Sunday, 28 December 2014

New Video! Identifying Wild Yeast & Bacteria

Finally, the last video in my "Hunting Wild Yeast" video series is complete. In this, the third and final video, I briefly discuss some of the things you can look for when assessing yeast/bacteria growing on an agar plate, in order to avoid potentially dangerous organisms and to increase your odds of identifying something good.

Both videos are based off of this years wild yeast hunt, whose methodology and results are summarized over two blog posts.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Book Review: Vintage Beer by Patrick Dawson

Although it may not appear to be the case, I'm actually at the beginning of a series on the brewing (and enjoyment) of vintage beers. This series started nearly two months ago with a post on two well-aged beers I've brewed since starting this blog, and continues today with a review of one of the best beer books I bought this year - Vintage Beer - A Taster's Guide to Brews That Improve over Time by Patrick Dawson.

You'll notice that I said "beer book" not "brewing book", because nowhere in the pages of this book will you find brewing tips or recipes, nor any discussions of bringing commercial-scale processes into the home brewery, nor any discussion relating to home brewing ingredients, scales or methods. Despite this, this is one of the most important home brewing books I've added to my book collection in many years. This book is a must have for any home brewer who brews - or is thinking of brewing - long-aging beers.

Confused? This apparent contradiction is explained below the fold...

Friday, 19 December 2014

A small step...maybe

After a month of bad press the "owner" of our major alcohol distribution system - e.g. the government - finally appears to have noticed that there is a problem. Although whether they perceive the problem as being an unfair system that increases costs while decreasing selection, or merely one of bad press, is yet to be seen.

But at least our Premier, Kathleen Wynn, has said that the system is unfair and "will be changed".

Of course the big brewers are crying like babies, and making up stories about how competition is somehow going to lead to prices going up by ~15%...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Brett Trois - A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.

So recently a youtube viewer of mine (Dan Aba, whose youtube channel you need to check out if you haven't already) turned me onto a Facebook group dedicated to sour beers. Lo and behold, the first thread I see on the forum is one claiming that Brettanomyces trois is actually a Saccharomyces yeast! This info didn't just come from nowhere; Lance Shaner of Omega Yeast Labs sent of the strain to a friend for sequencing, and the sequence came back Saccharomyces. Unfortunately, the sequence quality was poor and the sample appears to be a mix of two strains - so I thought it was time to do my own investigation.

The process I followed was fairly straight forward:
  1. I grew up B. trois from my yeast bank, overnight in a 37oC shaking culture - 1.040 wort + penicillin and streptomycin (to ensure a bacteria-free culture, not because my stocks are dirty)
  2. I took some images to assess morphology of the yeast
  3. I isolated some DNA and sequenced the Internal Transcribed Spacer (ITS) and part of the small (18s) rRNA gene to identify the yeast, using an optimized version of what I was doing in my previous posts.
So what did these experiments show? . . . . . . . Answer (and details) below the fold.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Conspiracy - Revealed

This is another of my Ontario-centric rants about beer distribution in my province - so my non-local readers may want to pass this post buy (unless you want to see just how crazy things here are). In Ontario beer is distributed via two government-maintained channels. A government owned/run LCBO chain of stores, and a foreign-owned beer monopoly (the beer store) whose monopoly is maintained via government fiat.

The system is flawed beyond belief; the beer has a secret agreement with the LCBO that gives it a near monopoly on beer sales; the LCBO is limited to some pretty strange rules when it comes to the selling of the beer. And the beer store takes advantage of their position - by using a series of extremely expensive "listing fees" the beer store ensures that small brewers cannot complete with the brewers who own the beers store (InBev, Saporro, Molson-Coors). It costs $77,000 to have the beer store carry a single product in a single format across all their stores. Meaning if a brewery wants to sell the same beer in a 6-pack and 12-pack format, it'll cost them $154,000. Obviously, those fees are deadly to small breweries, and all-but-prevents the distribution of 1-off and seasonal brews that are the lifeblood of most craft brewers. And even with this power, the owners still engage in underhanded marketing to further suppress the craft brewing industry.

The big mystery for beer consumers has been why the LCBO doesn't compete in any meaningful fashion with the beer store. There is no legal limitations that would prevent this, and yet the LCBO limits itself to selling singles and the odd six-pack of beer. In some ways the LCBO is more open to craft brewers - but in place of exhoberant listing fees, the LCBO instead has a series of asinine labelling rules and an excessively slow and convoluted listing process. That aside, the question remains why doesn't the LCBO complete.

The answer has finally been provided by The Star, thanks to a whistleblower. The leaked document shows that the LCBO and beer store have a secret non-competition agreement meant to keep the LCBO from competing with the beer store (with no apparent gain for the LCBO). Indeed, a former head of the LCBO has complained (without revealing details) about how this agreement was forced on the LCBO, apparently by government ministers.

Sounds fishy...if not outright corrupt.

At least now we know why the LCBO doesn't compete with the beer store and offer a meaningful second option to craft brewers. Whether this revelation will mean anything in terms of reform (or even better, outright privatization) is yet to be seen. But at least the agreement is now out there under public scrutiny.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Two New Videos!

Months after filming I've finally completed two videos in a three-part series on collecting & purifying wild yeast. These videos are part of my "Hunting Wild Yeast" series of blog posts, and go hand-in-hand with those posts.

The first video gives a quick overview of two ways to collect wild yeasts - namely, grabbing them off of fruits/veggies/plants/etc and collecting them from the air.

The second video shows a simple method for purifying individual strains of yeast and bacteria, in order to get pure strains for later use.

Both videos are based off of this years wild yeast hunt, whose methodology and results are summarized over two blog posts.

Video 1: Capturing Wild Yeast

Video 2: Purifying Wild Yeast