The Great Yeast Search.

One of the first experiments I performed after setting up my new home brewery was to explore some new ale yeast strains.  The goal of this experiment is to establish my house strain for Haydts Brewing Co., the nanobrewery-in-planning I’ve been working on for the past few months.  I want to use a house strain that sets my brewery apart from the numerous other startups coming online.

There is the easy but not-setting-yourself-apart choice, the ubiquitous Cal Ale/WLP001/WY1056/US-05/Chico strain from Sierra Nevada that is used by a majority of breweries for American ales all around the country.  Relatively neutral, it allows the malt and hops to shine without getting in the way.  The Fuller’s strain (WLP002, WY1968), a more flavorful English strain, is also heavily utilized in American craft breweries (Lagunitas IPA, 3 Floyds, Deschutes) as well as the Whitbread Dry strain (WY1098, WLP007, S-04).  I’ve grown to love the Whitbread strain for its fast fermentation time, neutral flavor, extremely high flocculation powers, and its brew-at-the-last-minute availability in its shelf-stable dry form, Safale S-04.

Pale Ale Research Hophands, WY1318, and Vermont Ale trying to beat the near 100°F heat

So how do you find a great yeast strain that isn’t widely used?  Start by doing research on some of the highest rated American ales, and then go after those strains.  The Alchemist’s Conan strain (used in the world-class Heady Topper DIPA) is creating quite a buzz lately–which runs somewhat counter to my goals of setting Haydts Brewing Co. apart.  After running through a few test batches with the Yeast Bay’s Vermont Ale (the Conan strain for those of you who are unfamiliar), the buzz is somewhat warranted, putting out distinct citrus/peach esters that meld well with American hop profiles. Hill Farmstead makes some of the most highly rated American ales (really all of their beers are world class), and the brewery attributes this to special well water, technical prowess, and yeast.  No one seems to know what hidden gem of a yeast they use, though there is of course plenty of speculation.  Reading some of those speculation threads online I came across this:

Screen Shot Boddingtons Yeast

The succinctness of the post took me unawares.  Is this a person with insider knowledge?  Who knows.  But it did get me to the homebrew store to buy up all the Wyeast 1318 London Ale III, rumoured to be the Boddingtons strain.  Another peculiar thing I read over at Ales of the Riverwards is that Tired Hands Brewing also uses the same yeast, as the brewer mentioned he gets the yeast “from a friend in Vermont” according to an interview with the brewer at Tired Hands.  Since at the moment I can’t get up to Vermont to try the Hill Farmstead beers, I went to Tired Hands (twice in fact, because it was incredible) and picked up their Hophands for comparison’s sake. I brewed a ten gallon batch using the hops listed for HIll Farmstead’s Edward, with a dose of flaked oats (a nod to Tired Hands generous use of adjuncts) and split two carboys: one with Conan (Yeast Bay Vermont Ale) and the other with Wyeast 1318 London Ale III.

I also switched up on water treatment.  During my research, I was also influenced by info gleamed during John Kimmich’s Q&A.  There is a part where he discusses water chemistry and recommends “350 ppm hardness for a pale ale”.  This can mean several things to a brewer and I can’t fully wrap my head around water chemistry quite yet, but luckily the Bru’n Water excel sheet I recently switched to made it easy with the “total hardness” column.  I plugged in salts affecting Calcium and Magnesium until I hit 350 ppm and went from there.  This is different from my usual minimal salt regime, but whatever, why not change everything all at once: new water source, new water treatment, new brew system, larger batch size, new ingredients, new hop schedule and of course new yeasts.

Surprisingly, both batches came out great.  Of course, a few nit-picky things that I will fine-tune, but that always happens.

1318 vs Conan

WY1318 left, Vermont ale on right.  Mason jars make terrible growlers, buckled both lids during transport.

The Yeast Bay Vermont Ale Pale Ale:

Appearance.  Brilliantly clear orange with a persistent head that leaves beautiful lacing on the glass.  Much clearer than 1318.

