Tag Archives: yeast

Announcing the January/February 2013 Platinum Strains

19 Nov

We’re beyond excited to announce the first batch of 2013 Platinum Strains, which will be released in January.

Be sure to ask your homebrew shop about them and plan your brews accordingly!

WLP022 Essex Ale Yeast
Flavorful British style yeast. Drier finish than many British ale yeast. Produces slightly fruity and bready character.    Good top fermenting yeast strain, is well suited for top cropping (collecting). This yeast is well suited for classic British milds, pale ales, bitters, and stouts. Does not flocculate as much as WLP002 and WLP005.

WLP510 Bastogne Belgian Ale Yeast:
A high gravity, Trappist style ale yeast. Produces dry beer with slight acidic finish. More ‘clean’ fermentation character than WLP500 or WLP530. Not as spicy as WLP530 or WLP550. Excellent yeast for high gravity beers, Belgian ales, dubbels and trippels.

WLP815 Belgian Lager Yeast
Clean, crisp European lager yeast with low sulfur  production. The strain originates from a very old brewery in West Belgium. Great for European style pilsners, dark lagers, Vienna lager, and American style lagers.

White Labs & AleSmith Collaboration Tasting

14 Nov

Join us on December 3rd in the White Labs Tasting Room for a very special, one time-only event. We’ve teamed up with one of our favorite breweries on the planet, the superb AleSmith Brewing Company, to put together a Tap Takeover, White Labs-style!

AleSmith provided us with some of their Wee Heavy wort and we’ve fermented it with 16 (!) different yeast strains, all of which will be on tap on Monday the 3rd for the release party (and will remain on tap until finished, which means they could be on tap for several weeks). The good folks at AleSmith had the idea to try to bring out the characteristics of a Weizen Bock in Wee Heavy using yeast and fermentation alone, and we’ve used a wide variety of strains- from Hefes to Belgians- to elicit significant changes in the flavor profile.

Simply put, this event is not to be missed!

Happy Pure Culture Anniversary!

12 Nov


On this day in 1883, Emil Christian Hansen was the first scientist in history to successfully create a pure yeast culture for use in brewing. He was head of the Carlsberg Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark and his work stood on the shoulders of Louis Pasteur who had published novel techniques a few years earlier.

Hansen’s technique was elegant. By performing serial dilutions of a yeast culture from the brewery he ended up isolating single cells, just like in later plating techniques. Enriching the single-cell solutions by additions of sterile wort lead to multiplication of the cells. From there, Hansen performed a stepwise propagation where a culture was added to a larger volume of wort and left to multiply over and over again. The result was a yeast slurry, wherein all the cells originated from the original mother cell. At last, the first pure yeast culture was a reality!
This innovation was shared with the brewing community in Europe and cured the “beer disease” (i.e. contaminated beer) that was a huge problem in Europe at the time.
129 years have gone by and today and we still use many of the same techniques every day at White Labs.

Chris White To Visit HomeBrew USA

5 Nov

As part of the Customer Club Vial Redemption program, White Labs offers rewards and discounts to repeat customers who send us labels from their used vials. The ultimate reward, given to a homebrew shop that amasses 5,000 labels, sees Chris White himself paying a visit to the shop to brew a beer and hang out with fellow brewers and White Labs faithful. On Saturday, December 8th, Chris will travel to Norfolk, VA to visit Homebrew USA where he will give a talk, answer questions, and brew an award-winning homebrew with Customer Club member Christopher Knight (a hop-forward Belgian ale brewed with coriander, grapefruit peel and chamomile!)


30 Oct

Ya sure, dontcha know.

