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Harvesting Berliner Weisse Bottle Dregs

Some background

It’s been awhile since I posted but I’m back and should be on a regular posting schedule. I’ve haven’t been brewing a ton in recent months but I’m trying to build up a stockpile of beer as I have my first child on the way and I’m guessing that I’m going to run short on brewing time. With that said, I picked up a beer that caught my interest recently and text on the can really caught my interest. The beer in question in a Berliner Weisse from White Birch Brewing; review coming soon(ish). The can said:

Our ales are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and traditionally made…

What does that mean? Well it means that their beer has not had all of the yeast and bugs stripped out of it from filtering or pasteurization. Why is that good for me? It means that I can harvest yeast from the bottom of the can, pitch it into a starter, and eventually use it to make a full blown beer. Awesome.

 What is yeast harvesting?

As I mentioned above, yeast harvesting is the process of taking dormant but still viable yeast from the bottom of a bottle or can. Generally, beers that are not pasteurized or filtered or bottle conditioned have yeast mixed into the beer. The yeast can generally be found on the bottom of the bottle of the can as dormant yeast will fall out of the beer and lay on the bottom.

How to harvest yeast

Harvesting yeast is super easy, but there are some precautions that need to be made. I’ll go over my process below as well as give you the quicker version. The number one thing that you want to be concerned about is making sure that you sanitize EVERYTHING. If you have brewed before, you should know the process.

Step 1: Setup your mash/malt

For yeast harvesting I generally like to make a starter from the harvested yeast. The main reason for this is that there is not enough yeast in the bottom of a can or bottle to properly ferment 5 gallons of beer. When I make a starter, I’m shooting for .75 gallons.

For this yeast starter I wanted to make a mini version of the end beer that I wanted to brew. The main reason for this is so that I could test brewing in a bag. I started off with a scaled down malt bill of my original beer recipe. I put .6# of pilsner malt and .3# of wheat malt into the grain mill. You can see how little grain there really was (note this is a six gallon bucket)


Step 2: Sanitize

 After my malt was ready to go I sanitized a one gallon jug with some PBW and then StarSan. I wanted to make sure that nothing was left living inside of the glass container except for the yeast that I would eventually add.


At the same time I had a bowl filled with StarSan and I placed two cans of my donor in it. The goal here is to kill anything on the outside of the can as the yeast will touch the outsides on its way out during a pour. I also had an airlock, drilled stopper, and a funnel in the bowl.

Step 3: Mash/Boil/Brew in a Bag

As all of the important stuff was sanitizing, I prepared for a brew in a bag (BIAB) attempt. My first ever attempt at BIAB. I knew that I wanted to end with .75 gallons of liquid and my calculations showed that gain absorption and boil loss would account for .15 gallons. So I placed .90 gallons of water into a small stock pot and brought it up to 148 °F.

As the water heated I placed my BIAB bag over the pot and waited for the temperature to hit the magic number. For my BIAB I used a simple nylon paint straining bag found at Home Depot for $3.


Once the water hit my desired temperature I poured the grain into the bag and stirred to mix up any dough balls. The basic concept here is that I didn’t want to mash .9# of grain in my normal 10 gallon water cooler as the thermal loss would be too significant. I also didn’t want to clean my mash tun for such a little job. BIAB allows you put place the brewing grain and water into the brew pot and mash while in the pot. The 148 °F magic number is where I wanted my mash to rest for an hour. I placed the bag in once the water hit temperature and monitored it for awhile until I dialed my stove in to stay at 148 °F. At this point I let it rest at that temperature for an hour.


After the hour was up I picked up the bag, let it drain of liquid and tossed the grains in the trash. The bag was cleaned and saved for future brews. I turned the temperature up on the stove so that I could get the wort to a boil. A 15 minute boil was all I wanted I just wanted to kill whatever might be in the liquid (I know, I know. 15 minutes isn’t enough to kill everything, but it’s enough to give my yeast the upper hand).

Post Boil

It’s a pretty typical situation at this point. I cooled down the wort, which happens incredibly quickly with only .75 gallons of liquid, and readied my fermenter. Once I got the wort down to 70 °F I emptied the sanitizer from my gallon jug, placed the funnel on it and poured in my wort. I then took the two cans of beer, opened them, and pour 3/4 of them into a glass. The final quarter left at the bottom was swirled and dumped into the glass jug. I then shook the jug to try and get some oxygen in there for my little yeast buddies. Once I was done I got something that looked like this:



I took the jug into my basement and placed it in a box to protect it from light (there was a small amount of hops in this on scale with my recipe). The hardest part of harvesting yeast is seeing if what you did actually saved them. I waited for a few days to see if it worked because I honestly forgot about my starter. About three days after brewing I got this:


Fermentation had clearly happened and my yeast buddies were still at work. This starter was allowed to sit for another day or so (thanks work) and was pitched into a full scale version of this beer over the weekend. I’m not sure how much of the souring critters made it as they take some time to show-up, but if they are in there, they will grow.

I’ll get a recipe and such up shortly but harvesting yeast is not difficult. The quick and dirty version is below.

Quick and Dirty Version

I have described the easy way to do a yeast starter previously. You can find it right here but the basic idea is that instead of doing a mash, you use malt extract as your base and boil a mini beer from there.


Schlafly Golden Ale Beer Review

042715_01I came across a Schlafly special release beer at the beer store yesterday and I grabbed a six pack to try it out. Schlafly Golden Ale, brewed by the Saint Louis Brewery, is a Belgian Style golden ale that hits at a surprisingly high 7% ABV. This is their spring/early summer release beer and this style of beer ties in nicely with the changing of the season. I’ve been a big fan of Schlafly beers in the past which is by I purchased this beer over several other worthy competitors.