Aroma.  Peach, citrus, mango, tropical fruits, some dankness.  There is a sweet flavor that seems to differ from the 1318, it could be a peach flavor but I just seem to perceive “sweet”.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Very “American” is how I would describe this.  Great mouthfeel, oats seem to help with that, tastes very hoppy without being very bitter.  Flavors seem to bounce off the tongue, the words “light and airy” come to mind (although not as airy as 1318) which makes me think the elevated hardness has something to do with this character.  Similar in profile to the Chico strain ester-wise, with a little added oomph to the hop flavor and a sweet/peach/citrus note.  I probably should have also done a Chico strain as a control, but oh well.

Overall Impressions.  Very pleased with this beer.  Seems very traditional compared to the 1318, but in a good way.  This beer seems more popular with people who have tried both on tap, but I think that may be with the familiarity of the flavors.  I preferred the 1318 because of it’s “newness” and slightly more nuanced flavors, but I would gladly pay for a pint of this.

Wyeast 1318 London Ale III Pale Ale:

Appearance.  Standard copper/orange APA hue, although one of the unique things about this beer is that it never, ever cleared, as I’m reviewing notes and drinking what I believe is the last of the keg, there is still a haziness that I would guess isn’t yeast.  Chill haze possibly?  Or something to do with yeast/protein interaction?  Maybe my pH was too high going into the fermentor?  But then why would Conan clear and not this?  Still scratching my head.  BUT it looks like every Hill Farmstead beer I’ve seen (in pictures of course).

Aroma.  Peach, mango, citrus, and slight mineral in the background.  Very delicious and the aroma stuck around much longer (3+ weeks) due to a second CO2 tank I picked up for transfers.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Peach and grapefruit.  Low astringency and very little bitter aftertaste.  This is where the yeast strains seem to deviate significantly.  This strain is very balanced malt and hop bitterness, nothing seems to jump to the forefront, everything in its place.  There is too much minerality (because it stands out), most likely from the water salts.  Mouthfeel is incredible, light and airy (things I heard of Hill Farmstead beers).  My wife described this beer as “sunshine in a glass”.  Tastes like fruit juice, not beer, in an awesome way.

Overall Impressions.  This beer is very similar to the growler of Hophands.  Hophands is much lighter (probably no crystal malt used) but the yeast character is almost identical.  My favorite of the two batches, I finished this keg first.  Nothing against the Conan variant, this was just a breath of fresh air.  Not sure if I would bet money that this is the Hill Farmstead yeast, but I’m just going with my gut, a gut that will need taste confirmation in the form of a Vermont trip soon.

In the end, though, I’m still undecided on the new house strain, so expect more experiments to come.

Haydts Pale Ale (10 gals)
Date: 4/30/14
Size: 13.2 gal @ 68 °F
Efficiency: 80.0%
Attenuation: 74.0%
Original Gravity: 1.054 (1.045 – 1.060)
Terminal Gravity: 1.014 (1.010 – 1.015)
Color: 7.17 (5.0 – 14.0)
Alcohol: 5.26% (4.5% – 6.0%)
Bitterness: 0.0 (30.0 – 45.0) (Hop shot did not register in Beertools)
19.0 lb (74.8%) Standard 2-Row – added during mash
54.0 oz (13.3%) Vienna Malt – added during mash
32.3 oz (7.9%) Cara 20 – Caramel Malt – added during mash
1.0 lb (3.9%) Oats Flaked – added during mash
3 mL HopShot – added during boil, boiled 60 m
1 tsp Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – added during boil, boiled 15 m
1 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – added during boil, boiled 15 m
2.0 oz (10.0%) Centennial (9.2%) – added during boil
2.0 oz (10.0%) Columbus (15.0%) – added during boil
2.0 oz (10.0%) Glacier (5.5%) – added during boil
2.0 oz (10.0%) Simcoe® (13.0%) – steeped after boil
2.0 oz (10.0%) Chinook (13.0%) – steeped after boil
2 oz (10.0%) Cascade (6.8%) – steeped after boil
2 L The Yeast Bay  Vermont Ale
1.3 L WYeast 1318 London Ale III™
2.0 oz (10.0%) Simcoe® (13.0%) – added dry to primary fermenter
2.0 oz (10.0%) Centennial (9.2%) – added dry to primary fermenter
2 oz (10.0%) Cascade (6.8%) – added dry to primary fermenter
1.0 oz (5.0%) Chinook (13.0%) – added dry to primary fermenter
1.0 oz (5.0%) Glacier (5.5%) – added dry to primary fermenter
MASH: 3.2 gypsum, 1.6g Epsom, 1.6 Bk Soda, 4.8 CaCl, 4 Chalk
BOIL: 2.4g Gypsum, 5.8g Epsom Salt, 6.3g CaCl
Water pH 6.29 at room temp, mash pH 5.7, mash water 5.5
Added 2.36g Lactic Acid 88%, brought mash to 5.46
Mash in at 155, dropped to 154 over 60 mins
1.047 pre boil, 15.25 Gals. 13.2 Final volume
20 min whirlpool, dropped to 194F added second hop charge for 20 mins.
New plate chiller chilled quickly but flow was restricted (most likely by hops)
30 secs O2 pitched yeast @68, set controller to 64, but dropped to 62 overnight, remained there for 24 hours then put heat wrap in fridge to get to 68F
Vermont ale took off first, 1318 slower start but krausen remains thick after 7 days, set heat wrap to 70F
Dry hopped with half of hops after 7 days, 70F (5/6/14)
Kegged 5/17/14
Vermont ale FG 1.013
WY1318 FG 1.011

