From the HBD Archive
From: hsfmsh!hsfdjs!suurb@sfsun.West.Sun.COM (Dave Suurballe)
Subject: Sierra Nevada Yeast
Date: 1990-01-24 19:29:48 GMT

Florian had trouble cultivating Sierra Nevada yeast. Other friends of mine
have had trouble, too, and I never learned what the problem was. However,
I have successfully cultivated the stuff about 135 times. I don't know
what I'm doing right, but I'll tell you what I do, and you can compare it
to what you do and come up with a conclusion.

I always buy the youngest, unrefrigerated Sierra Nevada beer I can
find. There is a bottling date notched on the right side of the label.
This has been described in this Digest. The store I use carries all
the Sierra Nevada beers, and I buy whichever is youngest; they all have
the same yeast. I don't use the Barley Wine, however, for fear that the
yeast have been altered by soaking in that high alcohol solution for so
long. I don't know if this fear is founded or not. The store I use
doesn't refrigerate the beer, and I don't either. I don't know if this
is important. I have been forced to buy the beer at another store that
does refrigerate it, and I have had more trouble those times, but that
beer was also older. Rather than experiment and discover which is more
crucial, age or temperature, I just buy it young and warm.

I start the yeast on Wednesday night in one cup of 1.030 solution
of powdered light malt extract and water. I simmer this solution for 15-30
minutes and then let it cool to skin temperature. I cool it different ways
depending on how much of a hurry I'm in (how close to bed-time). The
slowest way is to let it sit on the stove till it's the right temperature.
The fastest is to set the pot in the sink full of cold water. In between
is to put it in the frige. I don't know what temperature the stuff is
when I put the yeast in; I call it skin temperature. When the pot feels
neither warmer nor cooler than my hand, it's ready. Low tech.
I decant the contents of two bottles of SN beer, pour a little of the
wort into one bottle, swirl to suspend the sediment, pour this into the
second bottle, swirl, pour this and the rest of the wort into a sterile
flask, and insert a standard fermentation lock. I use two bottles because
my results were more variable with one. That is, it sometimes takes longer
to start with one, but it always started. A friend who also does this
routinely uses three bottles for the same reason. He feels the results
from two bottles are too variable. I don't.

I put the starter in the 66-degree basement next to last week's primary
fermentation. It takes about 24 hours before I notice activity in the flask.
It's just like a larger fermentation; it gets some foam on top, and then it
drops, and then the yeast settles, etc. I pitch it on Saturday afternoon,
and it's usually still got a little foam on it then. Because of surprise
changes in my social schedule, there have been times when I didn't brew on
a Saturday, so I pitched the starter a week later, or two weeks later. By
then the starter is completely fermented, and it worked anyway. However,
the experts say the best time to pitch is at the peak of the foam in the
starter. I always smell the flask after pitching the yeast. I don't know
why. It always smells the same; not too attractive. Years ago I used
hopped wort from my previous brew instead of the 1.030 unhopped stuff.
It smelled real good then. Unhopped fermentations don't smell much
like beer.

There is foam on the five-gallon fermentation within 24 hours. I have
gotten that down to 8 hours by inserting an additional step: start the 1-cup
starter on Monday, pitch it into a 2-liter starter on Thursday, and
pitch that into 5 gallons on Saturday. It's nice to see fermentation
that early, but after a while, the materials and measurement, preparation,
sterilization time of the extra step didn't seem worth it, and now I
just pitch the 1-cup starter.


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