Saturday, September 26, 2009

Almond Brown

Almond Brown
Style: American Brown Ale
Type: All Grain
OG: 1.083
FG: 1.022
ABV: 7.99 %
Calories: 272
IBU's: 33.21
Primary: 7 days @ 68°F
Secondary: 14 days @ 72°F
Aging: 21 days @ 74°F
Color: 41.3 SRM

Grains & Adjuncts
9.00 lbs Pale Malt (2 Row) US
0.50 lbs Black Barley (Stout)
1.00 lbs Caramel/Crystal Malt - 60L
0.75 lbs Chocolate Malt
0.75 lbs Caramunich Malt

Hops
1.00 ozs Northern Brewer - 60 mins
0.50 ozs Williamette - 20 mins
0.50 ozs Cascade - 20 mins
0.50 ozs Williamette - 5 mins
0.50 ozs Cascade - 5 mins

Yeasts
1.0 pkg California Ale V

Additions
Add one to one-half lbs. of crushes roasted almonds to grains, steep and sparge.

www.iBrewMaster.com




Homebrewers, I sing the praise of the iBrewMaster App. There truly is an app for everything and beer brewing is no exception. If you use the iPhone I highly recommend it. It has 50 or so preset recipes ranging from Extract and Partial Mash to full All-Grain. You can also type in your own recipe as I did above. You select the type and amount of grain or extract and it calculates an estimated ABV (%) and SRM (color) based on a 70% efficiency brew system (which I have never quite achieved). You can select hops and boil time, including dry hopping, and get estimated IBU's (International Bittering Units). With the aging times set it will even give you a calender of events to follow for best results.

Today I set to brew an Almond Brown Ale with real Almonds. I made this recipe as a Partial Mash last year for my wife's birthday in February. If this all-grain adaptation is anything like the original, it will be quite a treat. The problem with using real nuts is that the oil in the nuts can kill head retention. Lazy Magnolia, in Kiln, MS, uses Pecans and roast them three times to remove oil before using it in their beer. I chose Almonds because a) they are my wife's favorite and b) they are not as oily as other nuts.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember how I prepped the nuts last year. Hopefully the App mentioned above will remedy my poor recording practices. I read on the intranet from a natural foods website that almonds should be roasted at low temp for 15-20 minutes as to preserve the healthy oils for consumption. That's exactly what I didn't want so I roasted them for about 1/2 an hour at 250 in my oven then left them in a brown paper bag for another 1/2 hour to get as much oil out as possible. Then I crushed them in a food processor and added them to the grains for the mash. I mash in a 5 gallon Igloo water container, although I don't spare in it. I heated 4 gallons of water to 170 degrees and dumped it into the mash tun/Igloo cooler, then stirred in the grains and the nuts in. After the addition, the water was just above 150. I let it sit for a good hour to do its thing, and the final temperature was just below 150, so my Igloo seems effective as a mash tun. We'll see how it comes out.

This recipe was a little bit of this and a little bit of that from brown recipes I've read and seen. I fear it might be a black ale rather than brown. Perhaps the Roasted Barley, aka Black Barley, was too much, but I wanted the roasted coffee taste that it would impart. I figured the coffee taste would compliment the almonds like coffee and amaretto does. Finally I used some Chocolate Malt, because hey why not! I might be mixing too many flavors for a solid nut brown ale. It might come out more like a porter or stout than a brown, but again we shall see.

I took a hydrometer reading of 1.050 so I'm far off of the estimated 1.083, but it seems every beer I make lately is 1.050. Maybe my hydrometer is broken. For those of you who don't know, a hydrometer is a buoyant thermometer like device. Using a test tube of wort (unfermented beer) you drop the hydrometer into the sugar water and depending on the level of sugars it will float up to a certain level, this is called the OG or Original Gravity. More sugar in the solution will cause the device to float higher, because the solution is more dense. After Fermentation is complete - usually one week for Ales - a second hydrometer reading is taken. The difference in the OG and the second reading, FG or Final Gravity, gives the amount of sugar that has been consumed by the yeast. Multiplying this difference by 1.31 or 4/3 will give you a rough idea of the amount of alcohol produced. Here's the example:

My Estimated OG is 1.084 and FG 1.023:

1.084 - 1.023 = 0.061 <-- This amount of sugar is gone, where did it go? Yeast food.

