Christopher S. Wood, PhD
Honeysuckle Yeast Beer Tasting
*This post was updated on March 28 to include a link to my recent podcast, at the bottom.
In my last post I discussed how I harvested wild yeast from a honeysuckle bush in my front yard and did small test (1 liter) fermentations on the six strains I isolated. I’ll continue today with the results of the fermentation tests and describe some of the characteristics from these test fermentations. A few days after the beers were bottled I noticed that four of the six samples had developed a film around the inside of the neck of the bottle that eventually disappeared. I determined this film was a pellicle, which is an indication of brettanomyces, lactobacillus or other microbes reacting with oxygen in the bottle during aerobic fermentation. Not surprising, the four that had the pellicle were the ones that I identified using a microscope as containing both yeast and bacteria. After the beer was bottled and carbonated I brought them to my homebrew club, The Palmetto State Brewers, for an evaluation of the color, aroma, and flavor of each sample. During the final stages of fermentation there were color differences between the samples (see my last post) but after a month of bottling time any differences in color seemed non-existent. All samples were pale straw yellow and hazy most likely due to the low flocculation rate of the wild yeast/bacteria present. There was a varying range of aromas described for each beer and no real consensus amongst the group for each individual strain. Sensory evaluations of aroma included hints of bread, lemon, orange, citrus, pear, funkiness, tartness, and phenolic notes. There was, on the other hand a resounding consensus on the flavor of each of these wild yeast fermented beers from my fellow homebrewers:
Culture 1- A mix of lactic and acetic acid with a sour, citrusy, clean finish.
Culture 2- Mostly acetic acid with a slight bready yeast and bacterial funkiness.
Culture 3- Hints of lactic and acetic acid with slightly sour notes, citrus, earthy, and bready yeast flavors. No single dominant flavor.
Culture 4- Acetic acid with a hint of lactic acid and bacterial funkiness. Bready and spicy with a slight tartness. The least sour of all the beers tested.
Culture 5- Mostly lactic acid, with additional fruity, tart and yeast flavors. The most sour beer of all.
Culture 6- Mostly acetic acid with a touch of bready yeast flavor and lemony tartness.
Overall, the wild honeysuckle yeast wrangling experiment was a great success and I will definitely repeat this experiment again soon. It’s hard to believe that from just a few honeysuckle flowers so many distinct flavors and aromas could be present. One final thing to consider when harvesting wild yeast/microbes from the environment is that when acetobacter (an acetic acid producing bacteria) is present in the harvested culture acetic acid flavors can be produced. While propagating your culture, limit the amount of oxygen present in order to keep the acetic acid flavors to a minimum. I’ll be using one of these strains to ferment a beer in the coming months. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy a Fermentation Nation podcast I did a few weeks ago — the group invited me up to Charlotte to talk about yeast/re-using yeast and harvesting yeast from the wild. I hope you enjoy! http://wp.me/p4DqCt-cZ
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