Boosting the Brew With Biology
BREWERS AND BEER AFICIANADOS ever on the hunt for new flavor profiles are finding them in an old brewing method that uses wild yeast strains. Through a process that sounds more like a science fair project than beer making, Beacon’s new 2 Way Brewing Company owner and brewer Michael O’Herron isolated a strain of local yeast from black raspberries he picked on his parents’ farm in Newburgh.
While most brewers use “domesticated” yeast bought commercially, O’Herron sought the deep flavor derived from wild yeast, and went through a lengthy process of cultivating the yeast by combining the black raspberries with brewer’s wort (brewer’s sugar syrup). Multiple trials, tests and side-by-side tastings eventually led to isolating a single yeast colony from the mixed cultures in petri dishes. “I was looping and streaking plates, which allows you to draw out single cells,” O’Herron explains. “You can get a single colony that doesn’t have any deformities and is uniform, and then each time you have a single cell you have to loop one of those colonies and grow it up to make sure it has the characteristics of the original strain.” The wild yeast imparts a fruity flavor with pineapple notes and an underlying clove spice to beer, he notes. He has sent his proprietary yeast strain to a laboratory, where it can be safely housed and consistently reproduced.
You can taste the results in the brewery’s signature Confusion beer. The farmhouse-style, light-body beer (reminiscent of a Belgian pale ale) allows the yeast’s qualities to shine through, giving it a distinct, local flavor.