Friday, September 3, 2010

North To The Future

Wow!  I've been a little remiss in keeping this blog updated.  Since my last post life has been rather busy.  The good news is that my broken tube of Burton ale yeast plated out with consistent yeast colony growth with no evidence of contamination.  I chose an isolate from the plate and made a new tube and have subsequently used it to brew up a nice ordinary bitter.

In other news, the safari has now moved to Fairbanks, Alaska.  It was a big move from Massachusetts to Alaska but the cultures all made it with flying colors.  Not wanting to deal with crossing international borders with a collection of culture samples to explain I chose to ship them instead.  I had a insulated shipper that all of my various cultures (including the various Saccharomyces cerevisiae, my sour dough culture, and a kombucha culture) packed nicely into with some ice packs.  I dropped them off at the post-office and sent them off first class mail to some friends in Fairbanks.  I was very pleased when I found out that everything arrived intact and alive.

Having the yeast ranch in Alaska should prove very useful since yeast prices are somewhat higher here and the selection of yeasts available in town is limited.  Shipping from the lower 48 can be pricey and slow and there is more of a concern with viability on arrival.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


Well, sometimes you drop a tube....or it rolls out of the egg shelf of your fridge!  Anyway my slant of WLP 023 Burton Ale decided to explode on contact with my kitchen floor.  On a lot of my strains I have duplicates as back-ups.  Not for Burton Ale.

So after plucking the cat hair of the remains of the slant I decided to try a little isolation experiment.  I got out one of my blank plates and grabbed a sample of the end of the tube agar.  I streaked it out on the plate.....should be interesting to see what grows up.  If I did a good job streaking it out I should be able to isolate individual microbes on the plate.  Clearly my sample was contaminated, hopefully this will let me re-isolate my yeast strain from any of the riff-raff microbes milling about my kitchen.  I think the biggest problem will be trying to differentiate one yeast strain from another.  My assumption is that despite the contamination the dominant growth on the plate should be the Burton Ale Strain and I should be able to pluck off a representative colony.......We'll see

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Squaring" things up

I am happy to report that the nano "Yorkshire Square" performed fabulously for it's inaugural fermentation.  I decided to use WLP 0023 "Thames Valley" yeast to inoculate this fermenter with.  Being an open fermentation I was looking for a true "top cropping" yeast to provide a good biological cover to the fermenting wort.  I also wanted a yeast with lots of character which I thought would be fitting for beer being produced in this fermenter.

Boy, I was not disappointed.  This yeast took off quick!  The once the krausen started rising I could almost see it rising before my eyes.  Certainly there were noticible differences as I checked it every hour.  I thought the most interesting point was fairly early on as the krausen really began to take off in what I called the merangue phase.  It really looked like a merangue on a pie!  It was right around this phase when there was enough anaerobic metabolism going on that the carbon dioxide was able to snuff out a flame.

The fermenter holds 6.5 gallons, apparently I whould have built it bigger (actually that was as big as my materials would allow).  Five gallons of wort went into the fermenter and the krausen rose right up to the top and even overflowed a bit!

I've done a lot of fermentations in my house but I've never done one that was quite odiferous as this one.  Almost as soon as that fermenation started it was the first smell you noticed when you entered the house.  I think being open made a huge difference in terms of the amount of gas and aromas wafting out of the fermenter.  I'm really curious to see if there is any noticeable impact on the flavor and aroma of the final product versus a carboy fermented version.  We did do a group brew so 20 gallons of wort were produced for 4 different fermentations.  Unfortunately I didn't think to have anyone else use the WLP 0023 yeast so we could have a comparison of fermenter effects.

I did have to rack the beer out of the fermenter before it completed it's primary fermentation.  The big aroma and foaming over krausen aren't big features people are looking for when you are trying to sell your house and have an open house.  It was definitely most of the way through the primary and seemed to finish out just fine in the carboy.  Next time I hope to be able to let this ferment out all the way in the square.  Actually I'd really like to try doing a mild and send it either straight to the bottle or cask to be drank within just a few weeks of fermentation.

This time around it was a big brown ale with an original gravity of 1.064 and a final gravity of 1.020.  Going into the bottle it was tasting pretty good.  Can't wait to taste this one once it's carbonated.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Yay Stirplates and Yorkshire Squares!

Life has been busy for me lately so I haven't had much time to keep up with the blog.  We've got a big group brew coming up this weekend so I am building up some starters for people to use.  In the process I've inadvertently done a little non-scientific experiment.  A couple of my friends would like to brew with Whitbread ale yeast so I made up two 50 ml starters (about 1.040).  I grabbed my Whitbread Ale plate and plucked 2 colonies of the plate, one for each starter.  One batch went on my stir plate, the other sat on the counter.....48 hours later here are the results:
Notice the starter on the stir plate is nice and cloudy vs the counter top beaker which has a clear wort with only a small colony propagating on the bottom.


After removing the Erlenmeyer flask from the stir plate and allowing the yeast to settle the difference is quite noticeable.  Look at the nice layer of yeast cells in the Erlenmeyer vs the small colony in the beaker.

I don't have a microscope at home to do yeast counts but there is visibly more yeast in my starter on the stir plate.  I have a second stir plate I built sitting in the basement with a loose connection.  I really need to get that one back in operation so I can run multiple stir plates at the same time.

One of the things that has been keeping me busy is brewing gadget product.  I've begun to get interested in open fermentation and have been thinking about giving it a try.  I've always thought Yorkshire Square ferementers were pretty cool and I decided to build my own mini (or perhaps nano) Yorkshire Square.

There is a large cache of old slate pavers at my parents house that used to make up a walk to their front door (about 20 years ago).  These stones have been patiently waiting to be put to good use for quite some time now and conveniently are about the size I needed for this project.  So 5 slabs of slate, an inexpensive tile saw purchased on Craig's List, some food grade silicone, and some scrap poplar that was lying around and before you know it I have a new 6.5 gal fermenter.

Weighing in over 50 pounds empty it may not be the most practical piece of brewing equipment but it sure is nice to look at.  I have a starter of Burton Ale yeast brewing up to be used in my first batch in the fermenter.  Given the number of small cracks and crevices in the stone I assume it will never be sanitized the way a glass carboy can.  I am planning to pitch a very large starter to the first batch hoping to innoculate all these small places where microbes might hide.  I've picked the Burton Ale yeast for it's flavor profile as well as its reputation as a good top cropper, a trait which seems important in an open fermentation.  The wort for this first fermentation will be from a split batch with the other batches being closed.  It should be interesting to see what sort of differences (if any) there are between fermenter types.