May 11, 2012

Yeast Experiment: Episode II

For those who may be behind in blog reading, a while ago I decided to do a little yeast experiment.  I brewed one batch of beer, divided it into three fermenters, and added different yeast to each.  You can read more about the exploits in my previous post - Yeast Experiment: Episode I.

I decided to brew a pale ale, since that is a recipe I would like to have as a staple.  Everyone should be able to brew a nice pale ale, right?  This project would give me a good head start on what yeast to use in that staple recipe.  I played around with malts and hops for a while, settling on a recipe heavy in late hop additions.  But I wanted a little more flair in my beer so I added a pound of orange blossom honey at knockout.  For the three yeasts, I used Wyeast 1968, Wyeast 1450, and White Labs 051.

I fermented and bottled, and this past week I took three bottles of my yeast experiment over to some friend's house (shout out to Kate and Dave!) to get their opinions.  Keep in mind that this is the same batch of beer.  The only difference is the yeast used.  I was surprised at how different the flavors were.  Using my Drinking Beer Objectively post, here are our results.

Pale Ale 1968
Aroma:  There was a sweet aroma to this one.  I couldn't quite name it, but it was a pleasant sweetness.
Appearance:  Hazy, dark orange.
Mouthfeel:  Overall, a nice mouthfeel.  It didn't hit too much in any one part of the mouth.  Felt pretty balanced.
Taste:  There wasn't any fruitiness as compared to the others.  It was pleasant and fairly simple.
Overall Impression:  This was my favorite of the three.  It kept some of the orange blossom honey from coming out, which was good, but still had a pleasant flavor.

Pale Ale 1450
Aroma:  Tons of orange and citrus aroma.  This was mixed with caramel sweetness.  The citrus to me was a little overpowering and off-putting.
Appearance:  Hazy, dark orange.
Mouthfeel:  The overall mouthfeel was ok.  It seemed to fill the mouth the most - could be tied to the aroma being so strong, too.  Dave mentioned it hit him in the top of the mouth.  He also said, "that's supposed to mean something, but I can't remember what."  So, if anyone knows what that means, let Dave know.
Taste:  The taste was strong with grapefruit and other citrus fruits.  The orange blossom honey really dominated the flavor with this yeast.
Overall Impression:  This was my least favorite of the three beers.  The honey was just too strong for me.

Pale Ale 051
Aroma:  A very neutral aroma.  Clean.
Appearance:  Hazy, dark orange.  (If you didn't notice, they all were hazy and dark orange.)
Mouthfeel:  This was very middle of the road.  It was simple, not too much, not too little.  Definitely not flat or astringent.  Pleasant.
Taste:  More fruitiness.  Kate tasted lemon and apricot.  I tasted orange blossoms.  The flavors were less pronounced than in 1450, but were still a little too fruity for me, especially for a pale ale.
Overall Impression:  This beer cleaned up a lot.  It was the third one we tried, so maybe there was some pallet fatigue in there.  But nothing stood out positively or negatively on this one... well, aside from the orange blossom honey.

So, what did I learn?

  1. Use less orange blossom honey.  I think it overpowered every other flavor there was.  Maybe next time, just regular honey or no honey at all.
  2. As for the yeasts (since that is what this was supposed to be about, anyways), they add a lot of different character to a beer.  
  3. The three yeasts probably aren't clean and crisp enough for a good pale ale.  I ought to have picked a more "clean" tasting yeast as a control - like Wyeast 1056 or White Labs 001.
  4. I don't like bottling very much.  Praise Jesus for kegs.
  5. Yeast experiments are pretty fun.  I do wish my original recipe was simpler, smoother, and cleaner.  Worth trying again down the road sometime.  
Until next time, people.