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Kveik: Tips from the Pros

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that when American craft brewers got their hands on the fast-fermenting kveik strains from Norway they immediately started using them to quickly turn around IPAs with characteristics never seen before. However, IPAs (and the traditional Old World styles from their home countries) aren’t all these unique yeasts do well. Allow these two pros to share just how diverse kveik strains really are.

DeWayne Schaaf is the Owner/Brewer of Ebb and Flow Fermentations in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Kveik is fast and clean, but I’ll be the one to say that IPAs are likely my least favorite thing to ferment with them. Depending on which culture you use there is the ability to replicate traditional English and German style ales.

We have brewed everything but POF+ styles with them, and even that is possible if you use the Muri culture, which is believed to now actually be in the kveik family tree. Kveik work well co-pitched with saison or Lithuanian yeasts that are POF+ and both love warmer temperatures. Brett and bacteria both play well with kveik for mixed fermentation styles. Honestly, I’m at a loss when it comes to much that they aren’t good at if you let the concept of “proper” go. 

We are even brewing some kveik-fermented “faux lagers.” Original cultures like Ebbegarden and Skare, or commercial cultures like Oslo from Bootleg Biology, ferment very clean and have marked lager-like profiles. We have played around with a number of fermentation temperatures and have mostly kept it in the high-90s °F (mid-30s °C) to finish quickly then cold condition long to knock out any esters that may have formed. It is our experience that the exaggerated fruity ester profiles that kveik is known for are diminished greatly over cold conditioning. 

For homebrewers looking to try a kveik brew, don’t start with an IPA. Brew a mild or bitter, or perhaps a Kölsch. The temperatures are going to be hot soon, so this is the perfect time to not care about your chiller not getting your wort down to 62 °F (17 °C) or your closet not holding at 65 °F (18 °C). Don’t be afraid to pitch it at 90–100 °F (32–38 °C) and keep it at that temperature until it is ready. These styles are less expensive to take the “risk” with and are better at helping you learn about the ester profiles that each kveik has to offer. A simple grist bill of Pilsner and pale malt (50/50) with 20 IBUs at 60 minutes will teach you a lot more about the capabilities of these yeasts than loading it up with hops. Save that for round two! 

Tim Shore is the Owner, Brewer, and Funk Whisperer of Buried Acorn Brewing Co. in Syracuse, New York

The most attractive attribute about kveik strains are their ability to create ester combinations not attainable through other commercially-available yeasts. We use kveik for almost all of our beers, with some exceptions. Kveik doesn’t work for any style of beer that would require phenols to be present because they are not POF+, so we don’t use it for our saison. 

I’m not sure kveik is for every brewery, but we are extremely interested in creating new flavor and aroma combinations that don’t necessarily fit into classic style categories. Some kveik strains like Skare, Laerdal, and Oslo are quite clean and can be used like Chico, or you could have fun and experiment using one of them in a hybrid like an altbier or Kölsch. On the flipside, Arset, Voss, and Ebbegarden are on the very fruity side and can be used to accentuate any beer style where you are looking for an ester-forward presentation.

Flavor profiles are very strain-dependent and it’s difficult to modify expression of a single strain with traditional cellaring techniques. In my experience, the profiles, although unique, are nearly identical fermented at 59 °F or 108 °F (15 °C or 42 °C) regardless of pitching rate. So, to get different profiles in different brands we do use different strains. Omega Yeast, Mainiacal Yeast, Escarpment Labs, and Bootleg Biology have some wonderful isolated strains that we swap in and out depending on the brand. My favorite one came from DeWayne Schaaf at Ebb and Flow Fermentations some time ago. It’s an original mixed culture from Voss and I have kept it alive and working in my brewery for years.

I have three mixed cultures that I use in producing a broad array of flavors to blend in our barrel program. I have the Voss mixed culture, I have my house mixed culture, and a saison mixed culture. I ferment these strains open in our brewery and let the local microflora get mixed in. Voss creates a Grand Marnier kind of candied orange peel flavor that blends well with Brett barrels that are pineapple-forward. The Voss culture I kick out into the open fermenter at 104 °F (40 °C) and let it ride — it’s usually done fermenting and ready to transfer to barrels by the morning. This quick reduction of simple sugars keeps Lactobacillus from souring and leaves any acid to be produced by Pediococcus. Like most all yeast, kveik is not expressive in an already acidic environment.  The saison mixed culture is done the same way but it starts at 77 °F (25 °C) and will generally produce acid during primary fermentation depending on my hopping rate. My house mixed culture is a collection of Brett and bacteria cultures that have been in my life for over a decade. There is no technology attached to my open fermentation tanks so we try to time the brews so that the environmental conditions are ideal for the specific culture to function depending on what we are looking to achieve.

