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.