00 kg
Sparge Water: 24.45 l Grain Temperature: 22.0 C
Sparge Temperature: 75.6 C Tun Temperature: 22.0 C
Adjust Temp for Equipment: TRUE Mash PH: 5.20

Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Mash In Add 11.50 l of water at 75.4 C 66.7 C 60 min

Sparge Step: Batch sparge with 2 steps (8.98l, 15.47l) of 75.6 C water

Brew Day

The recipe is a simple one - the columbus hops are entirely optional, and were added as I didn't have enough fuggels to get to the desired 17 IBU.  Everything went fine aside from a slight overshooting at mash-in; fixed by stirring with the mash tuns top open.  I ended up with a slightly larger boil volume than planned, but that was OK  (who doesn't like more beer?).

Friday, 21 June 2013

First Wild Yeast Hunt

I've been hush-hush on my wild yeast hunt, aside from a few posts on the methodologies I was planning on using to purify and identify wild strains of yeast. But I haven't been sitting still - the hunt's been on, for over a month. This post is a mid-hunt writeup; at this point I have a number of yeast strains, but I have not yet completed a full analysis of their fermentation properties, the flavour of the resulting beer, nor have I done any form of species identification aside from a bit of selective media and pictures taken under a microscope.

The isolation process is fairly simple. Six kernels of malt were dropped into a small tube containing 6 ml of 1.040 unhopped wort. At specific intervals a small amount of fermenting wort was sterilely removed and plated on a wort-agar plate containing penicillin and streptomycin. These antibiotics prevent the growth of bacteria, ensuring that only wort-fermentating yeasts (and other fungi) are purified.

My sampling strategy is simple; using information gleaned from two sources: Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Jeff Sparrow and the paper Brewhouse-Resident Microbiota Are Responsible for Multi-Stage Fermentation of American Coolship Ale, I picked a series of time points in which specific organisms should dominate the ferment, but I am hoping shorter time points will suffice, under the expectation that the fermentation process will be accelerated due to the small volume and relatively large inoculum. By plating out at these time point I hoped to get enriched cultures of very specific yeast species, notably:

  • Day 4: Oxidative yeasts like Pichia & Kloeckera apiculata
  • Day 10: Fermentative yeasts like Saccharomyces
  • Day 20: Saccharomyces, some Brettanomyces
  • Day 30: Saccharomyces, some Brettanomyces
Progress of the ferment.
L:R: Day 1, Day 4, Day 10, Day 20 & Day 30

As always, the rest is below the fold...

Monday, 17 June 2013

Tasting Notes: Sour-Mash Berliner Weiss

A Bad pour that highlights the huge
head of this beer.
So its been a few weeks, and the Berliner Weiss is ready.  The beer started at 1.032 and ended at 1.006.  Nearly white in colour, with a wheat beer haziness, and a thick heavy head, this beer appears to be a conventional wheat beer.  That impression fades with the first whiff of the beers aroma - which is dominated by a sour lactic aroma, and only mild hits of hops and malt.

This strangeness is enhanced when the brew is sipped.  A strong and slightly pungent lactic acid acidity dominates the beer, overlaying a mild maltiness - more sourness than any sour I've tried previously, but not unpleasantly so.  The hop flavour is subtle; detectable more because I was looking for it than any overt presence.  One of the odder aspects is the mouthfeel of the beer.  as suggested by the low OG, it is thin and dry.  But that is paralleled by an unusual carbonation - fine bubbles that nucleate on the tongue, tickling the mouth - bubbles more at home in a sparkling wine than in a beer.

Overall I really like this beer - unbelievable refreshing, sour and tart.  A true summer treat - but one which is an acquired taste.  But, since this beer is normally served mixed, the taste test isn't over yet

Lacking both raspberry and woodruff syrup, I was limited to mit schuss (sugar), mixing with another beer, and something uniquely Canadian - lets call it 'mit Ahorn' (with maple - AKA maple syrup).

mit schuss: To serve this mit schuss I made a simple syrup using equal parts table sugar (sucrose) and water.  This was heated in the microwave until the sugar was dissolved.  This was added bit-by-bit to see the effect.  At low doses this cuts the sourness without significantly altering the flavour profile.  At higher doses the sweetness begins to emerge, while the sourness fades ever more into the background.  All too soon the amount of sugar added was too much, producing an unbalanced sweet beverage with a mild malt flavour.

