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cowdery
02-09-2011, 14:26
There is a very interesting thread going over at ADI Forums about yeast making (http://adiforums.com/index.php?showtopic=1550) that has drifted into some interesting territory about sour mash and lactobacillus. I especially recommend the posts by Denver Distiller. The stuff in my posts you've seen before.

Denver Distiller, for example, explained sour mash as a cheap and readily available source of acid to condition the mash pH and also a cheap source of nearly perfect food for the desired yeast strain. Likewise although there are no active lactobacillus in the backset, there is lactic acid.

The other interesting idea being advanced is that the early association of geographically-specific yeast strains with the corn-based whiskey that came to be called bourbon gave Kentucky-based distillers an advantage over distillers who subsequently tried to make bourbon in other places.

CorvallisCracker
02-09-2011, 15:13
An interesting discussion. Thanks for posting the link.

I agree, at least from a consumer POV, that it would be "cool" for craft distilleries to do some experimentation with wild/local yeast strains. I think, on the other hand, that some newer operations that are still running on a narrow margin are justified in avoiding the risk associated with trying this (at least on a large scale). "Starving artist" is not a viable business model.

DeanSheen
02-09-2011, 15:21
"early association of geographically-specific yeast strains"

Was the result of the association attached to the final product or were the strains significantly different from other strains based on the locale where the yeast was sourced?

I guess what I'm trying to ask is it possible for yeast to have terroir?

Based on what I saw on the show Brew Masters when Dogfish Head went to Egypt and captured local yeast for their Ta Henket beer I'm going to assume the answer to the above is "yes".


Fermentation was carried out by a native Egyptian saccharomyces yeast strain captured by Sam and Floris during a recent trip to Egypt.http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/brewpub-exclusives/ta-henket.htm

EDIT: Doh! I just read the ADI thread and Denver Distiller just mentioned the above.

CorvallisCracker
02-09-2011, 15:29
I guess what I'm trying to ask is it possible for yeast to have terroir?

Based on what I saw on the show Brew Masters when Dogfish Head went to Egypt and captured local yeast for their Ta Henket beer I'm going to assume the answer to the above is "yes".

I saw that episode. It was also referenced in the ADI discussion.

Russian River Brewing (http://www.russianriverbrewing.com) has done a lot of expermentation with wild yeasts, presumably all from the northern California area. The list of stuff in their "Beatification Ale" is so scary that it is, for me, definitely in the "you go first" category.

TNbourbon
02-09-2011, 15:34
For whatever it's worth, I loved the discussion, and learned a lot! Mostly, that I'm now looking for distillate from "Denver Distiller"'s Leopold Bros., and why "Sherman" makes equipment and NOT whiskey!:skep:
But, though Sherman seems like a technician in a would-be artisan's world, I am intrigued by his thesis that Tennessee is included in the triumvirate of yeast-blessed whiskey locales. And as you yourself noted, Chuck, in the thread, it's an interesting alternative to the limestone water rationale for bourbon's concentration in Kentucky.
Bottom line: if I'm going to pay a premium for the 'craft' in craft distillery products, I'm looking for more than just a small-batch product using the same ingredients and methods that Four Roses, for example, uses. Capture and propagation of yeast seems to be one area that can distinguish a small player for the 'big boys'. Kinda odd -- and lazy (which doesn't recommend their product) -- that most of them resist.

CorvallisCracker
02-09-2011, 16:00
Bottom line: if I'm going to pay a premium for the 'craft' in craft distillery products, I'm looking for more than just a small-batch product using the same ingredients and methods that Four Roses, for example, uses.

There's a lot of things that one could do to accomplish that. Different mashbills (how about 51% rye 49% barley malt). Different type of still. How about a solera?



Capture and propagation of yeast seems to be one area that can distinguish a small player for the 'big boys'. Kinda odd -- and lazy (which doesn't recommend their product) -- that most of them resist.

A very risky one. If you'd seen the referenced episode of Brew Masters, you'd know that the failed batch of "Chateau Jiahu" represented a couple of thousand dollars of investment going literally down the drain. Although an established company like Dogfish Head can absorb a loss like that, a smaller/newer operation probably could not. "Lazy" is both inaccurate and unfair.

dbk
02-09-2011, 19:01
I found the ADI thread really quite interesting. Straying from the topic at hand slightly, one thing that cropped up there is something I see a lot elsewhere: the distinction between purportedly "scientific" and "artistic" methods.