One of my favorite recipes with kveik is called Stoutland, which is a stout that tiptoes the line between what is acceptable as a stout and an entirely new (to me) combination of flavors. The tangy kveik esters bouncing off of all the chocolate and my pretty robust hopping rate make for a very angular and unique stout. Here’s the recipe:

Buried Acorn Brewing Co.’s Stoutland clone

This recipe tiptoes the line between what is acceptable as a stout and an entirely new combination of flavors. The tangy kveik esters bouncing off of all the chocolate and a pretty robust hopping rate make for a very angular and unique stout. 

(5 gallon/19 L, all-grain)
OG = 1.048  FG = 1.014
IBU = 30  SRM = 47  ABV = 4.5%

Ingredients
2.5 lbs. (1.13 kg) 1886 NY pale ale malt
2.5 lbs. (1.13 kg) 1886 NY Munich malt (or Munich 1)
1.5 lbs. (0.68 kg) 1886 NY Vienna malt
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Bairds medium crystal malt (75 °)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Crisp pale chocolate malt (225 °L)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Bairds light crystal malt (15 °L)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Crisp dark chocolate malt (450 °L)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) flaked oats
5 oz. (142 g) roasted barley malt
3.75 AAU French Strisselspalt (90 min.) (1.5 oz./43 g at 2.5% alpha acids)
3.25 oz. (92 g) French Strisselspalt  (0 min.)
0.65 oz. (18 g) Cascade hops (dry hop)
0.65 oz. (18 g) Chinook hops (dry hop)
Omega Yeast OYL057 (Hothead Ale)
2/3 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by step
Make sure the alkalinity of your water can buffer the heavy-handed specialty malts. Water should be roughly 1:1 sulfate-to-chloride with about 50 ppm calcium ion.

Mash in grains at 152 °F (67 °C) for 60 minutes. Raise grain bed to 168 °F (76 °C) to begin the lauter process. Vorlauf and sparge as normal. Collect about 6.5 gallons (25 L) of wort in your kettle and bring to a boil. Add the first hop addition and boil for 90 minutes. At the end of boil, add the second hop addition and create a whirlpool. Buried Acorn spins for 15 minutes, then spins down for 30 minutes. If you have a pump you can follow this as well. Otherwise create a whirlpool and let settle for 30 minutes.

An addition of a yeast nutrient and proper oxygen/aeration prior to fermentation is important. Fermentation temperature is not critical — anywhere from 82–108 °F (28–42 °C) should work. Once primary fermentation is finished, allow the beer to settle for several days then package as normal.

Buried Acorn Brewing Co.’s Stoutland clone

(5 gallon/19 L, partial mash)
OG = 1.048  FG = 1.014
IBU = 30  SRM = 47  ABV = 4.5%

Ingredients
1.5 lbs. (0.68 kg) extra light dried malt extract
1.5 lbs. (0.68 kg) Munich dried malt extract
1 lb. (0.45 kg) Vienna malt
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Bairds medium crystal malt (75 °)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Crisp pale chocolate malt (225 °L)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Bairds light crystal malt (15 °L)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) Crisp dark chocolate malt (450 °L)
0.75 lb. (0.34 kg) flaked oats
5 oz. (142 g) roasted barley malt
3.75 AAU French Strisselspalt (60 min.) (1.5 oz./43 g at 2.5% alpha acids)
3.25 oz. (92 g) French Strisselspalt  (0 min.)
0.65 oz. (18 g) Cascade hops (dry hop)
0.65 oz. (18 g) Chinook hops (dry hop)
Omega OYL057 (Hothead Ale)
2/3 cup corn sugar (if priming)

Step by step
Place the Vienna and flaked oats in one grain bag and the crystal, chocolate, and roasted barley in a second bag. Submerge the Vienna and oats in 1 gallon (3.8 L) of hot water to stabilize at 152 °F (67 °C) and hold for 45 minutes. Add an additional gallon (3.8 L) of hot water and the bag or crystal and roasted grains. Hold for 15 minutes, the remove both grains bags and rinse the grains with another gallon (3.8 L) of hot water. Top off kettle to 6 gallons (23 L) then, while off heat, add the dried malt extract. Stir until it is all dissolved then bring wort to a boil. Add the first hop addition and boil for 60 minutes. At the end of boil, add the second hop addition and create a whirlpool. Buried Acorn spins for 15 minutes, then spins down for 30 minutes. If you have a pump you can follow this as well. Otherwise create a whirlpool and let settle for 30 minutes.

An addition of a yeast nutrient and proper oxygen/aeration prior to fermentation is important. Fermentation temperature is not critical — anywhere from 82–108 °F (28–42 °C) should work. Once primary fermentation is finished, allow the beer to settle for several days then package as normal.