Beer with wild yeasts?

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Saralexis
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Beer with wild yeasts?

Post: # 256270Post Saralexis
Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:08 am

I've been baking with sourdough for a couple of years and I'm just moving into home brewing- probably some country wines come Autumn but mainly beer I think.

With my sourdough habit it feels so WRONG to buy in yeast! But I haven't found any decent advice on catching and keeping my own- just some tantalising allusions! Even my 'wild fermentation' book uses brewers yeast. He does mention that the 'ginger bug' used for making ginger beer can be used for other ferments but he doesn't give details...

Surely our ancestors didn't but in commercial yeast cultures! Any advice?

Sarah

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gregorach
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Re: Beer with wild yeasts?

Post: # 256272Post gregorach
Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:42 am

If you want to go down this route, you'll need to cultivate a taste for sour beers, similar to the Belgian "lambic" style, and accept that they'll have a short shelf life. Personally I wouldn't recommend it... (Oh, and if you bottle, there's a good chance you'll end up with "gushers" - if your bottles don't explode.)

I also really wouldn't advise it unless you're already an experienced brewer. These are advanced topics in home brewing... For beer, I always advise people to start with kits until they get the basics down properly - beer is a lot less forgiving than bread or wine, and there's a lot more to learn.

Having said that, I don't like buying yeast either... So I maintain a number of proper brewers yeast strains which I originally bought and now propagate myself. However, it's really rather involved to do it well enough to maintain truly clean cultures in a good state of health. I've ended up with a small but fairly complete microbiology lab as a result... Like I say, it's an advanced topic. :wink: :iconbiggrin:
Cheers

Dunc

Saralexis
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Re: Beer with wild yeasts?

Post: # 256274Post Saralexis
Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:55 am

I'm happy to start small, we've got a kit on the go now (training wheels!) but I'd hate to think that I'm tied forever to commercial yeasts! If I'm starting to read up where should I be looking? And when I'm a bit more experienced where do I get yeasts from?

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gregorach
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Re: Beer with wild yeasts?

Post: # 256275Post gregorach
Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:22 pm

Well, Jim's Beer Kit has a number of useful threads on yeast management and propagation in the Yeast section: http://www.jimsbeerkit.co.uk/forum/viewforum.php?f=12. And if you really want to know what's going on, then Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff's book Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation is well worth having. (Actually, I'd say "essential reading"...)

As for acquiring yeasts, the obvious free source is to culture up from the sediment in bottle-conditioned beers, although you have to be aware that many breweries use specialist bottling strains rather than their primary strain. For a wider range, you can purchase excellent yeasts from Wyeast and White Labs via good homebrew shops or online (if buying online I'd recommend The Malt Miller), and you can also acquire all sorts of interesting British strains from Brewlab. The Brewlab strains come on solid media and require several propagation steps, Wyeast come in liquid packs and need stepping up in a 1 - 2 L starter, and the White Labs ones come in vials which are (theoretically) ready to pitch (if they're fresh enough).
Cheers

Dunc

Saralexis
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Re: Beer with wild yeasts?

Post: # 256276Post Saralexis
Mon Mar 12, 2012 12:35 pm

Many thanks, I shall start reading. Is it essentially impossible to make something drinkable with a wild culture then, as we do with sourdough? That's the impression I get from reading about...

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gregorach
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Re: Beer with wild yeasts?

Post: # 256278Post gregorach
Mon Mar 12, 2012 1:10 pm

That depends very much on your definition of "drinkable"... You might get lucky and produce something which isn't entirely vile, but what most people now regard as decent beer is entirely the product of a century and a half of serious microbiology - in fact, it's why the entire science was invented in the first place.

There are a number of breweries which claim to rely on "native fermentation" (especially in Belgium), but a lot of us are sceptical to say the least.
Cheers

Dunc

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