A good friend is a commercial roaster for Detour, the best coffee I have tasted this side of Stumptown. Their sole café is located in the small town of Dundas, Ontario where, recently, another café (that shall remain nameless) set up shop. The proprietor of the new café has in the past spent much of his time "demonstrating" that his coffee is better than Detour's because his roaster has "16-point calibration" or some such thing. But that just means that his coffee will come out more consistently than someone lacking that technology, and more likely than not—given regression to the mean and all—consistently worse.

I'm a research psychologist, and the instruments I use to measure behavior can vary from calculating province- and state-level homicide rates to the amount of money one individual gives to another to someone's subjective level of "emotional closeness" to a friend on a paper-and-pencil questionnaire. All of these are "scientific," and equally so, to the degree that they can be reliably used in the pursuit of science. To the degree that taste and smell are reliable senses, they too can be used to control the outcome of a product, including whiskey. There is nothing inherently "scientific" about the dry yeast method, and there is nothing inherently "craft" about the bucket method; they are both methods designed to constrain, or alternatively to seek, variability in existing yeast properties.

I get what Chuck is on about, I really do. But I don't think it's about science and art; it's about trying to find something new, something unique. To the degree that a new yeast strain makes for a better, or at least equally enjoyable, alternative, this should be encouraged. Of course, as many have pointed out, the cost in terms of time and resources may be too damned prohibitive, but it's a nice idea nonetheless.

sailor22
02-09-2011, 20:29
Thanks for the link Chuck. One of the things that stood out for me was the post that contained the scan of an old account of how the distilleries in Maryland using the same Indian Corn weren't able to reproduce the Kentucky flavors.

Does anyone use Indian Corn today? Don't the majors use genetically enhanced notch corn with a much higher starch (to make more alcohol per pound) content than old style Indian Corn?

bourbonv
02-10-2011, 08:08
This is an interesting concept, but I wonder if it was the superior yeast or the superior ability of the people raising the yeast. I have read that a true distiller in the old days knew when to keep or reject a yeast. There are a lot of yeast strains in Kentucky and not all of them make good whiskey.

Mike Veach

kickert
02-10-2011, 08:33
Don't the majors use genetically enhanced notch corn with a much higher starch (to make more alcohol per pound) content than old style Indian Corn?

I have been told by a friend of mine that hauls grain that if a distillery rejects a truck of corn because its outside of specs that they take it to a food producer who makes things like cereal. Take it for what its worth.

cowdery
02-10-2011, 08:59
That little Brittanica clip was credited to the man who was its editor until, I think, 1914 and he was writing from London. In that regard it is less than authoritative.

The term "indian corn" was simply an alternate term for "maize" and was not, I believe, intended to distinguish between pre-Columbian and post-Columbian strains.

What Sherman is suggesting is that because the whiskey called bourbon began in Kentucky and was made with yeasts that were native to Kentucky, that created a certain flavor profile. Distillers in other areas were unable to duplicate that profile because they didn't have access to the same yeast. That doesn't mean their whiskey was bad, just that it didn't taste like Kentucky whiskey.

As theories went, it had enough currency to be quoted many years later by someone writing about it from a far remove. That doesn't make it true but it does make it interesting.

Remember that we're talking about a time (not 1914, but 100 years earlier) when whiskey was aged little if at all and distilled out at barely 50 percent alcohol, so there was a lot of the flavor of the fermentate left in the distillate.

sailor22
02-10-2011, 14:11
What Sherman is suggesting is that because the whiskey called bourbon began in Kentucky and was made with yeasts that were native to Kentucky, that created a certain flavor profile. Distillers in other areas were unable to duplicate that profile because they didn't have access to the same yeast. That doesn't mean their whiskey was bad, just that it didn't taste like Kentucky whiskey.

As theories went, it had enough currency to be quoted many years later by someone writing about it from a far remove. That doesn't make it true but it does make it interesting.

All of that that was clear enough in the thread. I thought perhaps since certain yeasts seem to be more successful with different grains the reference to what I take to be a more rustic strain of corn might point to another variable in the equation.

cowdery
02-10-2011, 15:26
...certain yeasts seem to be more successful with different grains ..

Says who?

Maybe that's the disconnect, because nothing in that thread says that and I don't think that's a true statement.

CorvallisCracker
02-10-2011, 15:47
...since certain yeasts seem to be more successful with different grains....


