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Ask Bob Brewer: Lager Yeast vs. Ale Yeast in Homebrewing, Bottle Conditioning

Posted by at 7:50 pm | Category: Ask Bob Brewer 0

Bob Brewer (yes, that’s his real name) answers your questions about the world of beer & brewing.

Today’s topic is yeast!

Greg asked about employing a lager yeast or an ale yeast when home brewing a “California Common” and would the results be the same. He also asked about the specific differences between the malt bills of Anchor Steam and Liberty Ale.

Bob: Homebrewing is on such a small scale and has so many variables that the use of one type of yeast can easily mimic the other in many cases. Most homebrewers prefer to use an ale yeast because it’s often easier and more forgiving than a lager yeast. My homebrew friends tell me that they can make almost any style of beer using ale yeasts. They also say that they can use an identical malt bill and get noticeably differing results using different yeasts. The short answer is “yes.” You can get the same results, or really, really close using either an ale or a lager yeast for the same brew. It does depend somewhat on how you tend your fermentation, however.

As for the Anchor Steam/Liberty Ale malt question, I’m going to leave you guessing.

John: What should I look for on a bottle if I want to take a yeast culture?

Bob: John, almost all bottled beer these days does not contain any yeast. It’s all removed during the filtration process. There are, however, a very few beers that are “bottle conditioned” which do contain recoverable yeast.

Bottle conditioning is a process where the final fermentation of the beer actually takes place in the bottle after it has been filled and capped. A small amount of yeast is injected into the bottle of beer before it is capped, usually along with a bit of sugar to provide “priming.” The beer will ferment, or “condition,” for a time in this sealed environment, creating some additional carbonation and finishing, but will also leave yeast sediment in the bottle. These beers are unusual these days but are usually labeled as bottle conditioned. Coopers Ale from Australia is one example I can think of.

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