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Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation (Book Review)

Yeast by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff

I’ve come to realise over the years that my core pursuit is farming yeast. The by-product of being a better farmer is a beautiful beer. So, I agree wholeheartedly with the statement that brewers make wort and yeast make beer. I’m not sure if anyone who makes wort and ferments that wort into beer (at least if you want to really make great beer) would disagree. Yeast are complicated organisms when it comes to making beer, every beer is really a chemical experiment in the fermenter; and if you don’t understand the creature you’re farming, then you won’t achieve ideal results. So the better brewers read and study because the more you implement that science and experimentation in your farming of yeast, the greater the improvement to your final beer. I would add that I’m now making beers, in many cases, equal to those I would purchase from craft breweries, sometimes better. Almost certainly, fresher.

This is exactly the reason you may want to read Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation by Chris White and Jamil Zainasheff. At a bare minimum the reading of this book improved three significant misunderstandings or bad practices that affect the beer that I pour. And yes, it’s a dry read if you don’t like science. But, then, if you don’t like science you probably aren’t that interested in making the perfect beer.

The authors, in brewing circles, really need no introduction. Chris White has a doctorate in biochemistry and is the founder of White Labs. Jamil Zainasheff is an old man of the sea in home brewing circles with huge practical knowledge and talent for making our most beloved beverage. The pedigree of the information is sound.

So what will you learn from reading about yeast? What’s in this book, in particular? Well, there’s the biology of yeast and you need to understand a lot about enzymes, and the esters and phenols that are going to affect your beer. You need to understand the huge variety of yeast and how that particular yeast came to wind up in your wort. That the choice of yeast strain and the manner in which we farm that strain with temperature, nutrients, aeration, pitch rate and the fermenter environment, all make a difference to the end product. A single yeast strain can express flavour in a variety of ways depending on the levers the yeast farmer (aka brewer) decides to manipulate.

And, you need to understand how to treat your yeast in isolation from the wort. How the yeast is affected by storage. What you can and can’t do with yeast handling. For some, the chemistry lab information will be invaluable. But it is all good information for the yeast farmer.

And that’s the crux of understanding as much about yeast as you can really absorb. It’s not about sprinkling some dry brewers yeast on the top of your wort and walking away for a couple of weeks. It’ll make OK beer… maybe even good beer on occasion. But as a home brewer you can make fantastic beer. Jaw-droppingly awesome beer. But to do so takes knowledge, experience and consideration.

Beer is a living lovely version of those old Sea Monkey advertisements that used to be on the back of 1970s comic books. And that’s how I treat my fermentation. Those Sea Monkeys do all the hard work as long as I can provide them the environment and tools to make me that beer. To go down that road is challenging, I agree; you will have to spend a lot of effort and time learning. This book is a part of that journey.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

Blogger. Thinker. Brewer. Drinker. Life partner to the amazing and incredible Megan.

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