Updated June 5, 2019
Photo courtesy of Lars Garshol. A traditional yeast starter (kveik) for Norwegian farmhouse ales. The yeast from the previous batch dries on the yeast ring and propagates in the new wort.
The Norwegian Invasion
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, most homebrewers and many craft beer enthusiasts have heard of the Norwegian kveik strains of yeast, which have taken hold in the US beer scene. Now available from multiple yeast manufacturers, these strains of yeast have many distinct traits that are highly advantageous for brewers including a tolerance for producing “clean” beers even under high heat (think summer in Texas-type heat). This quality allows those of us without good fermentation temperature control to brew a much wider range of styles any time of year since many traditional brewing strains that were heat-tolerant are phenolic off-flavor positive (POF+). These kveik strains are also quick fermenting and fast flocculators, allowing brewers to go from grain to beer in a very short timeframe. Temperature tolerance does vary from strain to strain, but Lars Garshol from Larsblog suggests 60–104 °F (15–40 °C) as a typical range. Kveik strains do produce some farmhouse qualities with more esters coming out when you pitch less yeast. Higher pitch rates and lower fermentation temperatures makes for a cleaner profile beer. Not everyone will be a fan, so you may want to seek out a commercial version before you brew a full batch with one. But when the temperatures rise this summer, remember to check in with your favorite suppliers in order to find out the availability of these kveik strains.
2019 Southern Hemisphere Hop Harvest Report
In a report put out by HPA (Hop Products Australia), the three farms they oversee saw a 13% year over year increase in production. This included increases across their proprietary hop varieties, with an 8.6% increase in Galaxy, a 10.8% increase in Vic Secret, and a 125% increase in their newest proprietary hop variety Enigma. “This year’s production volume allowed us to meet contractual obligations across all varieties. All three farms endured major weather events during the growing season. Our Victorian farms — Rostrevor Hop Gardens and Buffalo Valley — experienced extended periods of heatwave conditions through which our irrigation systems performed well, preventing impact on yield. Tasmania experienced widespread bushfires throughout January when the majority of the crop at Bushy Park Estates was still in burr. Although these conditions did not affect yield, they are indicative of the hot and dry conditions that characterised this season.”
New Zealand Report:
According to Doug Donelan, CEO of New Zealand Hops Limited: “Harvest conditions were good commencing in late February and running through to the start of April. Overall harvest quality was very pleasing in a year that saw a significant increase in the cooperatives planted area. Yields were below average on the whole and this is mostly attributable to the large number of baby plants on new ground. High summer temperatures and long dry spells without rainfall also impacted cone development in some varieties, however others, especially early types like Motueka responded well to the conditions as did Rakau and Waimea. Aroma intensity scores were high on average throughout grading and selection with Nelson Sauvin, Riwaka and Moutere really standing up well to the conditions. Harvest volumes are set to increase further in coming seasons as new plantings continue to mature and further developments and expansion on planted areas continue.“
South Africa Report:
According to importer Greg Crum of ZA Hops: “In general, the yield for 2019 was about 5% less than expected. While not great, it is better than for 2018. 2019 also brought a second straight year of drought, though drought conditions were not as bad as for 2018. Farms that had adequate water in their reservoirs faired better than those who didn’t. For example, one farm ran out of water about two months prior to harvest and their crop of Southern Passion was rejected. South African hops will be available this year in North America through ZA Hops with sales to homebrewers via a new commerce website.” Direct to consumer commerce site was still in development during production of this piece.
Research delving into the origins of modern lager yeast strains and why they have a preference for colder environments has opened up a new world of scientific exploration. In 2011 a team of scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced that lager yeast (Saccharomyces pastorianus) was actually a cross between S. cerevisiae (ale yeast) and S. eubayanus (a wild yeast). The same team of scientists later discovered that it is the mitochondria from the wild S. eubayanus that has the cold preference. For those that don’t remember their high school biology class, mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell. The mitochondria contain its own set of DNA, making it independent from the rest of the cell. In a paper published in Science Advances early in 2019, the team removed the mitochondria from several different Saccharomyces yeast varieties. This left them a blank slate to build hybrid yeast types. The scientists were able to cross these yeast cells with the various mitochondria types. The mixed offspring with various parentage cells and mitochondria were able to thrive at a wider range of temperatures than their parent organisms. Not too surprisingly, they found that leaning more heavily on the S. eubayanus allowed a stronger cold-tolerance while more S. cerevisiae parentage meant better performance in warmer temperatures.
