By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
There are many things that can go awry during the brewing process. Anything that happens before your wort hits the fermenter is fixable, for the most part. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot to be done to salvage your precious beer if you encounter issues during fermentation. There are, however, a few steps you can try along with tips to avoid future tragedy.
The most important step that should be taken before any kind of fermentation begins is cleaning. Everything that touches your wort post-boil, during fermentation and post-fermentation should be sanitized. Use a cleaning solution that won’t leave a residue but will adequately remove all debris from equipment. A variety of chemicals are available at your local homebrew shop. What works best for you might not be what someone else prefers. The same goes for sanitizer. Ask your homebrew shop attendant for advice. That being said, this isn’t the Dark Ages and there are much better reasonably-priced options on the market besides bleach. The cleaning agent and sanitizing solution should always be two separate chemicals. While most cleaning agents can also act as a sanitizer, it’s best to be overly cautions.
The next thing to address is the fermentation equipment. Whether you are using plastic buckets, glass carboys or stainless steel containers, be sure that all the parts and pieces fit well to create tight seals. The stopper the airlocks go in need to be the right size and make sure that there’s only one way for gas to leave the fermenter. This will allow you to see active fermentation and it reduces the chance that something will find its way into the batch. Remember, the airlock is the line of defense against the outside world.
Sometimes liquid in the airlock can get sucked into the fermenter. And if there is anything undesirable in that liquid — a dead bug, for instance — you might infect your batch with bacteria. To avoid this, use sanitizer or 100-proof alcohol on the airlock just in case anything does reach that device.
Now that the post-boil equipment is cleaned, sanitized and properly installed, the next step to ensuring proper fermentation is the yeast itself. Proper pitch rates and ensuring there is plenty of oxygen are just a few factors to consider. When building a recipe, be sure you have a high starting gravity and account for that with a little more yeast than normal. That way your fermentation won’t stall, which could result in a product that is under-attenuated and too sweet.
Yeast doesn’t like to be abused, and the easiest way to hurt your yeast is with large temperature swings. If you are using a liquid yeast, you want it to be as close in temperature as the wort you’re pitching it into. A large temperature gap can rupture the cell walls of the yeast. Don’t let the yeast get too warm, though. If fermentation is too hot, you could end up with an entirely different set of problems.
Yeast also have two stages of fermentation. The first is aerobic where they actually consume oxygen to multiply. The second is anaerobic when the yeast begin to consume sugar and create all of those wonderful byproducts. The best time to introduce oxygen to the wort is before the yeast is pitched and after the wort is cold. Introducing oxygen after the pitch might create off-flavors.
As homebrewers, we can only guide the yeast to help us create award-winning beer. Give those little guys a fighting chance to reduce chances things will go wrong.
Fizzy Yellow Protocol [AG]
Fizzy Yellow Protocol [Extract]
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The process of fermentation can be quite violent. And dealing with the off-gassing during this product can be a difficult task. Choosing the proper fermentation vessel can make a huge difference. Additionally, there are times when a standard airlock won’t always cut it. First, we’ll explore the containers available for fermentation and describe how and why you’d use a blow-off tube.
Your local homebrew shop should offer a wide variety of containers to choose from. Deciding which to go with is, for the most part, a matter of personal preference. The most common is a 6.5 gallon plastic bucket with a hole in the lid for a stopper and airlock. This type of vessel is a good option because it offers extra headroom and surface area for the yeast cake to expand. However, there’s one con to consider: plastic scratches easily. These unintended grooves can harbor bacteria, so taking good care of your bucket is important.
Another common vessel is the carboy. They come in a variety of sizes and can be plastic or glass. The plastic carboys can be difficult to clean, but they’re lighter and won’t shatter. Glass carboys are heavy and very fragile. Unlike plastic buckets, the carboys don’t have a lot of extra headspace. The airlock can clog, which causes pressure to build — eventually causing an explosion of beer, and sometimes glass.
To avoid this mess, you can turn to the blow-off tube instead of just an airlock for primary fermentation. There are two ways to rig a blow-off tube. First, jam a piece of tubing into the stopper that’s 3/8 inches in diameter. It should be long enough to go from the top of the fermenter into a bucket of sanitizer on the floor. The end of the tube needs to be fully submerged so that bugs and oxygen don’t get into the beer. A second method is to insert a piece of 1-inch tubing into the hole of the fermenter. That diameter can be more expensive, but it’s easier to clean and there’s no risk of it clogging.