This is one of the first greetings I received when arriving in Fargo, North Dakota this past Saturday (in jest, of course). This weekend I had the honor of being asked to speak at the annual Hoppy Halloween Challenge, hosted by the local Prairie Homebrew Companions. I was invited to attend by Susan Ruud, also of the AHA Governing Committee, whom I had the recent pleasure of judging with at the recent Great American Beer Festival. When Susan picked me up from the airport in Fargo, the snow had just started coming down…just for me.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with this particular competition, it’s centered around Halloween. While all of the familiar beer categories are judged, they also have some additional categories that are based around the them, each beer delivered to the judges complete with an elaborate presentation and the audience watching. Attendees to the banquet also dressed in costume, and I’m embarrassed to say, I failed to pack one. If you know me at all, you know how much I love costumes. Medals were awarded, which were attached to hand-made lanyards, by club member Vince, also Halloween themed (this year specifically, was mummies). As the evening wore on, I was able to taste many excellent beers – both homebrew and commercial. I was having such a fine time, that I stayed up with the group until the wee hours of the morning when I finally stumbled down the hall to my room for some much-needed sleep.

The following day, Susan organized a brew day at Eric’s house, another club member. We were joined by several others throughout the day, and brewed a 20 gallon batch of Belgian Dark Strong on Eric’s all electric brew system, which he built himself. We intended to split this batch into four, so I had shipped ahead some yeast – WLP500, WLP515, WLP530, and WLP545 – so some starters could be made. I have to admit, I didn’t do much to assist with the brewing, but it doesn’t seem right to come between a man and his brew system (unless he asks of course!). I did handle the yeast though, as you might have guessed.


Steve, Eric, Dick



Me, with my lil babies!

All in all, it was a really enjoyable weekend. I came away with a suitcase full of fun beer-related souvenirs. I had the chance to visit a new city, drink some great beer, brew some beer and best of all, I had the fortune to meet and spend time with some really great folks – Susan, Tom and Nancy (who you may know, since they were recently crowned President of Brews), Eric, Dick, Steve, Karl, Vince, Tony, Mike and Carla, Paul and Amy (best costumes of the competition), Ellen the Biology professor at Moorehead State, and so many others (I apologize for not remembering everyone’s name, I really did try). Thank you Fargo and thank you Prairie Homebrew Companions for such great hospitality!!

It’s safe to say, I’ll be baaack!

Q&A: Michael Tonsmeire/The Mad Fermentationist

29 Oct


The Mad Fermentationist is a veritable treasure trove of information for brewers at all levels of experience, stuffed to the gills with posts on topics ranging from advanced tutorials on capturing microflora and commercial yeast dregs to point-by-point, beginner’s primers on the most basic of homebrewing operations. Site owner Michael Tonsmeire also maintains a robust library of original and clone recipes on the site, several of which will become commercially available in some form as offerings by Modern Times Brewing, a nascent San Diego brewery that has enlisted Tonsmeire’s expertise in the recipe formulation process. This Q&A was conducted via email.

Q: How and when did you get into brewing beer?

I took a trip Ireland for my 21st birthday where I drank Guinness at the “brewery.” The following summer, a friend I’ve known since elementary school introduced me to good American beer (e.g., Dogfish Head and Ommegang), quite a change from the carbonic macro lagers I didn’t enjoy at college parties. Beer Advocate was a big help early on as I tried to locate and drink a good example of each style. I’d always enjoyed cooking (especially big, involved recipes), so brewing was a logical combination of these two hobbies. I started brewing beer my last semester in college (Carnegie Mellon) while taking a student led class, Beer Brewing and Appreciation. My first batch was an extract brown ale (our mid-term assignment) with my friend Nicole. It turned out well and I was hooked. After I graduated I made the switch to all-grain, and have been brewing about twice a month ever since.

Q: What made you decide to start the site?

Six years ago I moved to Washington, DC to start a new job, and I didn’t have a good outlet for my brewing energy. I originally started The Mad Fermentationist to have an easy place to access my recipes online, a place I could link to rather than typing the whole thing into posts on homebrewing forums. Appearing on Basic Brewing Radio for the first time for a tasting of my split-batch hop experiment, and having recently brewed my first few 100% Brett beers sent me off in the direction the site ended up.

Q: What do you look for in a yeast strain?