0.061 * 1.31 = 0.0799 * 100% = 7.99% or 8% ABV (Alcohol By Volume)

Actually I'm looking at an OG of 1.050 and because I don't take the time to get those sweet unfermentable sugars just right I usually end up with an FG of 1.010 so:

1.050 - 1.010 = 0.040

0.040 * 1.31 = 0.0524 * 100% = 5.24% which is fine by me, I'm done with my days of high gravity and high alcohol. Make a beer that taste good, and not to get drunk on.

A hydrometer reading of 1.000 is a neutral, sugar-free solutions like water. You might be asking yourself why doesn't the yeast eat all the sugar so the FG is always 1.000. Well my alcohol loving friends that would produce a very boring beer. There are sugars that can be desirable that are unfermentable. These sugars add complexity to a beer, like a sweet Porter or toffee-rich English Ale. With a Brown Ale these unfermentables are desirable, but I am not nearly talented enough to control their production. Unfermentable sugars are produced with varying temperature in the mash. My Igloo Mash Tun is plastic and therefore trying to apply heat to it is difficult.



UPDATE: 10/3/2009

The Almond Brown is Black. As I had feared, it was too dark. I should have know since the est SRM is 41. After one solid week of fermentation I transferred it to a secondary carboy to sit for another 2 weeks before it is kegged or bottled. I took a final hydrometer reading (FG) and a tasting. It is roasty, no doubt about that. It's what I said I wanted, and it is what I got. Unfortunately, I think the Almonds were overshadowed. There is a perceptible woody taste I could attribute to the Almonds or the Roasted Barley. The Chocolate is not overpowering either. It is a very drinkable beer and it shall be good, but perhaps something other than what I set out to craft. The brew is more akin to a porter, but I will call it a brown none the less. I'll play with the recipe and make it again. I've settled on a name. Andrea's Almond Brown Ale. Andrea, my wife, is whom I originally made this recipe for, and the initials AABA have a special connotation to musicians. It's the pattern of most pop song structures. Two verses (AA) a chorus or bridge (B) and back to the verse (A). Besides being black as the night the other porter characteristic of this brew is the low alcohol.

The final gravity was 1.020. Using the formula from above and the OG 1.050:

1.050 - 1.020 = 0.03

0.03 * 1.31 = 0.0393 * 100% = 3.93% ABV or about 4%

That's good for me. If I so choose I could add some cane syrup, maple syrup, or molasses boiled in water to sterilizes, and then add them to the beer. Those three sugars would add a nice flavor to the beer. The fermentation would start again and if enough was added I could bring it up to stout levels of alcohol, around 8%, but I won't. That would take time. Since siphoning the beer from one carboy to another I filtered out massive amounts of yeast. To be sure, there are still millions of living cells suspended in the beer, (there always will and should be in unfiltered beer) but it would take some time for those cells to process the new tougher sugars. Then I would need to siphon again and let age for longer periods of time, months as oppose to weeks. Leaving it at 4%, I believe I will allow it to age longer than most as the flavors in this beer are complex and varied. Which is a good thing. A Final Gravity of 1.020 after a week of strong fermentation means I achieved some of those unfermentable sugars that are desirable in this type of beer.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stepping into All-Grain Brewing

Stepping into All-Grain Brewing

On May 28 2009 I attempted to craft my first all-grain recipe. I had some handy new equipment I made or had donated to me by my brother and some of his friends. I read a lot on the subject and was given a great DVD entitled Stepping into All-Grain Brewing to help guide my craft. I needed all the help I could get, and, despite my best efforts, I still screwed up quite a bit. I’ll outline the steps and procedures here and clue you into easier ways.

