For our September 2013 Jack Of All Brews meeting we rolled out our yearly experimental brew. In the past we have done several different experiments ranging from doing the exact same recipe on different systems, to Iron Brewer (with crazy ingredients), to a base recipe with an assigned single hop. This year we had one recipe based somewhere between an American Amber and an ESB, lightly hopped with East Kent Goldings. Each competing JAB member pulled a different yeast from a hat and were to ferment their beer with that particular yeast. The goal of the experiment was really to showcase the range of differences in flavor and aroma that the simple choice of yeast can make. Obviously we couldn't control for different brewing systems and possibly fermentation temperatures, but at least this would give us a decent experiment. Check here for the first posting and the recipe we used.
We had over 15 people sign up for the experiment and a total of 10 final beers to try at our meeting. Going in no particular order we tasted the beers based on who had signed in first. I'll go down that list now and give our overall impressions. Keep in mind that this was during a club meeting, where things get a little loud and chaotic, so we aren't talking quiet BJCP judging conditions!
1) WLP007-Dry English: This one was mine. Reviews were mixed, a clean ferment but too sweet instead of dry. I brewed this on the week of Fringe Festival and wasn't around the house much to keep an eye on the fermentation temp. I think that the yeast got too cold in my basement (64-65 degrees) and dropped out before it was done fermenting, resulting in under-attenuation. I wasn't proud of it. Just yesterday I added some Simcoe, Amarillo and Cascade dry hop to the keg to see if I can add enough hop character to even out that sweetness and salvage the brew for drinking.
2) WLP001-California Ale: Very dry finish that accentuates an almost roast character. An earthy, nearly astringent hop finish. Very clean ferment and not much yeast character.
3) WLP023-Burton Ale: Banana and peach esters in aroma. Flavor like a creamy bananas foster or marshmallow. A bit of mineral and astringent to the finish.
4) WLP041-Pacific Ale: Not much aroma. I got a bit of a soapy flavor. Neutral flavors with a hint of pear. Astringent finish. Buttery.
5) WLP862-Cry Havoc: Charlie Papazian's yeast strain. Fermented at 50 degrees. Had a cider/apple aroma to me. Initially sweet, ends malty but not cloying. Clean ferment. Reminded people of Grain Belt Nordeast. Smooth.
6) WLP940-Mexican Lager: Neutral. Honey flavor. Subtle roastiness. Very clean. Hint of spices.
7) Wyeast Octoberfest/Marzen: Chemical, Band-Aid, rubbing alcohol. Not a great one. Apparently this was an older pack bought from a local store that was slightly inflated at the time of purchase. We postulated that the yeast was half-dead/stressed even before pitched. I believe a starter was used as well. Interestingly this and the Mexican Lager were both the exact same batch of beer, just different yeasts.
8) Wyeast Forbidden Fruit: Apple aroma, very Belgian clove. Flavors similar. Sweet, but well attenuated. Thought to be fermented on the lower end of the spectrum. This was the clear overall winner of the final taste-off, and the first time the Golden Mash Paddle has been awarded to a member who wasn't there in person.
9) Wyeast 3068-Weihenstephan Wiezen: Classic Hefe banana and clove aroma, but less in flavor. Caramel covers up some of the esters.
10) Wyeast 1028-British Cask: Cinnamon, some fairly strong diacetyl flavors. Overall, the buttery notes worked with the beer and didn't detract too much. Slightly alcohol warming from some tasters.
Overall, this was a fun experiment with a wide variety of yeasts sampled. There were some beers that were hampered by technical difficulties which may have skewed the results a bit, but we got a taste of how different yeasts can widely effect a single beer. Thanks to all the JABbers who contributed to this event and I hope everyone felt it was worth the effort! One of the things I love about being a member in a homebrew club is being able to take part in group events like this. We are currently starting to plan the upcoming year's events so if anyone has any ideas for next year's experiment please send them my way or comment here!