It was one of those ideas that a homebrew club lives for. But it was certainly not a new concept for homebrewers. We hatched a plan to brew up a bunch of beer, in this case 20 gallons, and dose each gallon with a different yeast. We didn’t make it to 20 different yeasts but enough to make it interesting. And in January, we plan on getting together and tasting them all. One of the primary goals of a homebrew club should be education and this was great education in yeast and how important of a role it plays in beer.
10 brave souls with 13 different yeasts in hand endured one of the worst days of weather in Humboldt in 2012. But no matter, the testing ground was Heatherdowns Brewery — uber geeky homebrewery approaching nanobrewery owned by uber geeky homebrewer approaching nanobrewer, Jere Cox.
Jere is one of those guys who became introduced into homebrewing with a gift from his wife for Christmas years ago. Little did she know that he would go nuts and fill their garage with a monster stainless 20 gallon system and externally heated/cooled conical fermenter. We are ever in her debt for that wonderful gift.
Over the course of a few weeks, interest spread and people signed up to take part. Here is a rundown of all the yeasts that were used:
Mad River house yeast (American Ale)
Wyeast 1028 London Ale
Wyeast 1332 Northwest Ale
Wyeast 1450 Dennys Favorite 50
Wyeast 3725 Biere De Garde
Wyeast 3763 Roselare
Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison
Wyeast 1099 Whitbread
Wyeast 2007 Pilsen Lager
Wyeast 2565 Kolsch
Wyeast 1728 Scottish Ale
Wyeast 3711 French Saison
Wyeast 3538 Leuven Pale Ale
The base beer was a simple blank slate, which was important in this experiment. 100% pilsener malt, Magnum, Santiam and Tettnanger hops bittered to about 25 IBU’s and an anticipated ABV at just over 5% — but that will vary based on the yeast and fermentation handling by each participant. The baseline beer was going to be Jere’s made with Mad River Brewing’s house strain which lends itself to crisp and clean finishes. All other strains will be compared to this. Each participant agreed to maintain the proper fermentation temperatures to the best of their ability. Yeasts were pretty well matched to their handlers — from the most demanding yeast going to the most experienced brewer and the most forgiving yeast going to the newest brewer. Late fall/early winter brings the mildest of mild temperatures to Humboldt, so the timing was well chosen.
Is your mouth watering in anticipation? It should be! Side by side comparisons of one beer with only one variable changed is one of the best ways to train your palate. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a better brewer or a better taster, this is an experiment for you. How can one taste them all? It would be easy to tell you when and where. Instead, I will send you in the direction of the Humboldt Homebrewers — let your adventure begin there.