26 thoughts on “The Great Yeast Search.

  1. Brendan says:

    As always, great article. Water chemistry is totally beyond me but I’m meaning to give it a try. Can’t wait to try Haydts beer some day.

    • kylers says:

      Thanks Brendan! I’m still trying to wrap my head around it too but you just gotta keep experimenting and it seems to get easier.

  2. duncan says:

    I find it interesting that you add salts to both the mash and boil? Is there a reason behind this, rather than say, add them all to the mash? I also note that your mash pH was 5.46. Have you considered going lower? In that same interview with John Kimmich he mentions he targets a mash pH of 5.1.

    Great blog both in terms of content and presentation!

    • kylers says:

      Interesting you should mention that Duncan, I’m still trying to figure out when and why to add salts. I used to add specifically only chalk to the mash to provide Ca for conversion, and then all other “flavor” salts to the boil. I know some salts get absorbed/used up by the mashing process.

      When I moved to my new spot I added all salts to the boil to see how my water would react to different mash compositions. Now I follow the instructions on the Bru’n water spreadsheet (it divides the salts proportionately between the mash and sparge water volumes. Not sure why though. My goal is to hit between 5.2-5.5, so 5.46 was fine for me. I remember reading recently on a homebrewtalk thread about hops “popping” <5.4 pH, so maybe I should go lower. Speaking of, I just recently experimented with using phosphoric acid to lower the mash pH after reading a passage in Gordon Strong's Brewing Better Beer. I remember gleaming something from Shaun Hill about brewers paying too much attention to certain critical control points (i.e. mash pH) and forgetting about other CCPs like pH going into the fermentor and finished beer pH. I've been paying close attention to pH to observe its effect on the finished beer. Hoping to post about that when I figure it out.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Brendan says:

    Hey Kyler, I’m going to try something along these lines as I recently made a trip to VT and I went to school right next to Tired Hands so all those beers are close to my heart. Did you get to try HF and reach an ultimate conclusion as to the yeast they use? Thanks! And if you’re ever up in Syracuse the beer’s on me.

    • kylers says:

      I’m fairly certain HF uses 1318. I had a mischievous grin on my face doing a tasting flight while standing in the growler-filling line at Hill Farmstead when I realized I had gotten the strain right. Everything seems in place, from the malt and hop profile to the attenuation and even the ever-persistent chill haze I see in all their non-farmhouse ales.

      And I’ll let you know when I get up to Syracuse, cheers!

      • Brendan says:

        Awesome! Great detective work. I also recently returned from a pilgrimage to VT and it definitely inspired me to improve my hoppy beers. I’m going to try a pale ale with 178 ppm Ca, 18 ppm Mg, 25 ppm Na, 350 ppm S04, and 50 ppm Cl. I think the sulfate is what Kimmich was referring to as hardness, but i”m not sure. Not sure how it will turn out, but figured I’d give it a try as there is something Lawson/Hill/Alchemist are doing that is similar and amazing.