Mixed with Beer: Traditionally, Berliner Weisse is mixed with a hoppy lager like pilsner.  I didn't have anything like this on hand, but I did have my Saison.  There is only one way to describe a 50:50 mix of the two WOW!!!  Yes - 'wow', in capital, with multiple explanation marks.  The grapefuit and vinous  notes of the saison blended with the lactic aroma went perfectly with the lactic acid aroma of the weisse, accenting the citrus nature of the saison.  This unexpected symbiosis worked at the flavour level as well - the acidity of the weisse balancing nicely with the fruity hop and yeast character of the saison.  Even the saison's bitterness worked with the weisse, with the combined weiss sourness + fruit hop/yeast flavours + bitterness producing an amazingly well balanced beer.

mit Ahorn:  My maple syrup to weisse ratio was a little more on the maple side than ideal; none-the-less, the sweetness of the syrup cut the sourness of the beer significantly.  A bit of maple aroma can be detected, but the biggest difference is the taste.  The taste-forward sourness is gone; in its place was an overly-sweet malt flavour. Surprisingly, despite the over-use of the syrup, little maple flavour was detectable.  Given that the same effect can be reached mit schuss, I'd recommend against the maple.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Grand Opening: Forked River

Good turnout!
In exciting news, the little city of London in which I live opened its first craft brewery - Forked River! Even more exciting, the owners are all members of my brew club, the London Homebrewing Guild. They started delivering kegs to pubs last week, but this weekend was the grand-opening of their brewery for public sales.

Why it took so long for us to get our own craft brewery, when the craft brewing scene has been exploding in the province for over a decade, is a mystery to me - perhaps its because Labatts (a Canadian mega-brewery) originated here, perhaps it was because of something else, but for some reason London seems to have missed the craft brewing revolution that placed small breweries into nearly every Ontario city.

I am happy to say the drought is over, and that Forked seems to have been greeted by Londoners with open arms - many positive news articles have been written (1, 2 & 3), and their grand-opening was packed. My wife and I showed up a half hour after the doors opened, and we could barely get inside. It took nearly 45 minutes to snag our free samples, and to grab a growler of beer & some swag. From others I heard that it remained packed right through into closing, and that over 1000L of beer was sold in just 5 hours!

I, of course, grabbed a few for myself - a growler to take to work (two of the owners graduated from our grad program), plus two bottles for my own enjoyment.

Forked River currently brews two beers - a Capital Blonde Ale and Riptide Rye Pale Ale. Both are very enjoyable and well built beers.

The Capital Blonde (left) is an on-style blonde - pale copper in colour, modest bitterness & hop character, some esters, mellow, and easy-drinking. My wife doesn't like many beers - she likes this Blonde!

The Riptide Rye is a different beast. Rye adds a unique flavour and mouthfeel to a beer - its dry, almost astringent, with a crisp and spicy finish. Again, the guys at Forked River have done it right - the rye character is there, but balanced as to avoid the astringency that comes with too much rye. A bit of yeasty esters and some nice hop bitterness and flavour round out this beer.

Sadly, these beers are only available direct from Forked and in a few pubs around London - if you're passing through I'd recommend you give them a try. If yo live here, you should have been at the opening last weekend...

Tasting Notes: John's Saison

A pint of Johns Saison
So it took a while, but the John's Saison is done! Its fruity, dry and refreshing, just as I remember john's original brew. The beer is great - quite the refreshing summer brew, and it has a decent kick to boot!

The beer started with a gravity of 1.054 and ended at the amazingly low 0.998! The beer is hopped with a range of 'new' hops, giving it a wonderful fruity/vinous flavour and aroma that is very unique & enjoyable.

Aroma: The aroma of this beer is unique - the Nelson Sauvin hops used in the dry hop are known for providing a wine-like aroma, and that comes through quite strongly in this beer; close your eyes and you may think that you're about to indulge in a glass of white! Underneath that is a hint of grapefruit, a common characteristic provided by Citra hops.

Appearance: Unlike what the above picture suggests, this beer is crystal-clear, and a dark straw/light copper in colour. The 'haze' above is condensation - we've got 96% humidity today, so no force on earth will keep it away. The beer pours with a thick, creamy head that persists for a long time, leaving belgian lace along the sides of the glass.

Flavour: Citrus flavours - provided by the hop-bursting with Citra & Armillo Gold hops - dominate this beer. Beneath the citrus flavour of the hops is a dry, but slightly malty, beer. The citrus flavours dominate early in the sip; later on a more typical hop bitterness emerges. Throughout is a modest sweetness - produced by the esters of the saison yeast used to produce the beer. Because this beer was fermented cooler than is normal for saison's, this characteristic is suppressed...meaning that I need a way to warm my beers. The high levels of dry-hopping have left a slight vegital flavour that is occasionally noticeable. Luckily, that flavour fades with every passing day.