Says who?

Maybe that's the disconnect, because nothing in that thread says that and I don't think that's a true statement.

There have been references, both in the ADI thread and the one here, to an episode of Brew Masters where Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione is in Egypt capturing wild yeast as part of an effort to make beer based on an ancient Egyptian recipe.

This is only one of two "subplots" in the episode.

Interspersed with this is the account of the effort to brew some "Chateau Jiahu" back at the Dogfish Head brewery. This brew is based on an ancient Chinese recipe and for it Calagione chose a yeast which has been traditionally used for making sake. Although the first two years that they made the stuff they were successful (albeit with a lot of intervention), the third (current) effort failed because they couldn't get it to ferment.

So there's at least one strain of yeast out there that works reliably with rice but not with barley. FWIW.

Added via edit:

Though admitedly, along with the barley malt, there's a lot of other stuff in the Jiahu: brown rice syrup, honey, grape juice and Hawthorn berry juice. Might be the yeast just gets confused.

TNbourbon
02-10-2011, 16:14
...the failed batch of "Chateau Jiahu" represented a couple of thousand dollars of investment going literally down the drain. Although an established company like Dogfish Head can absorb a loss like that, a smaller/newer operation probably could not. "Lazy" is both inaccurate and unfair.
Is it? These guys are all volunteers! Nobody forces them to try to make something that can compete with well-establised, corporate distillers. If they can't afford to 'do something different' -- even if it ends in a failed experiment -- maybe they should have purchased a certificate of deposit (or a bottle or two of Pappy 23).

CorvallisCracker
02-10-2011, 17:00
Is it? These guys are all volunteers! Nobody forces them to try to make something that can compete with well-establised, corporate distillers. If they can't afford to 'do something different' -- even if it ends in a failed experiment -- maybe they should have purchased a certificate of deposit (or a bottle or two of Pappy 23).

Tim, I want to make sure I understand you. Are you saying that craft distilleries should be started only by people who are independently wealthy, for whom the enterprise is really no more than a hobby?

Added via edit:

I'll add another question. You seem to have zeroed in on this yeast issue, to the degree that you appear to be ignoring other methods (both described and not) of differentiating a product from those of the major distillers. So are you saying that they should use the same mashbills as the majors, the same models of stills, the same type of barrels, the same type of rickhouses, etc etc etc, and that the only acceptable way for them to 'do something different' is to use a unproven strain of yeast?

cowdery
02-10-2011, 18:38
Remember, just because you don't know something, that doesn't make it a secret. Nobody is zeroing in on the yeast issue. I talk about all elements of craft when I get on one of my "what's so craft about craft distillers?" kicks. This thread happens to be about yeast specifically and fermentation generally.

As for your conclusions based on the beer show, your evidence doesn't prove your conclusions. Why do you conclude that the change of grain had to be why it didn't work? What about taking the yeast out of its natural environment and transporting it half way around the world? It might not have worked on rice in Delaware either.

Things like going to Egypt to get yeast to mess around with recreating an ancient Egyptian beer recipe are just that, messing around. It's wonderful messing around and exactly what I'm advocating, but you seem to be drawing conclusions from it that are unwarranted. One reason to do it is because so many different yeasts are commercially available, you have to go to great lengths to find one that's not.

They had a theory that this might be similar to what the ancient Egyptians used. Couldn't you just as likely assume that in 8,000 years that yeast would have mutated beyond all recognition and making a trip to Egypt to get it is a waste of time? So what? It's cool, it's fun, it's a way to connect yourself, as a craftsperson, to people who practiced that same craft thousands of years ago. You're not going to recreate an 8,000 year old beer but you might make something cool and it should be a lot of fun.

As for people who get into the microdistillery business, they are without question entitled to run their businesses however they want. All I'm doing, speaking as a representative consumer, is saying to some of them, "okay, I see here that you call yourself 'craft.' What makes what you do 'craft'? How are you more 'craft' than the big guys?"

I once wrote about the difference between a distiller and a still operator, because some of these wannabe distillers think they're the same thing. That's why I like to mix it up with them from time to time.

sailor22
02-10-2011, 18:49
Maybe that's the disconnect, because nothing in that thread says that and I don't think that's a true statement.