While you may not be seeing new strains with a hybridized yeast-mitochondria mix coming out from White Labs or Wyeast this year, it is something to keep track of. There is a lot of brewing potential if a clean, crisp lager could be brewed faster and at warmer temperatures thanks to a trick played on their mitochondria. To read more, check out the paper at http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/5/1/eaav1869
The New IPA: Scientific Guide to Hop Aroma and Flavor
If you are looking to take your IPAs (or any hop-forward beer) to the next level, Scott Janish has pouring through scientific research that he disseminates into a new hop-lover’s compendium. His blog posts at scottjanish.com has for the past several years has been a bastion for those looking to brew hazy style IPAs — with insight into not only the key ingredients for brewing the style, but also techniques and tools that brewers can utilize to get the most out of the style. In The New IPA, he refines concepts from his blog and lays them out into an orderly guide to making the most of this style. For more information on the book or to order a copy for yourself, vist: http://scottjanish.com/the-new-ipa-scientific-guide-to-hop-aroma-and-flavor/
Blichmann Engineering Spunding Valve
Pressurized fermentation is a great option for creating lager-like flavor profiles at room temperature, without the hassle of temperature control. And you can complete your fermentations faster and easier. The Blichmann Engineering Spunding Valve is purpose-built for homebrewers to control your pressures with precision. Research by Blichmann Engineering and White Labs shows significant reduction of esters (fruity flavors found in most ales) and low levels of diacetyl, by fermenting under pressure. Homebrewers can also naturally carbonate their beer and the spunding valve can be used for counter-pressure transfers. This spunding valve has fine adjustments from 0 to 35 psi and is suitable for vessles up to 42 gallons (160 L). It’s offered in 1⁄2-in. NPT and tri-clamp models. For more visit: www.blichmannengineering.com
Briess Blonde RoastOat™ Malt
This oat malt is lightly roasted (4 °L), providing a mild sweetness with full mouthfeel — and can be used to impart character and flavor to any beer style. Higher levels of usage will create a progressively clean, “oaty” flavor. Blonde RoastOat™ malt does not have any diastatic power, so 30% would probably be the maximum recommended when used in conjunction with a high-diastatic base malt. Blonde RoastOat™ kernels are thinner than whole kernel malted barley so changing the gap setting on your mill is recommended. For more visit: http://www.brewingwithbriess.com/Products/Roasted.htm
The new Spike FLEX is a small-batch, 5-gallon (19-L) fermenter that is meant to fill the gap between pro-style conical unitanks and a glass carboy or plastic bucket fermenter. The FLEX was designed with versatility in mind. The base FLEX model features include sanitary welded 1.5-in. tri-clamp fittings, a liquid crystal stick-on thermometer, a three-piece valve and 5⁄8-in. quick-connect racking arm, which rotates for clearer beer transfers. The domed, five-clip lid holds 2 PSI and includes an airlock, bung and a 4-in. tri-clamp port. The FLEX+ adds several upgrades to the base model including the ability to hold 15 psi. There are over 20 accessories that can be added to the base FLEX to control temperatures, pressure transfer, and carbonate. Learn more at: https://spikebrewing.com/flex
BrewMagic® Premier All-Electric Brew System
SABCO Craft Equipment has been building brewing systems for 3 decades and now has an all-electric system in their lineup. The new BrewMagic® Premier 20-gallon (76-L) RIMS system is turnkey and requires (240 V) power supply. Available in both 30 amp and 50 amp versions and capable of brewing 5 gallons (19 L) to 18 gallons (68 L), it’s designed for homebrewers. Optional network connectivity allows operation to occur from phone, tablet, or PC. There is automated temperature control on all 3 vessels.
The new system completes a full suite of new RIMS brewing systems released by SABCO this year — The 20-gallon (76-L) Premier, the 30-gallon (114-L) Pilot, and the 56-gallon (212-L) Pro. Additional details and all of the system features and specs can be found at brewmagic.com.
Brewing beer doesn’t need to be complicated. BYO’s “Techniques” columnists Drew Beechum and Denny Conn have once again teamed up to teach brewing in its basic form. Simple Homebrewing peels away the layers with tips and tricks on topics such as water adjustments, working with adjuncts, and making wild beers. Denny Conn is a nationally–ranked Beer Judge Certification Program judge and served on the American Homebrewers Association Governing Committee for nine years. Several commercial breweries in both the United States and Europe have brewed his homebrew recipes. Drew Beechum is the author of The Everything Homebrewing Book, The Everything Hard Cider Book, and co-authored Experimental Homebrewing and HomeBrew All-Stars with Denny Conn. They co-host the Experimental Brewing Podcast. For more information or to purchase, visit www.brewerspublications.com.
takes place in Providence, Rhode Island this summer. The 41st annual convention will feature over 70 seminars and 50 homebrew clubs. You must be a member of the American Homebrewers Association to attend. To learn more, visit: https://www.homebrewcon.org
July 1 — Michigan State Fair Homebrew Competition
Be part of Michigan State Fair’s first annual homebrew competition! The competition is limited to the first 300 entries and sign-up takes place online. The cost is $5 per entry and there is a 5 entry per person limit. All entries must be received by July 1: http://www.michiganstatefairllc.com/home-brewing-competition
takes place in Chicago, Illinois. This event is free to the public, but the club host C.H.A.O.S. depend upon donations to help fund their club and their group brewspace. Food, local vendors, music, and lots of homebrew from 10–15 homebrew clubs make this a summer staple for the area. For more check out: https://www.chaosbrewclub.net/event/brewbq-homebrew-beer-fest