Uptown Beer Blog

Part 4/4 - Yeast, the Magician

Welcome back! We hope you have been busy exploring all the unique beers available over the holidays and in to the late winter. We have been. There is a lot to talk about, but last but not least we need to talk about the 4th and final ingredient in our 4 part series about beer: yeast!

Without yeast in beer you have a barley and hop soup. Yeast is a simple yet complex ingredient. It can be found naturally nearly everywhere, but is also hard to control. In the brewing process yeast is somewhat a sacred part of the beer.  

Getting down to the basics, there are two main of strains of yeast that divide beer into two main styles of beer: ales and lagers. Nearly every beer drinker is familiar with these two types. You can take the exact same recipe of malt, water and hops and by changing the yeast you significantly change the overall character of a beer.

So what does yeast do? 

Yeast is added once the barley and hops have been processed appropriately in the hot water mixture mixture. This process is called 'pitching'. In either an ale or lager the process is the same, the yeast performs the function of breaking down the sugar from barley (or whatever other forms of sugar were added to the batch) and turning them into alcohol. This is the process known as fermentation. This is what creates the alcohol in beer and gives it the foaminess that we have all come to love. As fermentation happens sugar is converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide is released. 

Ale vs. Lager Yeast 

There are a few differences between ale and lager yeast. Ale yeast is referred to as top fermenting and lager yeast is bottom fermenting. These are generic references and simply mean when either of the yeasts are pitched they ferment the beer from the top of the fermenter or the bottom. Beyond the basic top and bottom difference, they also ferment best at different temperatures and speeds. Ale yeast usually ferments at a higher temperature and acts quicker whereas lager yeast performs best at a slightly lower temperature and usually takes longer to finish the fermentation.

On a side note, another cool thing about yeast is that it is reusable. Yeast can be skimmed off the top or bottom of a batch of beer and reused in another batch. Over time reusing the yeast will make the flavouring properties change. Ale yeast tends to be a bit more resilient whereas lager yeast can fade out after 7-8 uses. 

Why does it matter?

So really why would I care about yeast? 

If you are a person that enjoys beer of any type, yeast may actually be the factor that hinges your entire preference. Ales and their yeast varieties usually produce a more full bodied beer. Lager yeast gives a lighter body. 

Breweries go through extreme lengths during the fermentation process ensuring yeast reacts just the way they want it to provide the certain flavour they are seeking. For example; Duvel, the world famous Belgian Golden Strong Ale uses a variety of yeasts to ferment, moving it through different temperature ranges and conditions, before it is put in the bottle (with more yeast) to become the ultra foamy, complex, and beautiful golden colour. This is an amazingly elegant beer that has become world famous, mainly through the careful attention the brewery gives the yeast.

Some flavours you may taste coming from yeast are things like: banana, clove, raisin, barnyard, and other subtle fruit flavours. Yeast can be open fermented in a large vat or closed fermented in a vessel. In either case the brewery must ensure that there are no unwanted natural yeast that make its way into the beer, so the fermentation stage must be somewhat protected and the beer not disturbed once the yeast is added.

Yeast can certainly not be overlooked as it can make or break a beer. Malted barley or hops can both be substituted with other forms of ingredients to derive fermentable sugars or bitterness and preservation. Yeast is the key that makes it all happen and ties the ingredients together to transform everything into the beverage we all love.

Once again thanks for reading! If this is your first time reading our blog go back and check out our older posts. From here on in we will be focusing our blog on other beer related things. Look for us on the street and book a tour if you'd like to learn more about beer and get to know Saint John a bit better.

Once again here is a shortlist of what is happening on the beer scene right now!

1. Beer to Drink Now!  - Aphrodisiac Ale, Picaroons - Only around for a bit longer and till clinging on to that loving feeling from Valentines Day. This is a great flavoured beer that has subtle chili notes with chocolate taste. Light bodied and interesting; it won't last long.

2. Gateway Beer! - Old Growth ESB, Maybe Brewing Company - Extra Special Bitters' (ESB) would usually not be a great beer to introduce someone to hop forwardness, but this one presents itself very delightfully. It is not in your face with hops, but you know they are there. A great beer for someone who is interested in the craft scene but hasn't made the leap yet. They just need to get past the name. It is barely bitter.

3. Most Crowd Pleasing! - Ruckus IPA, Long Bay Brewery - Available at the brewery, on tap, and now in bottles. A seriously drinkable IPA. Quality and juiciness at every sip. So easy to drink. A great IPA all around. Hopefully this one sticks around. It will certainly become a staple Uptown.

4. Most Adventurous!  -  One Hot Minute, Hammond River Brewing - Yes another beer with chilies added. This one is spicy. But that all subsides after a few sips. A really interesting beer that is not for everyone, but you have to try. High quality and tasty. This will keep your belly warm and is great for anyone that likes chili heat.

Stay tuned for our next post! Cheers! See you Uptown! 


Derek Dygos