By successful I meant at creating a pleasing taste in concert with the other variables. Not technically. And no it isn't in that thread.

cowdery
02-10-2011, 20:22
I know of no connection that has been established between certain yeasts and certain grains.

boone
02-11-2011, 08:20
I once wrote about the difference between a distiller and a still operator, because some of these wannabe distillers think they're the same thing. That's why I like to mix it up with them from time to time.

This should be a logo on a tee shirt made just for you :grin: :grin: :grin:

Words straight to the point with no and's if's or but's :slappin: :slappin: :slappin: :slappin:

Hang 'em high every time they cross the line :grin:

CorvallisCracker
02-11-2011, 14:21
Remember, just because you don't know something, that doesn't make it a secret.


What a bizarre non sequitur. Who said anything about "secrets"? Who, exactly, is keeping this "secret" and from whom, exactly, are they keeping it?



Nobody is zeroing in on the yeast issue.


I believe Tim is, and it was to him, not you, that I was directing my comment.



As for your conclusions based on the beer show, your evidence doesn't prove your conclusions. Why do you conclude that the change of grain had to be why it didn't work?


So there's at least one strain of yeast out there that works reliably with rice but not with barley. FWIW.

Added via edit:

Though admitedly, along with the barley malt, there's a lot of other stuff in the Jiahu: brown rice syrup, honey, grape juice and Hawthorn berry juice. Might be the yeast just gets confused.

The edit addition changes it from a definite yes to a definite maybe. What part of that don't you understand?

As for the proposition that a certain strain of yeast would produce better (as in, "more pleasing") results with one type of grain than with another, I view that as an empirical issue.

We know that different strains of yeast are going to create different results on the same grain mash. Why is it such an outrageous proposition that a certain strain is going to create different results with different grains?

Visiting the Four Roses website I see:

OBSQ
60% Corn mashbill
Q yeast
Floral (rose petal), spicy, medium body

OESQ
75% Corn mashbill
Q yeast
Floral, Banana, Fresh, Medium Body

Checking the other eight recipes I don't find "banana" anywhere, so if one takes these descriptions at face value then it would appear that banana is something you get when you use yeast Q on mashbill E, but you don't get it when you apply it to mashbill B.

In any case I'd want to see some more empirical data before asserting that it couldn't possibly be so that the same yeast would produce different results on different grains.



Things like going to Egypt to get yeast to mess around with recreating an ancient Egyptian beer recipe are just that, messing around. It's wonderful messing around and exactly what I'm advocating, but you seem to be drawing conclusions from it that are unwarranted.


The speculative conclusion I made was not based on the use of a wild Egyptian yeast. It was based on the unreliability of a sake yeast when applied to barley malt along with a witches brew of other stuff. Go back and read the post again and this time pay attention.



They had a theory that this might be similar to what the ancient Egyptians used. Couldn't you just as likely assume that in 8,000 years that yeast would have mutated beyond all recognition...

Believe it or not that thought occured to me while I was watching the show.




As for people who get into the microdistillery business, they are without question entitled to run their businesses however they want. All I'm doing, speaking as a representative consumer...

Breaking in here because I want to make something crystal clear: you do not represent me.



is saying to some of them, "okay, I see here that you call yourself 'craft.' What makes what you do 'craft'? How are you more 'craft' than the big guys?"

And if they reply, "Well we do X differently and Y differently, but we don't do Z differently, because it's a little risky and we can't afford to lose the run. Maybe next year," I, as a purchaser of whiskey and therefore a de facto consumer (and not claiming to represent anyone but myself), am not going to go all armchair distiller on them and slap them with a pejorative label like "lazy".

CorvallisCracker
02-11-2011, 14:23
I know of no connection that has been established between certain yeasts and certain grains.

Remember, just because you don't know something, that doesn't make it untrue.

TNbourbon
02-11-2011, 14:35
Tim, I want to make sure I understand you. Are you saying that craft distilleries should be started only by people who are independently wealthy, for whom the enterprise is really no more than a hobby?

Added via edit:

I'll add another question. You seem to have zeroed in on this yeast issue, to the degree that you appear to be ignoring other methods (both described and not) of differentiating a product from those of the major distillers. So are you saying that they should use the same mashbills as the majors, the same models of stills, the same type of barrels, the same type of rickhouses, etc etc etc, and that the only acceptable way for them to 'do something different' is to use a unproven strain of yeast?

