Base Pale Ale
This basic pale-ale recipe can provide a simple “blank” canvas on which to compare yeasts for the “Yeast Throwdown.”
Batch Size: 5 gallons (19 liters) Brewhouse efficiency: 72% OG: 1.051 FG: 1.012 IBUS: 45 ABV: 5.07%
7 lb (3.17 kg) Pale liquid malt extract (LME) 1 lb (454 g) Crystal malt 20L
HOPS & ADDITIONS SCHEDULE
1.5 oz (42 g) Mt. Hood [5% AA] at 60 minutes 1 oz (28 g) Cascade [5.5% AA] at 30 minutes 1 oz (28 g) Columbus [13.5% AA] at flameout
See “Yeast Throwdown” (page 45) for a list of possibilities
Follow a standard extract brewing process: Bring 5.4 gallons (20.4 l) of water to about 155°F (68°C) and hold. Steep the grains for 20 minutes, then remove the bag and allow to drain into the wort. Add the LME while stirring and stir until completely dissolved. Boil for 60 minutes, following the hops schedule.
After the boil, chill the wort to slightly below fermentation temperature, about 65°F (18°C). Aerate the wort and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 68°F (20°C). Once fermentation is complete, bottle or keg the beer. you’ve reviewed them all, it’s time to do some head-to-head comparisons.
Across the spectrum, it’s very likely that some will stand out as unique, either for good or ill. Try your favorite against your least favorite and see if you can identify why you prefer the one. Is it an off-flavor or a less-pleasant aftertaste in the least favorite? It may be that the least favorite pushes the beer a little out of style.
It’s also good to pick two that seemed fairly similar and see what details separate them. For example, the ester levels may be comparable, but the nuances of the fruitiness between banana and stone fruit may distinguish them. Alternatively, one may favor the hops a little more strongly.
Aside from giving you a more intuitive sense of yeast characteristics, this technique can help you decide which strain complements a given style best for your own personal taste. This comes in handy when you’re trying to take a recipe to the next level. After you’ve fine-tuned a recipe over several batches, it’s worthwhile to try this split-batch approach to see how changing the yeast impacts the beer. Broadening your choices is especially helpful if you’re in the habit of using the same set of yeasts for most of your beers. Another variation on this experiment is to use a smaller set of yeasts but introduce the additional variation of fermentation temperature. This is most interesting when applied to German weizen or Belgian strains, because their character tends to be more temperature dependent in terms of whether they favor esters or phenols. Try this out a time or two, and you’ll have a much stronger feel for yeast character. This will not only help you make better beer; you’ll also have a deeper appreciation for all the beer you drink.