Brew Day – Yeast Growers

Posted on 10.10.09 7:15PM under Brewing, Extract, Yeast

When last I brewed on August 29th, I planned to save the yeast. I was intent on making a couple of big beers – an IIPA and an RIS. But now that the dry yeast costs $4 a pack instead of $2 a pack, I’m not so eager to just buy a few packets to get my cell count up for a big 1.095 wort. A natural solution was to save all my yeast from that brew day. So on kegging day, I packed up a few mason jars full of yeast sludge and thought I was good to go

Since then, the yeast has been acting funny. One has been very active, even though its beer finished at 1.008. I got two jars from the other batch. One has been dormant and the other overflowed with activity. I admit that I don’t know how to interpret this. Is the dormant one dead or normal? Is that 1.008 one infected or what? I have no confidence in these yeasts ability to make a nice clean beer.

I had to make some starters. I never got too into starters. I made a few, but never got a stir plate or anything like that. I always just used old glass gallon jugs. But not making starters is the reason I switched to dry yeast.

The one thing that I have done for yeast growth that I’ve been very happy with is five-gallon “starters”. Before I made my first RIS, I had been up against a string of failed bigger beers. So ahead of the RIS, I made a low gravity Brown Ale. I pitched like a cup of yeast into the RIS and got complete attenuation and thorough bottle conditioning. Plus I had a whole batch of opening act beer to drink while waiting for the headlining brew to be ready.

Once again this strategy has come into play.

I decided I wanted to make a starter that I could actually use. I know best how to make a full-sized batch, and the thought of making a gallon-sized batch was making me feel iffy. I realized that I could make a full-sized extract batch in about two hours if I only boil for a half an hour and steep the grains as the water warms up. This is barely longer than it would probably take me to make a gallon starter.

I was originally going to make the extract batches on two separate nights or something, just sneaking them in wherever I could around sleeping schedules of kids, and possibly at the detriment of my own restful status. Then I realized that I could make the two starters one after another like a real brew day, and do them both in about three hours.

Add into the mix that this is a three-day weekend for me (thank you furlough day) and it becomes the ideal time to make beer. Especially to the tune of three hours’ work.

So it was. Listened to Hundred Year Hall, Disc 2 and Meddle (twice). Jeremy helped again. And it was pretty nice weather.

Dark Starter came out low in volume, so high in gravity. 1.047 against a planned 1.041. This yeast will be used in the RIS. 30 minute boil. IBU about 18. All Centennial, 1.25 oz at flameout. Should be an unintimidating tasty little brew. I think I’m going to call this one “Dark Star”.

Light Starter also was a little short in volume. Gravity was 1.048 against a planned 1.040. This yeast will be used in the IIPA. 30 minute boil. About 26 IBU. Mostly Centennial, 1 oz Centennial and 1 oz Cascade at flameout. Should be another fairly tame, drinkable beer. I’m thinking of calling this one “Let There Be More Light”.

These two beers not only provide me drinkable beer on a short timeframe, but will also provide a nice counterpoint to the IIPA and RIS that will be coming along in the next several weeks.

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