The Great Yeast Culture Adventure

First off, I would like to take a minute to thank the Experimental Homebrewing team for extending the opportunity to blog on their site. I have considered creating my own blog since re-entering the hobby a few years ago. However, seeing that my hiatus was due to severe burnout, I wanted to avoid having home brewing become the obsession that it became during my first pass through the hobby. Blogging here will allow me to share what I know with others in one convenient place without having to maintain my own site. With the above said, what brought me back to home brewing after a hiatus that was long enough to place home brewing in my rear view mirror was my love for all things Saccharomyces. I have brewed almost exclusively with home cultured yeast since the beginning. When I first started to brew in February of 1993, being able to plate and slant yeast was much more of a survival skill than it is today. The dry yeast cultures available at the time were unreliable and liquid yeast was difficult to obtain due to the relative immaturity of the market. White Labs did not exist, and the Wyeast catalog could be easily memorized due to the small number of available cultures. As the hobby matured and high-quality yeast became more readily available, my desire to have regular access to high-quality yeast morphed into the desire to have greater control over the final product. The difference between an okay beer and a very good to great beer often lies in biological quality control because brewers make wort, yeast makes beer. My blog will deal almost exclusively with the care and feeding of the Saccharomyces genus. While I am not into wild yeast and bacteria, much of what will appear on my blog will apply to wild cultures as well. I do not work with wild yeast and bacteria because I maintain a yeast bank, and these microbes are known as beer spoilage microflora for a reason. White Labs maintains two separate propagation facilities. The Saccharomyces facility is held under positive pressure to keep things out whereas the Brettanomyces and bacteria facility is held under negative pressure to keep things in. In closing, I would like to give credit to three people who appear to be no longer active in the hobby, but whose contributions should not go unrecognized. Dr. Maribeth Raines’ pioneering work in collecting and isolating yeast cultures and Jeff Mellem’s entrepreneurial skills brought us BrewTek. There are several cultures available today because of the work performed by these two pioneers. One culture that readily comes to mind is Wyeast 1450 Denny’s Favorite 50. This culture was first introduced to the home brewing community on mini-slant as BrewTek CL-50 California Pub Brewery Ale. It is still with us due to Denny Conn’s effort to keep CL-50 alive after BrewTek went out of business. Another pioneer in this area of home brewing was Dr. Daniel McConnell. Dr. McConnell transferred several hundred brewing cultures that he had collected over the years to White Labs when he shuttered the Yeast Culture Kit Company. The hobby is much richer because of the contributions made by these three individuals.