I’ve been brewing on and off since 2003, but those have all be extract brews. Some of those brews were excellent and I would never dream of downplaying the quality that could come from an extract brew. The brewing process is the same in both cases, what differs is the way in which the sugars are put into the water. In an extract brew, brewers buy a set amount of malt extract. This is a thick syrup-like substance that differs in color and flavor depending on the type of malt used. All-grain uses bulk grain on which the sugar crystals are still attached and the sugars must be washed off, or extracted, from the grain. To be sure, extract save time and energy, but you are bound to the types of malt present in the extract, whereas whole grain you can use any combination you wish.

Equipment for Extracting

My last extract brew was made sometime in April to be ready for my friends wedding at the end of May. Since that time I’ve been slowly collecting many new contraptions to prepare myself for all-grain brewing.

The first was a gift from my brother, who in turn got it as a gift from another home-brewer. It is an Anheuser-Bush half-keg you’re used to seeing, converted for brewer’s use. Roughly 14.5-15.5 gallons, a hole was cut in the top, about a foot in diameter and a meshed two-piece false bottom was cut and measured to fit snugly around the diameter of the keg with some supports there to keep it in place. A false bottom is simply a device at the bottom of a lauder tun that allows water to flow through while holding the grain in place. At the bottom of the keg, below where the false bottom was to be placed, is a small hole. Through that drilled hole a small copper pipe was placed, bent as to catch only the water at the bottom of the keg. On the other side is a simple ball-lock mechanism to turn the flow of water on and off. There is a garden hose attachment to let the water flow out, and this was key to me. I had planned to use this keg for two purposes, as a lauder tun and a cooling implement.

For some time wort chilling presented a problem to me. When the beer is done brewing, but before fermentation takes place, the beer is a sweet unfermented concoction called wort. When it comes out of the boil it is very near boiling, maybe 210 degrees. This is way to hot for yeast to survive. So the wort must be cooled to approximately 80 degrees, called pitching temperature before you can pitch, or add, the yeast. A problem is presented because the longer it takes to cool, the more bad flavors will be introduced into the beer as well as unwanted bacteria at certain temperature. In the past I would leave all 5 gallons of brew in its brew pot and submerge the pot into a cold bath. This took some hours to cool and the beer actually pulled some flavors off of the stainless steel pot. The second piece of equipment I made, with my father-in-law’s help, was a coil of copper tubing I was going to use as a wort chiller. It was not difficult to make and it could be bought from a homebrew store for $60-$70. I went to Home Depot and bought 20 feet of copper tubing for $18, and industrial strength washer hose with garden hose size attachments for $15, various attachments to connect the hose to the copper tubing for $10, and a few feet of vinyl tubing for next to nothing, maybe $2. So I got everything I needed for around $45. First my father-in-law and I looped the tubing around a bucket roughly ½ foot in diameter. The idea was that I would submerge this copper coil into ice or cold water and flow the beer through it. It would go into the tubing 210 degrees and, hopefully, come out pitching temperature. So we left the copper straight for 6 inches then started the coil. We looped it over and over till it was about 1½ foot deep then bent the other end straight up so that it was parallel with the 6-inch beginning. At the 6-inch beginning we placed quite an attachment. The tubing was ¼-inch and the industrial strength hose (remember 210 degree water would come through) was ¾-inch so it was quite a feat linking those two, but we linked them with brass fitting and it worked. On the other end I simply forced the 5/16-inch vinyl tubing onto the copper, not worrying about melting because on this side the wort would be chilled, hopefully. So the idea was to attach the wort chiller to the keg with the garden hose attachment, dump the boiled wort into the keg, let the ball-lock open, and allow the wort to flow through the chiller while it was submerged in cold water or ice, and collect the chilled wort out of the vinyl tubing at the other end. Sounds simple. Ah, but the best laid plans of mice and men…