With whatever method you decide in the end, you will reduce the risk of having a large explosion of yeast and beer to clean up later. Choosing the proper fermentation vessel and how you manage the fermentation can be as important as choosing your ingredients when brewing.
Belgasaurous Rex [AG]
Belgasaurous Rex [Extract]
By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
During our homebrewing adventures, we encounter a vast new vocabulary that can seem like a foreign language to the average person. Being a homebrewer, however, means that we have an entirely new range of terms at our disposal. Often, a process or reaction that would’ve taken 10 words to describe can be summed up much more succinctly once you’re familiar with the jargon. One example of a new term you’ve likely stumbled across is attenuation. This describes the percentage of sugar the yeast will consume. Every yeast strain is different and many factors can affect how well the yeast performs.
Temperature is always very important to pay attention to during fermentation. As with each brew, every yeast has an optimal temperature range. Most strains perform best somewhere in the range of 65-72 degrees. There are, of course, exceptions. Belgians typically are at the warmer end of the spectrum whereas lagers need to be kept colder.
Temperature control is probably the most difficult challenge for brewers of every level. You can purchase fancy equipment to help with that, but if you don’t have those kinds of resources simply start by taking the air temperature of the room you plan to use for fermentation. Yeast will produce heat when it ferments, so as long as the room is about 5 degrees cooler than your ideal fermentation temperature, you will be on the right track. Whatever strain you’re using, make sure you’ve researched what temperature will provide an environment allowing it to perform at its best.
It’s in the Strain
All yeast strains have a temperature preference, but they also can be picky about the pH of the brew along with potential alcohol content. Be sure to do your homework on the beer style you plan to make. That will point you in the direction of the yeast strain you’ll want to use. There’s no need to rush out and purchase a pH meter or test strips. Instead, remember that darker beers are more acidic, so you want a strain that fits better with your grain bill.
Another factor to consider is gravity. If your starting gravity is too high, the yeast will have a hard time getting to work. It also may not ferment all of the potential sugars. Once again, research the individual strain to make sure, for example, the imperial wit you’re trying to produce will actually ferment completely. Most every yeast strain will indicate what style of beer it fits with by its name alone. However, some types of yeast can perform outside of the normal style guidelines.
Experimentation can be an exciting way to find these anomalies, but thorough research will help ensure that your finished product turns into the tasty homebrew you were shooting for.
Ale Gating [AG]
Ale Gating [Extract]
Oregon State University’s Beyond Football program was created in 2013 to help student-athletes identify their interests and skills by connecting them with professionals in a range of industries, including craft beer. Here, participants are seen at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland. Photo courtesy of Oregon State Athletics
By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
For all the glory we see on the football field, student-athletes also face unique challenges — including preparing for life after college- or pro-level athletics. At Oregon State University (OSU), the Beyond Football program is a tool the Beavers use to set up student-athletes for post-graduation success.
Kayla M. Gross, Beyond Football coordinator for OSU, explains that the program was created to help the student-athletes identify their interests, skills and passions, and from there determine a matching professional direction. That direction might even lead them to Oregon’s ever-growing craft brewing industry. “We connect student-athletes to business professionals, through leaders and community members who will expand their worldview, way of thinking, and network,” says Gross, “and foster an understanding of community, global needs, and a culture of volunteerism and lifelong civic engagement.”
Empower, Engage, Prepare
Started in 2013 with a donation from an OSU alumnus, Beyond Football is a component of OSU athletic director Todd Stansbury’s focus on developing “everyday champions.” All student-athletes participate in the program, which aligns with football head Coach Gary Andersen’s belief that athletes should train and prepare for success not just on the gridiron, but off the field. Currently, approximately 120 student-athletes have participated.
“Student-athletes that achieve success in the classroom and community are prepared to make an impact after graduation,” says Gross.
The program centers around three central concepts: empower, engage and prepare. Through a diverse array of programming, seminars, classes and other opportunities, students train for success in life and the workplace just as they train for success in competitive athletics.
