Our Beer, Our Yeast

Beer wouldn’t be possible without yeast, and no one knows that better than our very own Microbiologist, Wade Begrow. Not many are aware of the integral role yeast plays in the beer we brew (and drink) so, in the name of education, we sat Wade down and asked him some burning, yeast-related questions.
What is yeast?

By definition, yeast (singular and plural) are unicellular eukaryotic fungal organisms. Humans are eukaryotes too, so our genes are more related to yeast than bacteria! Yeast are microbes, meaning that individual cells cannot be discerned with the naked eye. A microscope is needed to look at individual cells.

What role does yeast play in beer?

In brewing, two strains of yeast are primarily used: Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces pastorianus. Saccharomyces cerevisiae or “sugar fungus from beer” is used to produce ales (everything from All Day IPA to Breakfast Stout).  Saccharomyces cerevisiae is also used for baking and bioethanol production. Saccharomyces pastorianus is used for our lager beers. It’s similar to our ale yeast, but produces different flavors and works at a lower temperature.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces pastorianus are essential to the brewing process because they are capable of converting sugars to ethanol (drinking alcohol) and carbon dioxide. This is called alcoholic fermentation and it is critical to making beer (or any type of alcoholic drink). Without yeast, we would be stuck with non-alcoholic hoppy sugar water. Every batch from the brewhouse is inoculated with literally trillions of yeast cells to make beer. For reference, that’s more cells that there are stars in the Milky Way. Far out!

Why is your job important in a brewery?

I work very closely with the Yeast Management team at Founders to provide the brewery with pure, contaminant-free yeast cultures on a routine basis. The Yeast and Cellar team do an outstanding job and beer production simply wouldn’t be possible without them. Breweries that do not produce their own yeast in-house must purchase it from yeast suppliers, which can be problematic. Some of the problems include:

  • not receiving the right yeast
  • receiving contaminated yeast
  • not receiving yeast on time
  • receiving poor quality yeast

Brewing yeast aren’t the only microbes in the brewery and we carefully screen every batch for microbiological contamination. After all, contamination can affect the quality of our beer. There are wild yeast and bacteria that live in our brewery and they can be detrimental to our beer. A sound microbiological testing program is a major part of producing consistent world-class beer. We test every batch numerous times for microbiological contamination.

What is one of the biggest challenges of managing a yeast program?

I’m a big fan of our lager beers like Solid Gold, but it can be challenging to juggle two different yeast strains at once. We take the utmost care to keep ale yeast segregated from lager yeast, but it can cause extra headaches for our beer scheduling team to keep them separate. It would be much easier if we had isolated facilities for ales and lagers, but we are up for the challenge of doing both in the same facility!

TL;DR: No yeast = no beer (or leavened bread, bioethanol, wine, spirits, etc.)

Our house ale yeast, through the microscope
Our house ale yeast
Our house ale yeast
Our house ale yeast

 

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4 Comments on “Our Beer, Our Yeast”
  1. Dominic

    Really cool read!

  2. Ron VanDyke

    Any tips for home brewers on how to make sure we pitch the correct amount of yeast and how to tell if it is healthy or not?

    • Founders Brewing Co.

      In regards to pitching the right amount of yeast:

      For novices, I really like John Palmer’s guide on preparing yeast starters. Here is the website – http://howtobrew.com/book/section-1/yeast/preparing-yeast-and-yeast-starters

      If the person is a little more advanced and has a microscope, the yeast starter can be counted, and a precise amount of live cells can be pitched into wort. Here’s a nice calculator – https://www.brewersfriend.com/yeast-pitch-rate-and-starter-calculator/ Our yeast management team can answer any super technical yeast pitching questions if there are any particular questions. This is a great webinar from ASBC for advanced users – https://www.asbcnet.org/lab/webinars/webinars/Pages/Yeast-Cell-Counting.aspx

      In regards of assessing yeast health, it’s hard to perform an adequate assessment with a microscope. A quick smell check of your yeast starter is always helpful. If you are harvesting and storing yeast, be sure to take care and treat the cells correctly. Also, as always, sanitation is key whenever using yeast in the brewing process! -Wade

  3. Yes, the yeast is very important for beer and one brewery.
    It’s the energy source of the beer.
    In out factory, we have the the yeast tank to help you to breed the yeast.
    If you need, warmly welcome your inquiry.
    We can make a detailed information for your reference.
    Thank you very much!
    Daisy Email: business@cnbrewery.com
    Web: http://www.brewerybeerequipment.com

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