Yeast Set The Timeline

Posted on 09.08.10 9:57PM under Brewing, IPA, Kegging, Oktoberfest, Stories, Stout, Yeast

I have been used to US-05 for quite some time now.

But recently I decided I wanted to branch out. Mainly my motivation was looking for a nice “malty” yeast for my faux-toberfest (that’s an Oktoberfest-style beer done as an ale rather than the traditional lagering all summer).

I ended up with Wyeast 1338 “European Ale” because of its supposed low diacetyl (buttered popcorn flavor). There was another (WLP029?) Kolsch yeast that also sounded good but allegedly gave off tons of sulfur aroma throughout fermentation, which I didn’t want to deal with. The only down side of 1338 that I read was it could be slow.

I had become accustomed to a two week ferment being more than enough with good old US-05. In fact,  I have a couple of Fisher Cats down there, OG ~1.050, US-05, done in three days. It turns out 1338 is not such a go-getter.

Not only does it settle on the top of the beer/wort when it gets tired, but it also just seems to take a damn long time to finish eating. It sort of reminds me of my little brother. Growing up none of us could leave the dinner table until all of us were done. And he took FOREVER! Didn’t he know I wanted to go back to the living room to watch TV? I had been done for like at least ten minutes, and he hadn’t even started on his peas yet!! Ugh…

Unfortunately I had planned a two week brewing interval to make enough beer for the party yet still have enough for me. This schedule included the O-fests for the big Yachtoberfest party. This meant I had to cut short the 1338 Festbiers after only two weeks to make room in the fermenters for the next two batches (IPA and Stout FWIW).

Come kegging day I was disappointed to find high FGs around 1.025, resulting in very sweet (though great tasting) beers of rather low alcohol content. After all, I’m used to dropping at least ten more points in the fermenter. I probably expected something more like 1.012.

My only hope was that the yeast would keep working in the keg while sitting there at basement temperature (mid-70s right now) waiting for cold conditioning time in the fridge.

Fortunately, this strategy seems to be working. This weekend when kegging the next two party beers (both US-05 thankfully) I decided I needed to check the gravity on the two O-Fests. When I went to de-pressurize the kegs to open the lids to drop in the hydrometer, I got a huge blast of gas out of the valve. So much so that it turned to foam and sprayed all over the place.

Evidently, they’re still working in there. I keep bleeding the valve a little each night and letting out still more pressure. I’m pretty sure they’re making their way down to where they need to be. I’ll have to take a final gravity reading just before I send them off to their cold conditioning chamber.

The good thing is that I have my test batch/giant starter of 1338 Amber on tap right now. It also finished high, but was full of excess pressure after a little while at room temp. At first it tasted pretty rough, but now that it’s cold and pressure-balanced, it’s just great. So I’m optimistic that while these O-fests might take some babysitting, they’ll actually turn out great as well. And I might just learn a lesson that you have to let the yeast set the timeline.

Even if US-05 is done in a week, not all yeast is like that. Some need time. And you have to give them their time, but you will be rewarded.

It’s often written that brewers make wort, but it’s the yeast that make beer. I used to doubt that from my US-05 ivory tower, but now having experienced the reality of WY1338, I have a whole new appreciation for our single-celled friends growing, living, and dying in there for us.

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