  4. Jeremy says:

    Kyler, I’ve been a pretty big fan of wyeast 1318 for hoppy beers lately and have found that it gives a pretty massive peach aroma during fermentation and leaves some of that ester profile in the finished beer. I’ve also had some issues with certain beers fermented with it that won’t clear, even with a generous dose of finings. Did you fine either of these beers? Have you noticed other beers fermented with it refusing to clear also?

    • kylers says:

      I’ve also noticed that this yeast refuses to clear. The conan batch cleared up just fine after a few days of cold-conditioning but 1318 refused to even towards the final pours from the keg. I used to gelatin all my kegged beers but have eased up on that and just use it for quick-turnaround beers.

      I really like the yeast and it’s hop/malt profile. What fermentation temp are you using? I typically start around 64F and then let it free rise and have enjoyed the results.

  5. […] doing a bit of research on “standard” ale strains, I wanted to do some digging for a house saison strain.  I […]

    • Jeremy says:

      Kyler, I actually think (as you noted also) that the wy1318 beers that won’t clear don’t seem to be yeast related, and more like a starch or protein type haze that I still can’t explain. I’ve also had 3 beers brewed with the same pitch and only one of them cleared brilliantly after a dose of finings whereas the others didn’t. Oh well, at this point it’s all about flavor and aroma anyway. As for ferment temps, I start at 64/65 and let it rise to 66f for 48 hours and then free rise to 68/69. I’ve noticed this strain is super fast (roughly 85%) attenuation or more inside of 48hrs with the last few points finishing in the last 24-48 hours. The slurry stays viable also and harvests easily.

      Makes me wonder why I don’t use it for everything now that I’m writing this all out. Also, you still pretty sure it’s the TH and HF hoppy beer strain? Are you attempting to play with your water as those two reportedly do similarly? (And similarly not share what it is they are doing..ha).

      • kylers says:

        Pretty sure it’s what they’re using. Recently brewed a Hophands clone that is carbing now but tastes very similar to the original. I’ve been tweaking my hoppy beer profile almost everytime, but really I’m making a water profile for every beer style I brew using bru’n water and it’s been working great. I might post about water chemistry when I figure it out exactly, but in a nutshell, I’m keeping the SO4/Cl ratio very close (like 1.2) for a “balanced” approach and trying to hit between 250-350 ppm hardness for pale ales, letting the hops do a majority of the work instead of gypsum. Haven’t tackled IPAs since moving to PA, but I assume I’d just keep the same ratio and bump up the hardness to around 500 ppm. Maybe increase the SO4 and lower the Cl ratio a little. That’s another project.

      • duncan says:

        I’ve been targeting a very similar water chemistry for my hoppy beers as you’ve stated. The last was approx 100 Ca, 100 Cl and 120 So4. Came out tasting great. I do wonder though if you need to increase it relative to the alcohol content of the finished beer? Iive tried lower salt profiles, targeting 50ppm of each and they just lack the edge that the higher salt beers have.

        I guess you could target a low level of salts in a mash, then do separate boils, each with a stronger addition but same hop schedule and yeast? Would be an awesome experiment!

  6. Jeremy says:

    Well, not ever leaving well enough alone as most brewers can’t do. I did a split batch of my house IPA (one with cal ale and the other with 1318) which is 95% great western pale ale and 5% dextrose with all Falconers Flight at 20min and huge charge at whirpool, and finally a 4oz per 5gal dry hop.

    After 3 days in the keg with my usual gelatin routine the beer, looks like total sh*t.. But I’ll bet my balls to a barn dance this is without a doubt the TH yeast strain (finally got to try a fresh growler of Hophands a few weeks back). This 1318 is a totally different beer… Pungent and incredibly citrusy.. I can’t get over how different they are.. It’s almost like I used different hops in each batch. The cal ale is earthy and somewhat citrusy, but the 1318 is actually accentuating the orange citrus character of the hops and has that juicy quality. Mind = blown.