The other plan for the keg was to be both a mash tun and a lauder tun. A mash tun is a large vessel that can hold temperature for extended periods. A lauder tun is a large vessel that can separate the water from the grain. To mash, the grain must be put into water that is roughly 145-155 degrees. It is at this temperature that the natural enzymes present in the grain start to convert the complex starches into useable, fermentable sugars. This would occur naturally at any temperature, but it works most efficiently at this temperature. After sitting or resting at this temperature for about an hour the sugars are ready to be extracted. That is when the grain is transferred to the lauder tun, unless your mash tun and lauder tun is the same vessel. Here there must be a false bottom and some way to let the water run off, like a ball lock. When the water runs off it will be milky and full of grain husks and other nastiness. A clarification process must be done called vorlauf. To vorlauf the milky water is gently sprinkled back into the grain. I collect the runoff in a pot and pour it back into the lauder tun over a colander to gently rain on the grains. It is important to do this gently because you want all the grain to settle on top of the water to form a natural filter, called a grain bed. If you do it right, the grains will compact and float at the top of the lauder tun. All of the water that runs through it will be filtered from nastiness and at the same time its sugars will be extracted most efficiently. Just letting the water run through the grains will not get all of the sugars, so you must sparge. Sparging is the process of adding water to grain to wash all of the sugars off. Again it must be done gently as to not disturb the grain bed. You want the water to be the same temperature of the grain as not to shock it, but not too hot because it will collect the bad taste of the grain husks. Since the grain will absorb some of the heat, you want your water a little hotter, around 160-170 degrees. Sparging should be slow and can take from 30min to 2 hours plus. You shouldn’t over sparge, again because you can pull some of those husky flavors. You want to use enough sparge water to bring your volume of water around 6-7 gallons, then boil it down to your target 5 gallons.

Sounds easy, right? The entire process I’ve just outlined can be skipped if you use malt extract. In extract brewing you need only take a prescribed amount of water, between 3 to 5 gallons, bring it to a boil, add your syrupy extract, and bring it back to a boil. There is a smaller version of all-grain called mini mashing. Mini mashing might use 1 or 2 lbs of grain, do an abbreviated process of what I’ve outlined above, then use extract for the rest of the sugars. Mini mashing will add the subtle flavors and mouth feel of an all-grain batch without all the work and mess. Right now my wife is begging me to go back to extract brewing, as she’s always consigned to assistance with my laborious hobby. For better or worse baby…

Equipment for Brewing

A friend of mine told me a story recently. He had some bigwig executive from one of California’s large nation-wide brew houses visiting his branch. Together they went to a local hardware store and they were shocked to see all you needed to homebrew for cheap, advertised as “crawfish equipment.” It’s true, I told him, our culture breed home brewers. Since a child I’ve been around propane tanks and burners and large pots of dangerously hot liquids. It’s a wonder more of us here in south Louisiana don’t brew. For my 21st birthday my parents got me a 15-gallon stainless steel crawfish pot. That, and a rusty propane burner was all I needed to start brewing 5 gallons of beer at a time.

It is possible to do a small boil, that’s how I got started. Boil 3 gallons of water, add your ingredients, dilute the liquid with normal water to 5 gallons, pitch your yeast, and done. As I brewed more and read more I realized it would be just as easy to brew all 5-gallons at once and it produces more even, less syrupy wort. So using my 15-gallon pot I brew this way.