I don’t like fussy yeast strains. I like strains that will get the job done without a lot of hand-holding; those that are forgiving over a range of temperatures, pitching rates, gravities etc. Although in the end I’ll excuse a lot of that if the flavors produced are good enough. I tend to like drier beers, but a strain’s natural attenuation is something I can adjust for with tweaks to the mash and fermentables. I think it is important to ferment several batches with a strain to begin to understand how it reacts to different conditions. The first time I use a new strain I usually start with a relatively conservative approach, pitching the ideal amount of yeast suggested by a pitching rate calculator at the low end of the suggested fermentation temperature range. From there I’ll adjust depending on the results.

Q: What are your favorites? Top performers?

I probably use California Ale (001) most frequently, it stays out of the way in hoppy beers, and performs consistently. For Belgians I’m an Abbey Ale (530) guy, because it provides a wonderful range of characters depending on how warm you let it get. For saisons I really enjoyed my first batch (a moderate gravity recipe with spelt) fermented with Saison 3. For English beers I favor English Ale (002), it doesn’t have the minerally character I find off-putting in some other yeasts (I’m looking at you 023). I’m planning to give Dry English Ale (007) a shot soon since it is supposed to provide a similar flavor with a bit more attenuation. I don’t brew a lot of lagers, but German Bock (833) really stands out as a terrific strain for the malty examples. I currently have an ~11% ABV Weizen Trippelbock that was fermented with it sitting in a five gallon malt whisky barrel from Balcones. Really excited about that one!

I’m a big fan of both White Labs Brett claussenii (645), and the recently released Brett Trois (644) for primary fermentation. For true sour beers I tend to pitch bottle dregs from unpasteurized sour beers along with brewer’s yeast more than commercial yeast/bacteria blends.

Q: Hops have dominated the collective consciousness of much of the craft brewing community for many years now, but lately the tide seems to be turning a bit, with yeast-forward beers such as saisons and sours becoming increasingly popular. What do you make of this phenomenon?

I’m not sure if hoppy beers are falling out of vogue, or people’s interests are diversifying as more people discover good beer. Rather than making hoppier and hoppier beers, I’m excited to see all of the new hop varieties being released each with their own unique flavors. We’re also starting to see many breweries turn to more characterful yeasts and base beers for their hoppy beers than the standard get-out-of-the way malt/yeast of many classic West Coast hoppy beers. Things like Belgian IPAs, Cascadian/Black IPAs, White IPAs, dry hopped sour beers, hoppy 100% Brett beers etc. From a commercial stand-point, hops are also tricky because of the year-to-year variations in their availability. As a homebrewer I can just buy whatever hops are available and brew something that suits them, but commercial breweries are put in a difficult spot when the signature hop for one of their beers becomes either expensive or impossible to buy in the quantity they need it for an established brand. Yeasts and malts are much more reliable to procure, so there is less worry about having to adjust a recipe.

I think there will also be creative brewers looking to create new flavors in their beers by any means necessary. Microbes other than brewer’s yeast (Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus) can create flavors that are impossible to recreate with any other method or ingredients. Acidity rather than bitterness creates a very different balance for the beer, opening up other flavor combinations not possible in a highly hopped beer.

Q: Talk about your role in the development of Modern Times beers.

A few years ago I traded a few bottles of my homebrewed sours to Jacob McKean in exchange for some excellent craft beers. Apparently he enjoyed them enough that about a year ago he contacted me and asked if I wanted to work for his brewery-in-planning, Modern Times. After trying my hardest to get out of it by explaining to him that I live in Washington, DC several thousand miles from where the brewery would be located and had no plans of moving out there, he suggested I consult, developing recipes from a distance. For most of 2012 my homebrewing has been devoted to brewing and re-brewing tweaked test batches that will hopefully be released commercially in 2013 when the 30 bbl brewery opens in San Diego.  Currently some of the leading contenders for year-round beers are a creamy Oatmeal Coffee Stout, ~5% ABV Saison, ~4.5% Citra/Amarillo American Wheat, Red Rye IPA, and a Dank Amber IPA highlighting Nelson Sauvin.

