Homebrewing Info

One of the most important things you can do for your beers is to give it a healthy and strong yeast starter.  There are a few good ways to build up a good pitching rate for your beers: build up a yeast starter from a yeast pack, use rehydrated dry yeast (with its disadvantages), repitch a beer on with a prior batch's yeast cake, or...

Take advantage of your local resources.  Your local brewery is the ideal source of fresh yeast.  Most breweries end up with more yeast they can handle after their batches.  While they do have some uses for the yeast (their next beer, yeast for other breweries, some food products, etc.), there is frequently yeast that just gets dumped down the drain.  

The amount of yeast that you need to ferment a 5 or 10 gallon batch is trivial with regards to most brewery yeast cropping operations.  A 12 oz bottle filled with slurry will kick off a brew within hours (probably way too much for most 5 gallon batches).  The "catch" is that it does take a bit of preparation, sanitation, and socialization.

How do you tap this resource?  First, become a client of the brewery and get to know the brewer.  As with everything in life, people are much more willing to go out of their way to help you if they know you and respect you as a friend and a customer.  Next, find out about the yeast available, get to know the character of their yeast, and talk to the brewer about possibly getting a small amount of the yeast for homebrewing.  You can arrange what kind of vessel you need to collect and transfer the yeast.  Make sure you provide the container and take care of cleaning and sanitizing it prior to delivering it to the brewery.  They are already helping you out; don't make them do extra work by cleaning.  They will have certain days that they are most likely to be cropping so be flexible on your schedule.  When you do coordinate the day, it really helps to have some "examples" of your own private brews to let them know how much it means to you (this will hopefully be legitimate in a few months...).  Once you've collected the highly potent yeast, use it soon.  You've captured it at the peak of activity so take advantage of it.  It is probably important to note that if the vessel you've collected it in is sealed, you may need to burp it or it may explode.

With a "massive" dosage of healthy yeast, you may notice that your fermentations are a bit "cleaner" than normal.  The yeast will not need to go through the growth phase (which produces most of your esters) prior to fermentation as it will already be at the proper level.  

And most importantly, never stop thanking your local brewer for their help and the great beer that they keep providing to our community.

If you have a brewing tip you would like to share with the club, please send it to markemiley@ earthlink.net.  It may be common sense to you but could save someone else's beer.