Since I now do all-grain I can skip this step, but extract brewers need to full dissolve their sugars into the brew water. Bring the water to a boil, remove from heat and add your sugars. Stir vigorously, when you return to heat you don’t want to scorch the sugars. Note: I’ve read that in any extract brewing there is some degree of sugar scorching. That some of the malt is inevitable caramelized, which can make your brew darker than you perhaps intended. Bring the water back to a boil; you will need to keep it boiling for 1-hour minimum. The next part differs with recipes. There are three possible times to add hops and different quantities affect taste. The first addition occurs for all beers. Add a prescribed amount at the very beginning of the boil and allow it to boil the full 60 minutes. This is called the bittering hops. Allowing it to boil the full 60 minutes will extract all of the oils from the plant. These bitter tasting oils will counter the sweetness of the malt and preserve the beer with an oil coating. You may add hops 40 minutes into the boil, 20 minutes from the end. This is the flavoring hops, and its short boil time won’t kill the tastes. The last addition occurs 5 minutes from the end. This is the aroma hops and it produces the strong hops taste that hits you in your sinus cavity. You are more making hops tea at this point with its very short boil time. Further hops can be added once boiling concludes, or even when fermentation is over. This is called dry-hopping. Some people have voiced that too much hops can destroy a beer’s credibility, but I disagree with these folks as I am an ardent hop-head.

Literally anything can be added to the boil. Often extras are added at the 20-min mark or at the very end. A very common addition is Irish moss 15 minutes from end of boil. This is an herb that will attach itself to unwanted protein in the beer and drag it to the bottom, clarifying to beer in the process. Yeast nutrients are often added 10 min from end of boil. These are just dead yeast cells, which the live yeast will recognize and cannibalize for extra strength. It is evidently very easy for yeast to digest its dead brethren. Wit beer uses orange peel at the 20-min mark and coriander or ginger shavings at the very end to add that subtle spicy flavor. Chocolate stouts, which hops are not a vital flavor, skip the flavoring hops altogether and instead of aroma hops use baker’s chocolate at the end of boil. I’ve made many beers with adjunct sugars, sugars that aren’t malt, which is a forbidden practice by Reinheitsgebot, the German Beer Purity laws. I have added honey at the 20-min mark for wheat or Irish beers, sometimes brown sugar for Amber or Brown Ales. The most egregious of my sugar addition was a sugarcane stout I made. I added an extra pound of cane sugar at the 20-min mark and then 12oz of cane syrup during secondary fermentation.

Fermentation Equipment

The brewer’s best friend is a carboy. A carboy can be glass, plastic, stainless steel, or even wooden barrels, basically any material that won’t impart unwanted flavors to the beer it houses. It is a vessel that allows the CO2 produced by yeast out, but doesn’t allow tainting oxygen in. I have a 6-gallon glass carboy and a 5-gallon. They look like big water bottles. It is a large body with a small opening at the top. The opening is called a bunghole. It is called this because you put the bung there. The bung is usually a plastic or rubber plug. Most bungs have small hole in them for an airlock. I use three-piece airlocks. They consist of a large chamber with a tube in the center, a small cylindrical lid to place over the tube, and a cap to place over the chamber. When you fill the camber with water the tube sticks out and the cylinder over the tube gets partially submerged. The cap keeps the cylinder in place and as the CO2 is expelled, the cylinder burps it up from under the water. This allows the CO2 to flow out but no oxygen gets in to take its place. In the case of rapid volatile fermentation the air lock could explode off and expose the beer. For this the tube can be attached to a hose and the hose placed in a small bucket of water to bubble away.

Primary fermentation, the fermentation of the malt sugars, can take 4-14 days depending on the type of yeast used. When the bubbling in the air lock slow or ceases, primary fermentation is over. I use my 6-gallon keg to ferment 5-gallons of wort, because a thick yeast head is created which can clog the air lock. It is not necessary, but I transfer my beer with a siphon system from the 6 to the 5-gallon carboy for aging or secondary fermentation. Sometimes I’ll let the beer sit another week before I prep it for consumption and sometime, as in the case of the sugarcane stout, I’ll boil some type of sugar, for purity, cool it and add it as I transfer the beer. This will kick up the fermentation once again and impart some flavors into the brew. When doing secondary fermentation you might need to wait a bit longer as the siphoning left behind a large quantity of yeast. You must allow the remaining yeast to do its job.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Four Ingredients

The Four Ingredients

You’ve probably heard this one before. It’s a very common widespread topic at any brewery or sometimes television commercials. There are four ingredients to beer: Water, Malt, Yeast, and Hops. When I first heard this – I cannot remember when – I felt like something had gone over my head. What? How could these four ingredients produce the endless variety and complexity of beer? I found out that this simple statement of fact is both true and misleading. One at a time lets look closer at the four ingredients.

