Wednesday, July 18, 2007

yeast poop, continued

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this Saison yeast (Wyeast 3724).

Generally speaking, the active fermentation stage in brewing goes all too fast. Somewhere between 4 and 12 hours after adding ('pitching' in brewer-speak) the yeast, the airlock starts bubbling and the air fills with the smell of rising bread. It's my favorite part and I could hover around all day loving it, except that it tends to be all over with by the time I think to look again. The first time this happened, I freaked out, requiring multiple telephonic assurances from my Brewing Uncles that there had not been some kind of catastrophic yeast blight. By now I've gotten used to it, but it's always a little disappointing, like fireworks can be. Just when it's getting good, poof.

Anyhow, this batch got started on Saturday night and is still bubbling along slowly. I have no hydrometer or the kind of patience it would take to measure the amount of malt sugars left in solution. All I really need to know is that for four days, a colony of living fungi has been living fat and happy off of my beer, chomping up the malt sugars and pooping out CO2 and alcohol. Mine is a rough science.

From everything I've read, this slow attenuation, besides providing good, relatively cheap entertainment for the better part of a week, will result in a dry, estery brew. That's really the word They use, estery. It means perfumey, more or less; fruity like pineapple, banana, or bubblegum. That may sound gross in association with beer, but I'm imagining something with a wine-like character, a fruity pucker. And it's incredible to think that those flavors are the byproducts of little one-celled mushroom geniuses, or that anyone ever was smart enough to figure this out.

The hard part is going to be waiting to tap this eventual keg. The same sources that tantalize me with aromas of juicy fruit also insist that it takes around 10 weeks for Belgian yeasts to hit their stride. I may just have to take that on faith; I want to be drinking this stuff before the saison ends.

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