Mouthfeel: As the low FG would imply, this is a thinner beer that is almost water-like in its mouthfeel. This is not a detractor, and indeed, is on-style. This is balanced by a sparkling effervescence that further lightens the mouthfeel. Even with the low finishing gravity, this beer doesn't cause any astringency or drying of the mouth.

Overall: While this recipe is a modern twist on the classical saison, it reflects the style well. It is a very enjoyable beer to drink, and goes well will BBQing or sitting in a hammock after mowing the lawn. The balance of hop, malt and yeast characteristics is skewed more to the hops than is normal for this style, but none-the-less, the beer is well balanced and a joy to drink. This beer easily is in the top 10% of those I've brewed.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Easy Sour: Sour-Mash Berliner Weiss

Grain Bill: 50% Wheat Malt 50% Pils
This weeks beer is a wonderful summer beer that can go from mash tun to glass in as little as a week. This style is rarely found outside of Berlin, despite having a long-lasting reputation as the "champagne of the north"; an appellation provided by Napoleon's troops during their conquest of Germany.

Berliner Weiss (or Weisse) is a deceptively simple sour beer. Its key characteristic is a taste-forward sourness, provided by ample quantities of lactic acid. Low in alcohol, effervescent and dry, with a lactic acid pucker, this beer is great for hot days, patios & BBQs. Its intense sourness is not enjoyed by all, so it is commonly served with simple syrup (‘mit schuss’) or flavoured with either woodruff (‘waldmeister’) or raspberry (‘himbeer’) syrups. It is often considered the most refreshing style of beer.

Warming the mash water
Berliner Weiss recipes are simple; all start with a 50/50 mix of Pilsner and Wheat malts, and some add in a bit of table sugar to dry out the beer. Minimal hop flavour/aroma is provided by a light hopping with German hops. Starting gravities are typically 1.028 – 1.032, producing an alcohol content of 2.8-3.5%. From here the style can remain simple, or get quite complex. Lactic acid bacteria like lactobacillus or pediococcus are used to provide a strong dose of lactic acid, while neutral ale yeast ferment out the beer. Some feature a mild Brett character which adds a hint of fruitiness and funk to the beer.

There are two major ways Berliner Weiss can be brewed - a classical sour ferment, or a more modern sour mash. Sour ferments are the same as for Belgians sours: months-to-years in duration, complex, and unpredictable. Sour mashes are the polar opposite - and an excellent entry point for a brewer interested in sour beers. Instead of relying on souring organisms in the ferment, a sour mash instead introduces them into the mash. Over a few days the mash sours, after which the sparge and boil kill these organisms. The beer can then be fermented with a clean ale yeast, kegged, and be ready to drink in as little as 7 days after the mash is started.

As always, the meat is below the fold.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Tasting Notes: Stupid is as Stupid Does

So the Stupid is as Stupid Does (a munich/citra SMaSH) is kegged and in the glass. Despite the fact that on brew day every thing that could have gone wrong, went wrong, the beer turned out OK. OK, but not great.

The beer started at 1.035 (instead of the expected 1.054) and finished at 1.005, for an alcohol content of 3.9%. I didn't compensate for this low OG, and kept my hopping as planned, leading to a beer with 25IBUs (instead of 22), leading to a BU:GU of 0.71 (instead of the planned 0.40). Given this beer was built around a munich dunkel style, the bitterness was going to be high - more like a pilsner - but well within tolerable levels. A lot of hops went into flavour and aroma additions, providing a lot of citra character.

I had read that citra, when used as a bittering hop, can produce a rough bitterness. This is certainty the case, although in my opinion, the effect is magnified by the high BU:GU of this beer. The harsher bitterness aside, this is a pleasant beer.

Update: Since I'm bottling most of this for an exchange with others participating in the London HomeBrewers SMaSH, I made the label to the left to celebrate the 'success' of this brew...

More below the fold.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Brew Day - Summer Lemon Hefeweizen

Trying a new arrangement in the
Today I'm brewing a summer wheat. Hefeweizen aficionados will want to turn away now - I'm committing the unforgivable sin of brewing it with lemon (traditionally, hefeweizen is served without the lemon slice so often found in American wheats).

The beer itself is a mix of German and US style hefeweizen - a typical German grain/hop bill, with lots of pilsner malt and hallertauer hops, but fermented with a less estery US hefeweizen yeast. And yes, a lemon's worth of zest & juice goes into the batch.

Recipe & Brewday Below the Fold...