We’ve been playing with some quicker funky beers like a 100% Brett IPA and a Belgian single bottle conditioned with Brett, but we are also planning to have an extensive barrel-aged souring program. I’ll be spending a few months in California around the time the brewery opens to fill barrels and help dial in the recipes on the much larger scale. Jacob is still searching for a Head Brewer, but fund raising is complete, and he is closing in on signing a lease for a building (which will also house a tasting room). It will be exciting to taste those first scaled up batches, each of which will be about the same volume of beer as I’ve produced in my eight years as a homebrewer! I’m also excited that we’ll be close to White Labs!

Q: Could you talk a bit about the text you’ve been working on which focuses on American sour ales.

I’ve been researching and writing the book for about two years now. I started out just writing my thoughts on brewing sour beers at home. As it grew I decided it would be fun to talk to some of the best brewers of sour beers in the country. While there have been several books focused on Belgian and German sour beers, none have given more than a passing mention to the American brewers doing it just as well. Luckily for me, American brewers in general are much more open than their Belgian counterpart; almost all of the 30 or so I’ve contacted have been willing to share their opinions and details of their processes.

I’m hoping that the book will answer all of the practical questions that brewers might have about brewing sour beers: from the obvious things like selecting the right microbes, what sort of base beer to use, determining whether or not barrel age, how much fruit to add, and how to blend; to easy-to-overlook practical aspects like how to measure acidity (pH or titratable acidity?), what sort of bungs to use, and how to compensate for the carbonation lost to aging in oak. Currently I’m waiting for the last couple brewers I interviewed to provide comments on the sections that cover their breweries before final copy-editing takes place. I’m in late-stage discussions with Brewers Publications at the moment, but if that falls through I’m prepared to self-publish.

Thanks so much, Mike. Be sure to check out the Mad Fermentationist site for (much) more information on all things homebrewing, fermentation and yeast oriented. 

Olive Oil vs Aeration Experiment

26 Jul


From the Lab:

We’ve had so many questions from commercial and homebrewers alike, about whether adding olive oil to wort can take the place of oxygenation/aeration. We’ve read the New Belgium study, but we decided to find out for ourselves, on a 5 gallon scale. We know that yeast need lipids to build new cells and promote a good fermentation. We also know that they need oxygen (in the range of 8-10ppm) as building blocks for this, but the theory is – what if we provide the lipids themselves?

I did two sets of trials, to get some repeatable (hopefully) data. I brewed two 20-gallon batches of English IPA and split each batch into 4 fermentors. One fermentor was dosed with 5ppm oxygen and one with 10ppm oxygen. Then I used olive oil to one fermentor and a product called Pactoferm (from Birko) in the fourth, an anti-foam product that is made with canola oil. Since I had calculated the olive oil needed for one fermentor to be the equivalent of a drop, I used New Belgium’s method to ensure the addition went smoothly. I emulsified the oil in some 200proof ethanol, then added that to a yeast slurry on a stir plate for four hours. To keep the experiment controlled, I put the other 3 yeast slurries on a stir-plate as well. If you’ve been to the tasting room, tried the beers, and looked at the data, you’ll see that all the fermentations were very closely matched, even the one with lower oxygen.

I think what will be more interesting to see, and a new trial will be done, is how these methods affect later generations – second and third generation fermentations. I think we’ll see more variation. So for the next one, I’ll do several brews. I’d also like to implement a method for the olive oil introduction that someone without an outfitted lab would use. If you’ve done it before, I’m interested to see how you did it! Send any emails to neva@whitelabs.com.

New Strain Released: WLP835 German Lager X

29 Jun

WLP835 German Lager X
Classic yeast from a famous Bavarian monastery. This strain develops a creamy, malty beer profile with low sulfur production and low esters. It is a great choice for styles like traditional Helles, Oktoberfest, Bock, and Dunkel.
Attenuation : 70-76%
Flocculation: Med
Optimum Fermentation Temperature: 50-54°F
Alcohol Tolerance: Medium-High