Staff monitor success by measuring increases in key metrics: team GPA, number of undergraduates employed after graduation and number of hours volunteered. And the numbers say the work is paying off. “Over the last winter and spring 2015 academic terms, Oregon State Football has posted the highest cumulative and term GPAs since 2009,” says Gross. “Football student-athletes have also increased their volunteerism to one appearance per week.”
From Block and Tackle, to Brew and Tap?
Through university and industry connections, Beyond Football has connected OSU football players with companies and professionals in a range of industries, including manufacturing, distribution, sales, financial services, law enforcement, health/medical and staffing. “We aim to provide student-athletes with opportunities to meet representatives from many different companies and agencies,” explains Gross, “so they can make informed decisions about what career options align with their skill sets and interests.”
Players also gained greater awareness of opportunities in the craft beer industry during a luncheon in Portland, where two OSU fermentation scientists led a presentation about craft beer in Oregon and the U.S. “It’s an industry we’d like our players to have more exposure to,” says Gross. “Oregon State University has an exceptional Fermentation Science program, and we recognize how important the beer and wine industry is to our state and how strong it is.”
The goal is to help students identify potential career paths, while also fostering skills to succeed in any professional endeavor. “We have students majoring in business, communication arts and public health, among others, that would all have something to contribute to a successful business,” says Gross. “They have high levels of discipline, dedication, perseverance and sense of team. Through our program, we’re fostering the development of their character, sense of innovation, and understanding of civic involvement. We believe those three attributes are the cornerstones of a successful career.”
Beyond Football continues to evolve to better meet student needs. Behind the scenes, the Beyond Football team is building on their successes and student enthusiasm, while also building more relationships with businesses, nonprofit organizations and other entities.
“We take a lot of pride in the fact that our student-athletes have increased their GPAs so significantly over the past three semesters and currently have the highest term GPA in the past several years,” says Gross. “Success in the classroom and involvement in the community is really the foundation for the other components of the program, so we’re very excited about what’s to come.”
Is your organization interested in getting involved with Beyond Football?
Contact Kayla Gross, Program Coordinator
By Chris Jennings
In the brewing process, one of the most important ingredients that is often overlooked is the yeast. We always use yeast to create our tasty brews, so why not know more about what yeast has to offer? With the variety of yeast as expansive as beer styles, there are hundreds of different combinations just waiting to be tried.
Yeast is an organism related to mushrooms that, for the purposes of brewing, consumes sugars and, as a byproduct, creates carbon dioxide, alcohol, and flavor/aroma esters. The two largest groups are lager and ale yeasts. Lager yeast is bottom-fermenting and generally ferments at cooler temperatures. Ale yeast is top-fermenting and generally used at warmer temperatures.
Lager is a German term that actually means “cold storage,” so any beer can be lagered–but not all beers are lagers. Inside the larger yeast subset, there are varieties from all over Europe that would be used in Czech-style pilsners and German Schwarzbiers. There are also American varieties that are used in “steam” or warm lager beers and the now-popular India Pale Lager. Ale yeasts have a larger variety of subcategories; including English, West Coast American, East Coast American, Belgian and German. Of course, as with all aspects of homebrewing, these generalizations do not apply to every yeast and rules are supposed to be broken.
Deciding what yeast to use for a particular beer style is usually as simple as following a recipe. Unfortunately, it can be a bit boring if you use the same American ale yeast on everything you brew. Instead of going crazy and throwing a Bohemian Pilsner yeast into your IPA, a safer first experiment would be to use a British ale yeast instead of the American; thus allowing you to see the subtle differences between the two ales.
Another option is to read up on a bunch of different yeast strains. The yeast companies do a very good job of describing the different flavor profiles of the yeast in their inventory. You can find all of this information on the Internet or at your local homebrew shops. Reading what flavors a yeast can produce will help in the selection process, but you will never know if it works until you try.
The magic of fermentation creates the majority of the flavors and all of the alcohol in the beer styles we know and love. We as brewers only attempt to create an environment for the yeast that is healthy and ensures that they will be happy. With the beer industry trying new things and creating different styles, remember: As homebrewers, we have the ability to do more experimentation. Continuing to push the envelope can be risky and not every brew is going to be the greatest, but once the experiment comes out great, that is worth all of the effort.
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