On paper, beer’s a pretty simple equation: hops, malt, yeast and water. But from these simple building blocks, a diverse and ever-changing range of styles and flavours has emerged. And this is a big part of what makes brewing so rewarding, the constant pursuit of something a bit different. So with this in mind, we thought it’d be interesting to have a look at some of the more unique yeast strains available and what sort of flavours you can achieve with them.
Broadly speaking, there are two main types of beer yeast: ale yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and lager yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus). But within these categories, there are countless varieties, each imparting its own unique characteristics to the final product. Below we’ve outlined four unique strains that you might like to experiment with in your next brew.
1. Brettanomyces (Brett)
Brewing beer with Brettanomyces, often abbreviated as “Brett,” offers a unique experience for both the brewer and the eventual consumer. Historically regarded as a contaminant, Brett is now appreciated for its ability to create diverse and complex flavor profiles. Brettanomyces strains are known for their signature funky, earthy, and often fruity characteristics, imparting flavors and aromas that are reminiscent of barnyard, horse blanket, leather, or overripe fruit. Brett is commonly used in Belgian-style Lambics and Gueuzes, as well as American wild ales. However, brewing with Brett requires patience, as it ferments more slowly than typical ale yeasts. It also requires careful handling to avoid cross-contamination of other brews, given its resilience and tendency to stick around in brewing equipment. Nevertheless, the rewards can be extraordinary, leading to beers with unmatched depth, complexity, and ageability. The experimental brewer who learns to harness Brettanomyces can unlock a whole new world of fascinating and delicious beer styles.
Lachancea, a relatively new player in the brewing world, is a yeast genus that can introduce a delightful twist to your homebrewed beer. The unique trait of Lachancea strains is their ability to produce lactic acid during fermentation, contributing to a naturally tart or sour character in the beer. This characteristic makes it an excellent choice for brewing sour styles like Berliner Weisse, Gose, or American wild ales without the additional step of bacterial souring. While brewing with Lachancea, it’s essential to remember that, unlike most yeast strains, it may require a lower fermentation temperature to control the level of acidity and ensure a balanced sourness. Due to its lactic acid production, Lachancea can impart a bright, refreshing crispness to your brew, offering a new avenue for homebrewers seeking to explore the realm of sour beers with a simplified process.
Kveik, a traditional yeast from Norway, has gained significant popularity in the brewing community due to its unusual properties. Known for its incredible resilience and versatility, Kveik yeast stands out for its ability to ferment at much higher temperatures than most other yeast strains – often between 20°C and 37°C – without producing off-flavours. This property makes Kveik an attractive option for home brewers who might not have the ability to control fermentation temperatures precisely. Kveik yeasts are also celebrated for their rapid fermentation times and distinct ester profile, often contributing bright, fruity flavours and aromas to the finished beer. From Norwegian farmhouse ales to IPAs, Kveik yeast can bring a unique character to a wide range of beer styles. However, due to their high fermentation rate, brewers need to ensure adequate nutrition for Kveik yeasts to avoid stressed fermentation and off-flavours.
4. Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois
Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois is a unique yeast strain that can bring a tropical twist to your homebrew. Originally thought to be a strain of Brettanomyces due to its propensity for producing a slightly funky profile, it has been reclassified as a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain. Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois stands out for its ability to impart a juicy, tropical character to beers, with many brewers noting prominent notes of pineapple, mango, and other exotic fruits in beers fermented with this yeast. It’s especially loved in the brewing of IPAs, specifically those aiming for a ‘juicy’ or ‘hazy’ profile, as well as tropical stouts. However, similar to other specialty yeasts, it requires particular attention to fermentation conditions. It tends to prefer a warmer fermentation temperature, often in the upper range of typical ale fermentation temperatures. Working with Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois offers an opportunity to venture beyond traditional brewing landscapes, delivering beers with a vibrant, tropical kick.
Nurturing Your Yeast
Working with specialty yeasts can be different from using more traditional strains. They may require different nutrient levels, temperatures, or handling practices. For instance, Brett strains often take longer to ferment and may need to be handled carefully to prevent unwanted contamination in other brews. In contrast, Kveik yeasts are more robust and can be fermented at higher temperatures.
When experimenting with new yeast strains, it’s always essential to research and understand their unique needs. Be prepared for a bit of trial and error, and remember – part of the fun in home brewing is the process of learning and discovery!