Wyeast recently released a new Private Collection strain, the 1581 Belgian Stout. These yeast strains come out once a year for three months and offers homebrewers a chance to experiment with unique strains that aren’t popular enough for year round production. At Brooklyn Homebrew we make it a point to try these strains out in order to offer a little insight to customers who might be interested. I get particularly excited because I talk about and give suggestions on the year round strains pretty much everyday and it can get a little repetitive. Having first dibs on these when they come out also allows me the secret weapons to have truly unique brews at homebrew meetings and events.
I chose to brew a Belgian Saison at our last Beginner’s Class and use the 1581. Most saisons use a relatively simple grain bill comprised mostly of pilsner malt and an addition of simple sugar to dry out the finish. We used light Belgian candi rocks in our case (to try and phase out an old product for a new one) and a small amount of wheat and spelt to bump up the grain bill. Keeping the grain bill devoid of character malts allows for the yeast character to come through front and center.
Tasting notes: I wish I could tell you how awesome this yeast is but the truth is I’ve put off entering any tasting notes even into draft because this beer has consistently given off a green apple smell and flavor that has not dissipated since fermentation. As you may or may not know, green apple is commonly a signifier of high levels of acetaldehyde and is usually produced by yeast during fermentation and then reabsorbed later on. It can also occur during the oxidation process after fermentation is complete. The most common reason for this off flavor is removing the beer from the yeast prematurely before the yeast have a chance to reabsorb it. I know for a fact that we gave this beer plenty of time on the yeast so it’s possible oxidation occurred, but I’m gonna do some digging and see if anyone else encountered this problem. I personally have never encountered acetaldehyde like this in my homebrews or brews we have done at the shop before. One thing that Ben commented was that maybe it’s called “Belgian Stout” for a reason and only works well in all malt beers (a percentage of this beer was Belgian candi sugar). It’s a theory, but I don’t totally buy into it. Some other tasting notes included acetic acid and fresh fruit in the aroma and apple juice, sweet, viscous, and slight corn syrup in the taste. It was not really a “saison” at all (not dry enough) and was technically closer to a Belgian pale ale, albeit a bad one. We brewed another batch with the yeast cake using a Christmas ale/Belgian dark recipe that was just kegged today. It will be interesting to see if the same green apple shows up in that beer, which would indicate that it may be part of this yeast profile, and I will report back with the results.
UPDATE: Second generation yeast pitch of this strain into a Brooklyn Homebrew Christmas Ale minus the spices plus two pounds of clear Belgian candi sugar yielded similar results. The green apple is present but somewhat hidden by the generous amounts of crystal malt. This is a much easier beer to drink than the “saison” but still needs some time for the alcohol to mellow out. I think I will give this strain a run through at home and see if I get the same results, maybe this time with an all malt beer instead of drying it out with simple sugars.