Schlafly Golden Ale pours a beautiful golden color. It is perfectly clear and has about one finger of white head that collapses relatively quickly. You really can’t get a nicer looking Belgian golden ale than this beer. It’s very photogenic and I may have spent too much time grabbing pictures of this one. The nose is full of Belgian esters, mainly banana and fruit. There is a little malt in there and some heat but the main thing that shines though are the esters. This beer smells like a Belgian ale in all of the best ways. It’s clean, round, and full.

The beer is nicely carbonated. I noticed a tickle on my tongue on when taking my first sip. The Belgian esters flow right from the aroma to the taste. They give the beer a great flavor that is fruity and estery at the same time. The beer gains a nice peppery flavor as well which really adds some complexity.  There are some light biscuit and wheat flavors that the malt offers up to help add to the beer. This golden ale ends on a grassy, spicy hop note that cleans out the beer and makes it finish with all of the right things. The aftertaste left behind is wonderful. It’s fruit, spicy, and slightly sweet.

I enjoyed this beer a great deal. My only complaint would be that I would like to have just a bit more body. It seemed slightly watery to me, but that could just be my preference in a golden ale coming through. I really liked this beer from start to finish. It’s super drinkable and would be easy drinking in the late spring, early summer timeframe.


Dirt Wolf Beer Review

It’s been awhile and a lot has happened over the past few months but more on that another time. Today I have Dirt Wolf from Victory Brewing Company. This bad boy rocks in at 8.7% ABV and falls under a double IPA classification.

Dirt Wolf
Victory Brewing Company’s Dirt Wolf

Dirt Wolf pours orange with a thin white head. A strong citrus and grapefruit hop aroma hits you right in the face. This isn’t a subtle beer, it means business. There is a slight pine but it is edged out by the other hop smells. There are some biscuit and malt aromas that you can find as the beer warms and/or you become used to the hop smell. The big take away from this one is hops. The hops are fresh, bright, and round. I love the smell of this beer.

On the first taste I was surprised that a mild malt flavor with light biscuit and bread lead the way. It was quickly followed by strong citrus hops and a round hop flavor from front to back. The hops don’t punch but build and bite, which is a really nice way of building an interesting hop flavor.  The hops end on a spicy note. I wouldn’t call the ending grassy, but it approaches that field. The most outstanding part of this beer, other than the hops, is that there isn’t any heat to speak of. The beer comes off feeling very balanced and drinkable. For better or worse, that’s what this thing does.

Really, really nice DIPA. Very clean and full flavored. Hops are solid and malt supports the hops. No heat anywhere to be found. Hops are bright, clean, and fully flavored. Outstanding DIPA


DuClaw Hell on Wood Beer Review

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for barrel aged barleywines. I seriously love them. A local brewery that doesn’t get enough praise is DuClaw Brewing Company. They make some wonderful beer and when I saw Hell on Wood, I grabbed a few bottles. The bottle says that it is a barleywine style ale that is aged in bourbon barrels. It also rocks in at 10.6% ABV. A true sipper.

Hell on Wood pours a nice reddish brown color with a slight haze.  The head is light tan and thin, but doesn’t fade quickly. The nose is wonderful and full. It starts with a deep, dark, almost burnt caramel aroma. The caramel is surrounded by some “traditional sweetness” that really rounds out the malt character. A good helping of bourbon, oak, and vanilla follow though. I didn’t much if any hops which is generally how I like my barleywines.

Hell on WoodThe taste generally follows the nose. It begins with some strong caramel notes. Bourbon hits next. It’s a clean and spicy bourbon that cuts through the sweetness of the malt. A really solid, but not overpowering, oak flavor comes in next and really adds a great layer of complexity and depth. There is some heat towards the end of the taste. Surprisingly, it’s a balanced heat if there is such a thing, and it makes for a great flavor note. Hell on Wood finishes with a nice earthy/piney hop flavor that adds a touch of bitterness.

This beer stays a lightly sweet throughout but it’s enjoyable and still close to a perfect balance. It drinks thick and chewy; like I said, a sipper. I rather enjoyed this barleywine. It has a great combination of flavor, complexity, and aromas that make a barleywine an enjoyable drinking experience.


North Coast Acme California Pale Ale Beer Review

My dad was nice enough to pick up a bottle of this beer for me on his way home from work one night. I’ve only had a handful of North Coast Brewing Company beers before; all good experiences. I was super excited to get another chance to try their beers. This one is a nice little pale ale that comes in at 5% ABV and a low 21 IBUs.

Acme California Pale Ale pours a nice orange color. It is perfectly clear, as any pale ale should be, and has a thin white head. The thing that impressed me about the nose was that the hops didn’t hit right off of the bat. The first thing I noticed was a great round caramel aroma that promised a flavorful beer was inside. The hops come into smell after that and provide a nice pine and tropical fruit mix. The hops are sticky sweet and really balance out the malt odors.

Acme California Pale AleOn the first taste I found that the nose didn’t lie, this beer has some great malt flavor. A solid, but light caramel and sweetness flavor show themselves first followed by a wonderful biscuit and bread flavor. The hops come in and provide a nice light hop punch with a slightly piny ending. The beer finishes dry which only makes you want to take another sip. As I drank this beer the hops changed over time. I found that they provided a nice earthy hop flavor to the beer, which I rather enjoyed.

This is a really good pale ale. It is much more of  an English style pale ale than an American one, but that’s not a bad thing. The hops and malt are in such good balance that this beer makes you want to keep drinking it.