Friday, 17 May 2013

Book Review: Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition

A few weeks ago I came across an old chapters gift card which still had some money on it, so I bought a few brewing books. The first of these (For the Love of Hops) I reviewed last week. I've now worked my way through through the second book - Wild Brews: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition by Jeff Sparrow.

Wild Brews.
Styles Introduction: 4/5
History of Belgian Brewing: 5/5
Coverage of Wild/Sour Beer Styles: 4/5
Wild Fermentation & Organisms: 5/5
Blending & Other Advanced Topics: 4/5
Homebrewing Procedures: 5/5
Overall: 4.4/5

This is one of the better brewing books I've read in a while. Maybe not quite as good as Designing Great Beers, but it is a very, very, very close second. This book covers the unique 'wild' (or sour) beer styles of Belgium, and does an amazing job of covering every aspect of these styles of beers that you could ever want to know. This book open with a history of sour beers, covering everything from the roots of sour brewing (10,000 years old!), to the development of modern methods, to the abandonment of those methods by all but a few Belgian brewers, and their new adoption in a handful of craft brewers around the world. This is followed by a 'drinking guide' of the major producers products. After this, the book goes into a hard-core look the organisms and chemistry of a wild ferment, and finishes by dedicating the final third of the book to a discussion of how wild brewing can be done by the homebrewer.

If you brew sours, or are even vaguely interested in them, this book belongs on your bookshelf.

More Below the Fold...

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Identifying Wild Yeast Part Deux

So my first go at identifying wild yeast using ITS sequencing did not work as well as I had hoped. Of course, after setting up the system I learned that the method I was using was best for non-yeast fungi, rather than for yeast. Luckily one of my few readers, Sam - author of eurekabrewing - came to the rescue with a few papers showing better ways to do it.

So I've revamped the plan and will use a slight variation of my old method. Previously I was trying to sequence the regions of the genome between pieces of the ribosome (full explanation of the method and what a ribosome is can be found here). Instead, I'm going to sequence part of the 26s portion of the ribosome (26S rRNA). The specific part I'm amplifying has been used successfully to identify yeast in the past, including the very species of yeast we're likely to find in a wild brew1-3.

As always, the meat is below the fold...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Yeast: Species,Strains and Variability

A dendogram showing the genetic/evolutionary relationship
between various species of yeasts. From Reference 1.
So last night I met with the London Homebrewers president, and we planned out something special. I'm not going to say more here - but lets just say once this new project gets rolling it'll blow my blog (and the activities it covers) out of the water.

But, as part of the meeting, our discussion turned to questions like 'what is Brett', 'how does a strain of Brett (or lacto, etc) compare to a yeast strain', etc. In other words, what is the difference between wyeast 1056, 1084 & 2001 (American Ale, Irish Ale and Plisner Urquell respectively), and how does that compare to Brettanomyces bruxellensis or lambicus?

Before going into the details, a brief note on how science organizes species. We organize based on genetic/evolutionary similarity - i.e. if we had two strains that were genetically similar, and one less genetically similar, we would cluster the more similar species together. An example of this can be seen in the attached image - Saccharomyces cerevisiae (top of image) is grouped separate from the Dekkara/Brettanomyces yeasts, while the the Dekkara/Brettanomyces are clustered together The numbers on the lines indicate the relative amount of genetic differences between species, so we can say that Saccharomyces is slightly more similar to Hansenispora occidentalis (71+75 = 146 units of difference) than it is to Brett. bruxellensis (100 + 51 + 100 = 251 units). This mapping allows us to group organisms based on similarity, giving us the ability to separate organisms into strains, species, genera, and higher taxonomical orders. But yeast - being the nightmares of taxonomists - don't play nice...

As always, details below the fold.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Book Review: For The Love of Hops - The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops

A few weeks ago I came across an old Chapters gift card I got for xmas 3 or 4 years ago, and much to my delight it had a balance remaining on it! What was I to do with my new-found wealth? Buy brewing books, of course!  This is the first of two book reviews that should appear this month.

For the Love of Hops.
Hop History: 5/5
Modern Hop Development: 5/5
Bitterness Chemistry: 3/5
Aroma Chemistry: 5/5
Commercial Use: 5/5
Homebrew Use: 2/5
Recipes: 3/5
Overall: 4.0/5

Despite being sold in the homebrewing section of the book store, this book doesn't really belong there. Advice specific to homebrewers is found in a handful of side-boxes scattered throughout the book, but by-and-large this book is orientated at professional brewers. In fact, had I known in advance what this book was about in advance I probably would not have bought it.