I'll be honest, Scott, I don't know WHAT I'm saying. Maybe all of that. Maybe none of that. Probably some combination thereof.
Becoming a craft distiller ain't cheap, because just getting a license incurs costs to jump through the regulatory hoops. So, no hobbyist for whom money IS an object is going to do it. But, I see no real point in ANYONE doing it if they're NOT going to differentiate their products in some fashion.
As for "ignoring other methods" of doing so: yeah, I am. The title thread is "Yeast Making and Sour Mash", and Chuck's link was to a discussion of propagating wild yeast. We can talk about barrels, warehouses, etc. (and have!) in some other thread, I reckon.

CorvallisCracker
02-11-2011, 15:23
But, I see no real point in ANYONE doing it if they're NOT going to differentiate their products in some fashion.


Absolute agreement. But using a non-standard yeast is not the only method to do that.



As for "ignoring other methods" of doing so: yeah, I am. The title thread is "Yeast Making and Sour Mash", and Chuck's link was to a discussion of propagating wild yeast. We can talk about barrels, warehouses, etc. (and have!) in some other thread, I reckon.

Chuck is asking the question, "How are you more 'craft' than the big guys?" and that is a general question, because there are other ways to answer besides, "we're using a wild yeast."

Tim, a big part of the reason I got so riled about your post was the word "lazy". I've befriended a couple of local guys who've started a microdistillery, Hard Times (http://www.hardtimesdistillery.com/). Dudley and James are not rich hobbyists, but a couple of middle class guys with a dream. They've put all they've got into the enterprise, which at this point is making vodka from sugar. Why sugar? Because they ran out money before they could by the equipment needed to cook and ferment grain (Plan A was to make it out of Rye). Happily, they're selling all the "Sugar Momma" vodka they can make, so the day will come when they can make what they really want to make, which is a 100% rye whiskey (which no major producer in the USA is doing). When that day finally comes, I know that Dudley plans to use a yeast that's known to produce reliable results with a rye mash, because he can't afford it to fail.

I've watched them put vast amounts of time, effort and energy into the project. They've taken an old grist mill, gutted it, constructed a distillation room, a tasting room, a bonded area, repaired the plumbing, driven halfway across the state to get second hand barrels from wineries, and assembled custom stills from components obtained from various sources (not to mention all the effort involved in getting all the permits and licenses)(oh, and they did all the construction work themselves). So when I see a suggestion that they're "lazy" because they're not willing to risk their first mash on a wild yeast collected out in the woods, my knee jerk reaction is you have no idea what you're talking about.

I have great affection for you Tim, and I have no wish to offend. But understand that name-calling doesn't sit well with me (which is why I avoid the PR&C forum), particularly when it's directed at people who don't deserve it.

TNbourbon
02-11-2011, 17:51
...I have great affection for you Tim, and I have no wish to offend. But understand that name-calling doesn't sit well with me (which is why I avoid the PR&C forum), particularly when it's directed at people who don't deserve it.
Thank you, Scott, and noted, with genuine appreciation. But, conversely, understand, I was NOT name-calling, as I DON'T know anyone making 'craft' whiskey. Thus, no names mentioned.
I'm content that there're other methods BESIDES yeast-culture that can differentiate a whiskey. But, that wasn't the theme of discussion in this thread (I thought).
Nonetheless, from experience, I find that many (granted, as your example might suggest, not ALL) of the so-called 'craft distillers' take shortcuts, or no '-cut' at all -- while using more-or-less traditional methods in a new time and place only -- to make what to a consumer is expensive whiskey not significantly different from what a major distiller makes. My assumption is that those distillers want to cash in on the current popularity of American whiskey, not provide something new and different. I think 'lazy', in that regard, is not overwrought.
Bottom line: I'm glad and appreciative of a sample of unique bourbon/American whiskey, from whatever source. I'm less so to pay exorbitantly to sample examples akin to something somebody else makes.
As nothing more than an observer and consumer of such products, is that so out-of-line?

CorvallisCracker
02-11-2011, 18:14
Thank you, Scott, and noted, with genuine appreciation. But, conversely, understand, I was NOT name-calling, as I DON'T know anyone making 'craft' whiskey. Thus, no names mentioned.


As in, "It was an adjective not a noun"?

Picky, picky, picky. ;)

TNbourbon
02-11-2011, 19:03
As in, "It was an adjective not a noun"?

Picky, picky, picky. ;)
:lol: As I'm constantly reminding a lady friend, Scott, I get to decide what I meant when I said that. (She doesn't buy it either :skep:.)