Recipe Design for Brewers…Simplified (Part 3: Yeast)

This series by Tom Ayres, explores recipe design. Brewing creativity and the factors that makes each beer style worthy of celebration. All segments in this series can be read here.

Now that we have a structure and spice for our beer, we need to continue developing our recipe further. In this episode we’ll explore designing yeast additions.

A quick review of our design plan… As we discussed previously, we’re going to tackle beer recipe design in parts. You can embrace the whole series or take an “a la cart” approach if you already understand specific aspects. Here are the areas we will focus on, the four major components of beer; malt, hops, yeast and water.

Simplified Beer Recipe Design Part 3: Yeast

Yeast is the catalyst for your beer recipe

Yeast is a mostly invisible and seemingly mysterious ingredient that turns your other ingredients into beer. Ancient brewers referred to it as “Godisgood” because of its mysterious blessed ability to make beer. I’m hoping I can help you with this critical choice in designing your beer recipe. To keep things simple, we will focus on choosing the right yeasts to impart the flavors and character that works best for your recipe designs. As with Parts 1 & 2, I’ll provide a few different approaches to consider.

Yeast Strains by Nationality & Character

As I referenced in Parts 1 & 2, one of my favorite books on this topic is from Ray Daniel’s classic book, Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles. From it we can gather some insights about choosing the best yeasts for our recipes. Though Ray goes into much deeper detail, I appreciate this simplified view for choosing yeast.

Ale Yeasts:

Lager Yeasts:

Other Yeasts:

Yeasts Chosen for Beer Styles in Competitions

If you know what flavors/character you want from your yeast, use the first approach above. On the other hand, if you are struggling with which to choose, let’s look to some award winning recipes from past NHC competitions. From Ray Daniel’s book, Designing Great Beers: The Ultimate Guide to Brewing Classic Beer Styles we can gather some insights about choosing the best yeast for our recipes:

*Competition entries included only Bohemian and German Pilsners

This approach gives us a glimpse into the yeasts used to make successful competition beers. Incorporating these learnings into our recipe designs should prove helpful.

A BJCP/Classic Styles design approach to choosing yeast

As we discussed in the last two articles, one of my favorite brewing books is Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer’s book, Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew. The book provides guidance and recipes for brewing classic beer styles organized by the 2008 BJCP Categories. Earlier we looked at malts and hops used in various BJCP Category recipes. Here are the yeast selections referenced in the book:

This approach includes the specific yeasts used with each style recipe category. It’s important to remember that if you were seeking to make a specific style, you would need to drill-down to the specific recipes in Jamil and John’s book. This approach is simply providing a high-level summary of yeasts to consider for your recipe designs.

Using these approaches to build on our example beer…

In Parts 1 & 2 we started developing a black beer, more specifically a Porter. We envisioned something that features chocolate, coffee and graham cracker flavors. Then we added hop varieties to specifically get some spice along with some floral and herbal flavors/aromas.

According to BeerSmith, here’s what our Black Beer looks like:

Now that we have a backbone (malts) and spice (hops) for our beer, we need to develop this recipe more by choosing our yeast. If we look to the first approach above I like the choice of American Ale yeast, which should keep the character clean, smooth and neutral. If we check that yeast choice against past competition winning Porters (see second approach above), we see American Ale is one of the successful yeast choices. Further, comparing our yeast choice against BJCP Classic Style Porter recipes, we again find American Ale yeast on the list. In fact, for me dry yeast is a favorite for it’s ease and convenience, so I would recommend we consider Safale US-05 specifically.

Hold on, we’re still not finished!

Now that we have structure, spice and a character catalyst for our beer we still need to finish our recipe design by addressing our water profile. Stay tuned for our final recipe design episode where we’ll discuss how to design our water. Good brewing!

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