Water

I am willing to admit that this is the ingredient that gives the most distinction between brews. So it could be called the most important. There’s a lot of debate of what water “should” be. I account this to personal taste and any advise I get on water I take with a grain of salt.

In all honesty I know nothing about this ingredient. I used to buy purified water for $.75 a gallon outside Albertsons. With a little experience and some reassurance from others I now used Baton Rouge tap water and boil all 5-6 gallons of it. It’s really good water, so I’m told. Some have complained about the fluoride or chlorine taste of the water (only me) and worry about its effects on my brew (again, only me). Again, I know very little about the chemistry behind water. I’ve heard and read that pH has a lot to do with the water. Some brewers recommend lowering pH with Gypsum, or some basic carbonate. I cannot say what level is optimal.

I can tell you from taste though. For example: have you ever had New Orleans tap water? New Orleans tap water comes from treated Mississippi water. New Orleans is the last stop before the mighty Miss hits the Gulf of Mexico, and eventually the ocean. So when you drink New Orleans tap water your drinking everything that sluttish river has ever been with. Admittedly, Baton Rouge is one of the worst when it comes to polluting the Mississippi, sorry NOLA. Our water here in BR comes from an underground source, much like the water in Abita Springs, LA.

Here’s the comparison, I’m thinking back to a past time so you’ll have to imagine a time before Katrina. Remember Dixie beer? Remember Abita? Both are still around but have made some major changes since 2005. Dixie is now brewed in Wisconsin or something and Abita has become more automated and consistent, at the cost of their craft status. Both of those beers were and still are excellent. Made in the same geographical region with the same other three ingredients, but the water changed the tastes dramatically - a spring vs. a river, when you get down to it.

I believe that most brewers try to adjust their water to most closely match the water in the motherland – Europe. Imagine pure spring in Belgium or babbling brooks in Germany. Imagine this hundreds of years ago. Imagine even before the Industrial Revolution. Before, even, the dark ages. Fermenting sugars to alcohol has been around since before recorded history. Its origins are clouded by antiquity and impossible to pinpoint, much like agriculture. Beer however narrows the playing field by what type of sugar is fermented into alcohol, which brings us to ingredient number 2 – Malt.

Malt

The word Malt itself is very ambiguous. Is it singular? Is it plural? It is both a noun and a verb. Basically Malt = sugar. By fermenting that sugar you make beer, the name of the alcohol produced by fermenting malt. Further distillation can lead to whiskey or other grain alcohols, but it all starts with beer or a beer-like substance.

The malting process is the performed by a maltster on barley, wheat, rye, or any type of cereal grain. We can all picture a barley stalk hanging out of a cowboy’s mouth, a long seedy looking grass. Malting is the process of making that seedy grain into sugar. What happens to that grain is it is set in a moist dark environment and, thinking it is in environment conducive to life, it begins to germinate. With germination, the barley life cycle is continued. New life springs from old seeds as the grain converts its stored tough starches into consumable sugar for the sprout to grow. Malt, the substance, is produced when these seed of new life is extinguished and its sugars are stolen for our consumption.

The maltster takes this lush, green new life and roasts it. Using a oven-like Kiln and vents of hot air these sugars are solidified into crystals of sugar. This sugar is used for more than just beer. It is used in Malted Milk Balls like Whoppers, Malted Milk Shakes, and most cereals, such as Malt-O-Meal (on the bottom shelf).

