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Wild Yeast Beer Myths Debunked!  RSS feed

 
Rose Lee
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Has anyone else seen this!?

Finally someone has set out to prove what I've suspected for a while. Beer made with wild yeast has a history of being not only sweet, but also more complex and varied than beers made with recognized strains! This guy deserves an award.

Was all beer sour before Pasteur?
http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/306.html

Kveik: Norwegian farmhouse yeast
http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/264.html

Brewing with kveik
http://www.garshol.priv.no/blog/291.html

Silly modern brewers and thier notions of extreme sanitation and high tech equipment! Nature does it better.

One piece of the puzzle is missing - how did they get the pure yeast strains without bacteria? Did they originally add herbs to encourage yeast over bacteria? Or did they simply keep using and favoring the yeast until it outcompeted the bacteria?
 
Zenais Buck
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Location: PNW
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A while back I had a copy of Stephen Buhner's "Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers" and I swear he answered your question. Someone borrowed my book and did not return it, so I can't look it up! Now I think I have to go purchase another copy....
 
John Saltveit
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Those are some very interesting ideas, ROse. More cool stuff to learn about.
JohNS
PDX OR
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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I have only brewed one beer this way since it didn't taste drinkable for 10 years. I kept opening them and trying them, until most of the batch was gone and I had resigned myself to using commercial yeast product if I ever brewed again. Then all of a sudden, it was good, real good. After a decade of aging, this was hands down the best beer I have ever had! Too bad I only had 2 left by then and they are all gone now.

I used a standard imperial stout recipe, but instead of yeast, I added loads of cherries straight from our tree with only a light rinse and no disinfecting. I would start drinking again if I could get beer like this, without that nasty industrialized yeast product that is making so many people incredibly sick. If you can't tell, I don't eat bread with that toxic ick in it either!
 
Rose Lee
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Thanks Zenais, I'll add that book to my wish list. And thanks for the apple, John.

Bill, Cherry imperial stout?!? yum! That is basically my plan to trap yeast - add fruit/honey and brew, trying to avoid bacteria but just accepting it if I do, and then saving the yeast each batch. Its encouraging to hear that this has actually been done successfully. I wonder if that german law (I forget the name) about beer only having 3 ingredients helped in proving which brewers had good, strong yeast strains and which did not and were 'cheating' by using fruit. Anyways, just a thought.

Interesting about the aging though. I wonder why that affected it so much?

These articles really made me wonder how I can apply Fukuoka philosophy to beer. I mean, what can we NOT do when it comes to brewing? Can we skip some of the boiling to reduce fuel consumption? Can we utilize hay boxes in the process? It seems to me that wild/naturally domesticated yeasts (as opposed to lab grown) are much more vigorous and could better protect beer from contamination, making some of the boiling unnecessary.

Oh darn, I guess I'll have to do some beer experiments.
 
Bill Bradbury
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I don't really know why, but the aging toned down the crazy out of control sour flavors. It tasted a bit like sourdough starter, except more sour.

I only used the bloom on the cherries, but I think if you were to refine the starter like a good sourdough, then maybe it'd be smoother from the start.
 
Rose Lee
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Well that's good to know, anyways.

I guess we should make a distinction betweem the yeasts:

Wild (like what you did with the cherries)
'Heirloom' (kveik etc.) - stable, domesticated yeast starters that can be passed on indefinitely and produce roughly the same result every time.
Lab-grown - yeast strains that started out as heirloom but were isolated and commercialized until the originals died out.

Heirloom vs. lab grown I think is the same idea as heirloom yogurts vs store bought. They became domesticated as a result of human encouragement.
 
Mike Patterson
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Here's some quotes from Stephen Harrod Buhner "Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers" that seem to apply to your question.

"In ancient times, wild yeasts were all that were used. The sugars were freed from grain by malting, or used directly through the use of honey or the sap of trees, or converted by saliva or molds, and set out in a water solution, an offering for the magic yeast. And the yeast would come. Once ensconced safely in its new food, the yeast would take steps to protect it. A thick head of foam would form on the surface of the sugar/liquid and the feeding yeast would give off clouds of carbon dioxide gas. Both prevent other yeasts from settling in the food and feeding."


He has a few more thoughts that fall much more on the purple end of the spectrum. (In a good way; I'm not trying to say it isn't valid, just trying to clarify.)

"Yeasts, like more complex plants, respond to being 'treated like a human being.' The scores of recipes for beer I offer in this book suggest the use of a domesticated, store-bought yeast. But if you can bring yourself to experiment, you might try making some of them with wild yeast. When the wort is ready, you might leave it out, uncovered, in a container with a wide opening. Then sit near it and begin to talk with the spirit of the yeast - to call on the bryggjemann or kveik to come - and see what it is like. To do so means reconnecting to the ancient tradition of fermentation - to connect to the thousands of wise women and wise men standing over their brewing vessels in small villages around the world calling on the spirits of fermentation to come to the wort and kindle the fire in it. Once you have brought a wild yeast to live at your home, place a carved stick in the fermenter and allow the yeast to fall deeply within its carvings. When the beer is finished, take the stick out and hang it up to dry somewhere out of the way. At your next fermentation, take it down and place it in your fermenter and call on it once again to awaken life.
If you do risk calling on a wild yeast and the wort turns out badly, what will you do then? you might ask. The wise ones might answer, 'Perhaps you will have to dance harder the next time.'"


