Sunday, February 27, 2011

Yeast hunting: 1st taste

Luc was asleep, and without the necessary specificity, I suggested in a hesitant but casual tone, 'Hey, you guys want to try some beers?'. The usual affirmatives shot around the room, so I pulled out the bottles that I had been pretty leery about trying. Yes, the first tasting of beers fermented with wild bugs collected in Connecticut.
Esther, Jason, Brendan and I huddled around some ominous looking fliptops and a smattering of BJCP scoresheets. The group was ready to try the latest from Trillium...and then I had to break the news "These are probably going to be the worst beers you've ever had in your life."

them: "Is this going to make me sick...or worse?"
me: "Uh, no...nothing 'bad' can live in beer. Uh...I think."

I thought it best if I just excerpted some notes from the session:

"Astringent. Raw wort. Really bad."


"Unfermented wort."

"Hairspray, celery."

"I don't want to try any more of these."

"Faint Muskiness. Acetone."

"Really gross."

"Even worse."

"Aquanet. a really bad way"

"Malty molasses, unfermented...grosser."

Now I really didn't have much in the way of hope to hit it out of the park w/ my first collection of wild yeast, given it was likely still too early in the yeast collection season, and I likely way underpitched. I did think that I would get some alcohol tolerant strains, given the action in the sample vials. The near still 'beer' and raw sugars that were still present told me otherwise.

Now, the base beer wasn't brewed with a lot of effort or the best ingredients...I really had intended the first batch to be a propagation step, with which I would pitch on to their respective yeast cakes. OG of 1.040 w/ old liquid dark malt extract taking up space in our fridge for the last 3 (4?) years, a 30 minute boil and some old low alpha hops (to ~10IBUs). So, I forewarned...gave the expectation that it would be a pretty bad beer, not only for this reason, but mostly for the fact that that microbes used to ferment them were a total crapshoot.

Here's the very bright bit of sun peeking through the clouds ...these were all notes from the last 3 of the 4 bottles, but here are some selected notes from the tasting team from first bottle (the yeast sample collected from the Chardonnay grapes):

"Fruity, faint wood astringency...just a touch bright"

"Crystal clear, rusty red"

"Slight roast, lactic (maybe just the faintest whiff of acetic)"

"Weak flanders red"

"Dry, thin, well carbonated. A bit of barnyard, but overall very clean. Alcohol?"

"Clean snap finish. Dry."

"Weak, but sessionable. No hop flavor."

"Slight astringency, tartness, fruity...but needs more of everything."

"Weak to start and finish, but really great potential. Needs more character."

"Slight sour lingers on the tongue, bright, clean finish."

"Auburn, crystal clear. Thick beautiful head, falls slowly to a 1 inch persistent head."

"Potential to be a 'new england red'"

So, while the first bottle set up the expectations that were unreachable for the rest, I was surprised to find that even one of these samples yielded an even moderately alcohol tolerant strain of sacchromyces (too clean to be brett, I think).

Yeast from the dregs were saved and are intended for a more earnestly brewed beer.

Any microbiologists out there want to help me to isolate various yeast and bacteria strains?

jc (at) trilliumbrewing (dot) com
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