For brewing purposes this Malt substance can be bought in a thick, syrup substance called Malt Extract, or still attached to the grain to be brewed like a tea and extracted from the grain itself. In either case the malt is added to water, brewed and boiled. The sweetness of the Malt in the brew, even after fermentation, is overwhelming. Like a thick maple syrup unfit for mass consumption. Throughout the centuries different herbs and spices were added to abet the sugary taste of the malt. These spices added local color and flavor and are still used for these purposes today, but Beer found its perfect companion in the hops plant.

Hops

Hops add the right amount of bitterness to counteract the sugary malt and simultaneously acts as a preservative. Its tastes have been described as warmth, tea qualities, and in some cases “it tastes like I’m drinking flowers.” The incredible plant looks like a climbing vine and, like its cousin the cannabis plant, only the female cones produce the oil that is desired. By boiling the cones, leaves, or crushed pellets vigorously, you release the oil that is bitter in flavor and also coat the beer to act as protective armor.

Hops and hop flavoring, hopping, came out of necessity, and necessity also drove the evolution of what hops could add to a beer. In England, the popular Pale Ale underwent a hops metamorphosis as it journeyed on the trade routes to India. Such a long voyage could spoil beer, and so thirsty merchant added excessive amounts of hops for preservation. Out of necessity the style India Pale Ale came about and is prized for its bouquet of hops and hops aroma, and not for its perseverance.

Hops and its oil also provide a defensive barrier against foreign substances so that fermentation does not become tainted. It aids the Yeast.

Yeast

There are more types of yeast than there are types of beer and with its every changing, duplicating cells mutations are quite common. Brewers yeast has been cultivated over the centuries to be the perfect organism to digest malted barley. The way all yeast works is it eats sugar, poos out alcohol and farts CO2. This combination is ideal for brewers. From a natural process our wort (unfermented beer) becomes alcoholic and carbonated, yay nature!

In truth I know little about Yeast cultures. I’m not a microbiologist, and even they don’t fully understand it. What we do know is that it is a single celled organism, that when presented into a sterile environment at the right temperature with a high concentration of sugar, i.e. food, it will start having sex with itself and duplicate. The yeast will only stop, or “fall asleep,” if it runs out of food or the temperature of the environment becomes intolerable. Another way to stop yeast is to make your beer too alcoholic. Brewer’s yeast can survive at most about 7-8% alcohol by volume (ABV). So if your beer has enough sugar to produce that quantity of ABV then the yeast will die in their own excrement. What we can do at that point is to use another type of yeast. Wine yeast, champagne yeast, or mead yeast have all been cultivated to survive at higher ABV, but they are far more caustic than brewer’s yeast.

Brewer’s yeast is digestible and good for you. If you’ve ever had an unfiltered beer you can see specs of dead yeast floating in the liquid. Do not be alarmed; they are digestible and even good for you. Dead yeast is a great source of vitamin B, and if you’ve ever taken vitamin B pills you will see that brewer’s yeast is one of the ingredient. It has been said that vitamin B fights a hangover, I can tell you from personal experience it does. So if you drink unfiltered beer all night, like a Hefe-Weizen, you will not have a hangover the next day.

Imagine again the annals of antiquity and the gradual realization of yeast cultures. Imagine a primitive man boiling fruit or some other sugar source and leaving it out for a time. Imagine him returning and seeing the beer surge and move. If you’ve ever seen yeast in action you know what I mean. He must have thought it was voodoo, or a gift from the gods, when in fact it was wild yeast doing its thing. Perhaps it came from a fruit fly landing for a drink. Only after centuries of observation did anyone suspect it was a natural process. In fact some more traditional breweries, such as those in the Cologne region of Germany will only use wild yeast. They literally fill an attic with a brew and open the windows. Then let nature do its thing. If you’ve ever had a Kolsh beer, it’s probably just Kolsh style. Like Bourbon, real Kolsh beers are only made in the Cologne area of Germany with wild yeast, in a barn, with the windows open, facing the Cologne Cathedral. Those crazy Germans…