  7. Other Jeremy says:

    So if in fact they are using 1318, why would Jean get his yeast from HF instead of just ordering directly form Wyeast? Its not like they’re just around the corner from each other.

    • Jeremy says:

      I’d think that was less of a literal statement, and maybe what was meant the yeast idea was provided by HF to TH – but that’s pure beer nerd reading entirely too far into something as usual.

      That said, I haven’t had any HF beers but this 1318 is awesome in it’s own right, regardless of what commercial brewery uses it or not.

  8. Ed Coffey says:

    Great post, its all ab out the expressive English strain in these hoppy beers IMO. I like how youre playing with your water profile instead of shooting just for Burton Upon Trent (which is what I do) I should give that a tray as well.

    As for the Tire Hands quote from my blog. He never directly answered the question, but if you read between the lines all signs point to Sean being his “friend from VT”. Seeing as Sean and Jean are buds and all. I think friend in VT could also mean another source, but who knows…and really does it matter? lol.

    1318 is one I am going to have to give a try, S04 worked amazingly well in my HopHands Clone (and I believe I have that recipe nailed). Thanks for the tip on 1318, I am going to give it a try.

    • kylers says:

      Thanks for reading! Yeah, after trying both HF and TH side by side it seemed like the yeast was very close, plus the persistent haze is a very significant identifier of that yeast IMO.

      I’d love to try your version of Hophands if you’re willing to share. E-mail me your address ( info [at] ) and I’ll send you the version I did, it’s still fresh in the kegerator right now.

  9. Scott says:

    Great write-up. I just came back from a trip to HF and the Citra Pale Ale has inspired me to try and brew something close. I have a question on your 1318 batch. Why did you set the fermentation chamber to 64 deg for the first 24 hours?

  10. scott says:

    Great write up. Thanks for taking the time and also for sharing. I just came back from a trip up to VT and had some Hill Farmstead. I am looking at trying to get somewhere close to his Citra Pale Ale. I brewed something yesterday that was my first shot at using input from your post plus many others. I had a question however. Why did you have the fermentation temp set lower for the first 24 hours?

    • kylers says:

      I typically start most of my fermentations on the low end of the temp range and then allow them to either free rise or do a controlled rise (when using a temp controller). Many brewing books recommend this, but it was affirmed during my Beer Camp trip to Sierra Nevada where they begin fermentation of their ales starting at 61F, and then allow to free rise. The most prominent reason I’ve heard for this is that it limits the amount of esters produced as well as prevents unwanted fusel alcohols to a certain extent.

      Thanks for reading!

  11. Ryan says:

    Nice page. I too am perplexed with this whole water issue. Are you using RO water to start with? If not, what is your starting profile? And just curious, what is your reasoning for using Epsom salts? Is this to keep the levels of calcium down? I read that if there is too much calcium in the mash this reacts with too many phosphates which leads to a nutrient deficient wort, hence the yeast might suffer. All a big pond of mystery!

    • kylers says:

      I’m not using RO water, but the first water test I did showed very little mineral content at all, similar to RO water. The main reason I used epsom salts was to fine tune my water profile according to different recommendations I saw around the internet and in books for different beer styles. Another reason was that epsom salts were in the table for water adjustments on the bru’n water spreadsheet, and I seemed to put a lot of trust in that spreadsheet because of how thorough it is.

      Not sure about too much calcium in the mash, but I tend to put all of my salts into the boil FWIW.

      And here is a link to my water profile:

      • Ryan says:

        I see, I am still confused as to what proportion of salts to add to the mash vs. the boil.

        As you mentioned in a post above, pH does seem to be a big factor in getting it right. I read in Handbook of Brewing by Hardwick that the pH of the wort going into the kettle should be 5.4 to achieve a post boil pH of 5.2 but didn’t really say why. I presume this is to mainly hit the appropriate final pH of the beer after fermentation but most of the books talk about conditions for lager. I think it would be safe to assume each yeast ends on a different final pH. Have you tested pH for any of HF pale ales? Would be nice to know what to aim for and work backwards from there!

  12. Mike says:

    Do you remember what your final water targets were as opposed to the additions you made?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: