By Chris Jennings
For the Oregon Beer Growler
As homebrewers, it seems as though we face a nearly unlimited amount of choices for every detail in making beer: whole hop or pellet, all grain or extract, liquid malt extract or dry malt extract. The list goes on and on. For the most part, there are only subtle differences in the results with most of these factors. However, the decision to go with either liquid yeast or dry yeast can not only change the outcome of your brew; it also will affect the entire process.
Finding Substitute Yeast Strains
Whether you’re using a recipe you spotted online or discovered it in a dusty tome in the basement of a library, there’s a good chance either way that it calls for yeast. Most directions are also very specific about what brand and strain of yeast must be used as well. Deviating from the plan will not yield optimal results, according to the author of the recipe. But at times, there are some yeast varieties that simply aren’t available. Either the company has disappeared or the strain is a seasonal release, so finding a suitable substitute can be a challenge. Of course, every challenge is just an opportunity to discover something new and amazing.
There are some yeast strains that are so similar, either liquid or dry, you won’t notice any difference. Therefore, if your recipe calls for White Labs WLP001 California Ale Yeast and your go-to homebrew shop is out, you can try the dry Safale US-05 from Fermentis. But things get a little trickier when your desired strain is no longer in production or only available seasonally. The best thing to do in this situation is to research as much about the yeast as possible and then compare it to what’s available. That information will allow you to make an educated guess about what will serve as an adequate substitute. You could also just select a completely different strain all together and create a new tasty variation. When selecting a new strain, there will be more options from all of the liquid yeast companies. Though there are some crossovers, keep in mind that the liquid companies have unique strains that are hard to substitute.
The most obvious difference between liquid and dry yeast is that one is stored in a fridge and in a liquid state while the other is vacuum-sealed on a shelf. The liquid yeast is branded as “fresh” because it is raw and has a shelf life. The liquid yeast needs to be stored in a cold place to preserve that freshness. However, dry yeast has been freeze-dried and resembles baker’s yeast. It should be stored in a room with low humidity. While dry yeast will last much longer than liquid yeast, it also does have an expiration date.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both dry and liquid yeast. Storing dry yeast is much easier. But liquid offers more variety. At the end of the day, homebrewers have many options, which just makes your next beer-making adventure even more exciting.
Holly Day Ale [AG]
Holly Day Ale [Extract]
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.