And that would have been a mistake - this book is a must-read for any brewer interested in any aspect of hops. While the book is written largely from the perspective of craft brewers, the information in it is of great interest & use to the home-brewer. Full review below the fold.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Stupid is as Stupid Does . . . A SMaSH Beer

Using a decoction to fix screw-up # 2
Its brew day again; a mere 7 days since last time.  The saison is fermenting along fine, the sour barleywine is growing a pellicle, the hopsteader is gone, and the son of gnarly is almost out.  So my beer is either gone, is nearly gone, or is a long ways away from being done.  What is a brewer to do?  Brew another long-ageing beer!

OK, that's dumb, but this beer is part of a group-brew with other members of the London Homebrewers Guild.  This time, we're doing SMaSH beers - Single Malt and Single Hop.  It is exactly what it sounds like - you brew a beer using nothing but a base malt and a single hop.  In our case, we drew a malt and a hop out of a hat . . . I drew Munich malt & Citra hops.

I decided to brew a bastardized Munich Dunkel; instead of classical European hops there would be Citra; in place of classical lager yeasts there would be a steam-beer like yeast (WLP810, San Francisco).  This is a half-batch using a single-step mash; should have been an easy brew day.  I had tentatively named this "MC SMaSH".  Yes, that's corny as hell, but MC = Munich Citra, and I've been listening to a lot of my old beastie boys albums lately...

And then brew day arrived and everything began going wrong:
  1. Lost the cat (he suck out of the garage, and down the street).  In chasing him I thought I had over-heater the strike water,
  2. Started the mash, then realized my strike water was just over mash temp (66C), not strike temp (75C).  Undershot the desired 66.7C mash temp by nearly 10C.
  3. Decocted twice to get back upto mash temp; burnt the second decoction.
  4. Mash runoff gravity was poor - 1.028 instead of 1.041
  5. OG was 1.035, not 1.054
So, without further ado, let me present the aptly re-named "Stupid is as Stupid Does".

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Yeast Identification Test

A short while ago I wrote a post on a fairly technical method to identify wild (and not-so-wild) yeast. This method relies on sequencing a short piece of the yeasts genome; this sequence is then used to ID the yeast. In this article I am going through an example of this method, aiming to demonstrate the operation of this methods. Sadly, we have no official wild yeasts in this example, but we do have a few strains of Brett as well as a yeast sample from a batch of beer that may or may not have been contaminated. Specifically, I am testing:
  • Wyeast 1084 (Irish ale); a run-of-the-mill Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain of yeast.
  • White Labs Brettanomyces lambicus
  • White Labs Brettanomyces bruxellensis
  • A mystery yeast from my Guilds president - its either White Labs Yorkshire Square, or a yeast which contaminated his latest brew.
Details below the fold...

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Brewday: John's Saison

Citra & Amarillo waiting
to go in the pool...
Saison is one of my favorite summer beers, and it is time to start brewing summer beers.  This beer is a recipe from a fellow London Homebrewer Guild member John, who also happens to be a co-worker.  John brought this beer to a meeting a few months ago - it was, hands down, one of the best Saison's I've ever had.  I'm not sure how on-style this is, but it is damned tasty.

Unfortunately, I had to mess with perfection.  John, like most students, lives in a small cramped apartment that is always hot - i.e. perfect Saison brewing temperatures.  I live in a house with a wife who saves money by not turning on the heat.  So I swapped out John's recommended Belgian Saison I Ale (WLP565), which is notorious for needed warm temperatures, for Wyeast's 3711 (French Saison), which is perfectly happy at the 18-20C my basement tends to be at this time of year.

Recipe & brewday below the fold...I hope John doesn't mind me posting it...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Mailing Yeast

A yeast mailer loaded & read-to-roll
One problem faced by many yeast banks is the sharing of yeasts over long distances. Yeast plates, frozen cultures, slants, etc, can be expensive to send and are highly temperature/time sensitive. There is a better way!

Since the mid-1990's I've been using a simple & cheap method to mail yeasts. I cannot take credit for this - I think I first came across this method in rec.crafts.brewing (for the young whippersnappers out there, this is a usenet brewing group), or perhaps on the ol' home brew digest. It works very well, requires no special tools, is relatively resistant to swings in temperature, and relies on regular letter mail instead of expensive package mail or couriers.

The concept is simple - a foil envelope is built around a piece of absorbent paper. This packet is then sanitized, then liquid yeast is sterilely dropped onto the paper & allowed to dry. The foil envelope is then sealed & mailed. The recipient recovers the yeast (ideally) by placing it on a wort-agar plate and selecting the colonies that grow, or (less ideally) by placing the paper in a tube of media and letting the yeast grow out of that.

Details below the fold...