Beer Ye, Beer Ye: Wild IPA
The effects of yeast on beer with the specific example of Category 12 Brewing’s Wild IPA.
By Just Beer Community Collection on Mar. 28, 2017
For most of brewing history, people thought beer was created by magic or a higher power.
How else could those moistened grains flavoured with hops or herbs or spices transform into a relaxing elixir that, if consumed in great quantities, made you feel like you could see through time? No wonder beer was deemed holy by the Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Sumerians, to name but three mighty civilizations.
It wasn’t until the 19th Century that scientist Louis Pasteur discovered that this magical process was actually fermentation, and what activated it was yeast — a fungus that converts the sugars in malted grain into alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Today, it’s well-known that the type of yeast very much determines basic style, even if it’s just the difference between ale and lager. But there’s also the banana and clove characteristics of the hefeweizen, the various fruit and pepper qualities of different Belgian styles or the earthy, funky, “barnyard” flavours of wild yeasts.
“Most people don’t realize how yeast is the real worker in the beer-making process and it has the ultimate say in the outcome and style of the beer. One of the most exciting things in various yeast varieties is the No. 1 way to vary the styles of beer you release.”
-Michael Kuzyk, co-owner and brewmaster, Category 12 Brewing, Victoria
Kuzyk should know more than most: He’s got a PhD in Microbiology and Biochemistry from the University of Victoria. His deep understanding of how microbes such as yeast work have led to a lot of experimentation ever since he started brewing in grad school.
“There are so many flavour and aromatic qualities to yeast. There are beers that taste like they’ve just had a pear squeezed into it and it was totally from the yeast.”
Developing his brewing skills and eventually opening Category 12 was a way for Kuzyk to bring his studies of yeast into the public sphere — to delicious effect.
“It’s almost a crossover with cooking. The output is consumable, you get to share that with friends. So it’s a very inclusive field of study. Whereas most science is very alienating and hard for the average person to comprehend, this has a practical application that everyone can understand and get behind.”
That said, yeast can be a fickle partner in the brewing process. It needs to be fed well and treated well — and even then the results may not be quite what you expect.
Kuzyk readily admits that Category 12’s Wild IPA, made with the Saccharomyces trois yeast, varies from batch-to-batch.
“But I do love the Sacch trois that the Wild IPA is made with, the fruit-forward side of it. I love how much citrus and mango I get off of that yeast. I love yeasts that aren’t neutral, I love yeasts that bring flavours and aromas to the recipe.”
Long the domain of Belgian styles, “wild” yeasts such as Saccharomyces trois and various strains of Brettanomyces are starting to crop up in North American styles — hence the appearance of beers like Wild IPA, which marries the fruity and spicy qualities of both yeast and hops.
Most beer lovers give a lot of thought to what kind of beer they want to drink, but most of the time, can’t be bothered to think about what should be put in their hair. We’re thinking it might be time to change that.
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