The yeast covered stick concept seems to be the most common way of finding a wild strain and maybe starting your own heirloom or whatever.

"Once the gong or bryggjemann or kveik had come, the brewers and their culture had a special relationship with them. In many cultures, indigenous and otherwise, the wild yeast that come into the wort would be kept and nurtured as part of the family. Like sourdough starters, some wild yeasts were used for many hundreds of years - no new wild yeasts being coaxed out of the heavens. All regions and clans, even brewers within families, used many different methods to make the bryggjemann a home until it was time to feed him again. Inside South America and Egyptian clay brewing pots, when they were being made, lines, almost like language, were inscribed in which the yeast could live, in hibernation, until the next brewing. In the southwestern United States, the Papago would sometimes keep a little of the fermented tiswin in a special pot until the next year's ceremonial brewing, or else the baskets into whose weave the yeast insinuated itself were saved and used again for only this purpose. In Norway they often used a log or juniper branch."


This is what I'm most excited to try out once I have some spare time...

"If a yeast log was used, a section of a birch tree was cut. Sometimes it was shaped and carved, sometimes simply placed in the wort. The yeast covered the log, and at the end, it, too, was hung up to dry. At the next brewing it was placed in the bottom of the fermenter, new wort was added, and fermentation began once again. Interestingly, birch has an extremely sweet sap, somewhat like maple, though weaker. The sap from the freshly cut tree draws the yeast deep within it as they search out its sugar. Then, during drying, the wood of the log cracks, forming deep crevices that allow the yeast to penetrate deep inside during the next brewing. Yeast can easily live a year in such a manner, and if tended to with devotion, will always produce a good ale."


There are also some mentions of placing certain herbs on or around your brewing vessel, such as wormwood or mugwort, which have natural anti-bacterial properties.

He does mention Belgian lambic producers still doing wild fermentation with up to 30 different strains of wild yeasts contributing, although he doesn't seem to acknowledge or differentiate the bacterium also being present. Of course these wild beers are what we've unfortunately categorized as "sours", and I'm assuming you're not wanting to make sour beer? (Though I can't imagine why not!)

These articles really made me wonder how I can apply Fukuoka philosophy to beer. I mean, what can we NOT do when it comes to brewing? Can we skip some of the boiling to reduce fuel consumption? Can we utilize hay boxes in the process? It seems to me that wild/naturally domesticated yeasts (as opposed to lab grown) are much more vigorous and could better protect beer from contamination, making some of the boiling unnecessary.


If you're mashing your own grains you will need to heat up the water somehow, but once it's heated up an insulated mash tun does work just fine. The boiling process afterwards is more for the hops than for sterilization. Boiling the hops, or other herbs for that matter, will give bitterness to your beer. For just flavor and aroma you can do a very short boil, but the bitterness needs some more time. You don't need to use hops at all if you don't want to, and you could try to add some herbs to the fermenter without heating the wort back up. You might get a different flavor profile and as alcohol gets produced it will also interact and extract qualities from the herbs. You'd probably be introducing yeasts and bacteria with the herbs this way, but if you use one of the above methods for yeast and maybe wait till that gets going before you add the herbs the yeast will be strong enough to outcompete whatever may be getting introduced through the herbs. Also the cooling process after the boil is more where I see people freaking out about contamination. That's why there's all these fancy gadgets to cool your wort as quickly as possible so you can introduce your selected yeast. If you only heat up water hot enough to strike and mash your grains, it probably wouldn't take much longer for it to cool to an acceptable pitching temperature.

I guess it all depends on what sort of beer you're wanting to make. If you're hoping for a certain flavor profile that you'd recognize as beer you're used to drinking, you'll probably need to do some boiling and hopping, but if you're ok with experimenting and trying new flavors you'll have more options I think.

Good luck with your experiments! Let us know how they turn out.

-WY
 
Sean Henry
Posts: 74
Location: Louisville, KY Zone 7
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Rose Lee wrote:Can we skip some of the boiling to reduce fuel consumption? Can we utilize hay boxes in the process?


Q: Can we skip some of the boiling to reduce fuel consumption?
A: Reducing boil time will work most beers are 60min boil this can be reduced to 30 min but you will have to adjust the time you add hops check out http://brulosophy.com/ he is doing some great tests including this exactly.

Q: Can we utilize hay boxes in the process?
A: Yes, but I think it would only work for the Mash/steeping step. If you have a fancy system to brew that has an electric heating element in the pot you could do the whole brew in one but you will need to keep the pot uncovered. It needs to be uncovered for two reasons: 1. Covered it is way more likely to boil over ask me wife how I know that. 2. The more volitional compounds that you want to drive out of the beer will drop back into the wort (unfermented beer) and can give off flavors.


Purchased yeasts are used for a few reasons you know what you are going to get, some handle higher ABV, or give a banana flavor, more fruit flavor, handle higher or lower fermentation temp, ect.

Yeast does not make a beer sour but bacteria in the beer (wort) does usually, Brettanomyces is one strain of yeast that does add a sour flavor. The beer can be fermented without any yeast but use bacteria additions. Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are the two bacteria that are commonly used to sour a beer.

I have thought about trying to ferment a beer using the sourdough starter we created year ago.
 
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