Belgian yeast character from English ale yeast

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by nickdank, Dec 15, 2014.

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  1. nickdank

    nickdank Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2014 New Jersey

    Just brewed a pretty straight ahead English pale ale with apple cider in it, using White Labs English ale yeast. Brewed and fermented at my buddy's house.

    Picked up my case and brought it home to try - getting some "belgian-y" character in the flavor. Spicy and fruity, the stuff you expect out of a Belgian pale.

    Is this from fermenting too warm? Has this ever happened to anyone else on here?

    My buddy didn't take temp reads or anything so I don't really know what the exact conditions are.
  2. VikeMan

    VikeMan Poo-Bah (1,957) Jul 12, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Fruity? You used apple cider. Fermenting at a high temp would also increase fruity esters.
    Spicy? I dunno... what kind of apple cider was this? And what hops?
  3. nickdank

    nickdank Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2014 New Jersey

    east kent goldings. the cider was fresh pressed from a local farm - UV pasteurized. and the fruitiness coming from the cider makes sense, but the black pepper belgian phenolic type flavors don't seem to be an EKG trait. Unless I'm wrong. Seriously though this beer legitimately tastes like a saison or belgian pale. so weird.
  4. wspscott

    wspscott Champion (882) May 25, 2006 Kentucky

    So what was the actual yeast? What fermentation temp, any idea at all? Grain bill? How much cider?
  5. rondufresne

    rondufresne Initiate (0) Dec 13, 2011 Pennsylvania

    One of my first brews was supposed to be a straightforward American pale ale, using Conan yeast harvested from Heady. (I heard in an interview with Kimmich that Conan is derived from a strain of English ale yeast.) It ended up not being too good of an American pale ale, but it was a fantastic Belgian pale ale--all the clove and spice we could ask for, if that was our target. This was before we started to pay attention to fermentation temps, so I'm guessing it fermented in the 70s.
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,883) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “Is this from fermenting too warm?” Fermenting too warm can lead to increased esters (e.g., fruity flavors, solvent flavors, etc.) and also increased higher alcohols (fusel oils). Higher alcohols are sometimes described as providing ‘hotness’ or ‘harshness’.

    Spicy flavors are typically associated with the presence of phenols. I am not aware if there is a general trend across all yeast strains of too warm = increased phenols; I believe that this is strain dependent.

    “My buddy didn't take temp reads or anything so I don't really know what the exact conditions are.” Well, it is important to maintain fermentation temperature within the recommended temperature range for a given yeast strain. It would behoove you to include fermentation temperature control for your next batch of homebrew.

  7. nickdank

    nickdank Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2014 New Jersey

    I would have monitored temp - I don't know why he didn't.
    What's interesting is that there aren't fusel or solvent flavors at all. Just a lot of phenolic, spicy, black peppery, clovey flavors.
    The yeast strain was White Labs WLP002 English Ale Yeast - unless the package was mislabeled...
  8. nickdank

    nickdank Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2014 New Jersey

    Note: Soooo doubtful it's a mislabeled package.
  9. wspscott

    wspscott Champion (882) May 25, 2006 Kentucky

    What was the approximate temperature of the room where it was fermented? Basement in the 60's or Closet in the 70's?

    I don't know about that yeast if it was on the warm side, but I would not have predicted "spicy, peppery".

    How long has it been in the bottle? You might find that some of this fades over time.
  10. udubdawg

    udubdawg Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2006 Kansas

    was this bottle conditioned? How was the carbonation level?
  11. nickdank

    nickdank Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2014 New Jersey

    Been in the bottle for maybe 3 weeks. Fermented in a closet, so probably in the 70s.

    We bottled after 3 weeks in primary - no secondary. Pitched priming sugar solution right into the carboy. Bottled. We either overpitched priming sugar or the fermentation wasn't terminal, because carbonation is extremely high and there's like 2 or 3cm of yeast at the bottom of each bottle. I'm actually really surprised we didn't get any exploding bottles.
  12. wspscott

    wspscott Champion (882) May 25, 2006 Kentucky

    I have never fermented with an English yeast in the 70's (your temps could have hit the high-70s), but I am surprised by the spiciness. From what other people have reported, I would have predicted lots of fruitiness at that temperature. Hopefully it will fade for you over time.

    FYI, there may still be a risk of bottle bombs if it has only been in the bottle 3 weeks.
  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,883) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    “We bottled after 3 weeks in primary - no secondary.” I would fully expect that primary fermentation was completer after 3 weeks.

    “Pitched priming sugar solution right into the carboy. Bottled.” The typical way for priming is to add the weighed priming sugar solution (you boil the sugar in some water) at the bottom of a priming bucket and then siphon the beer on top of the priming solution. I also gently stir the beer afterwards with my sanitized racking cane to ensure complete mixing. By just placing the priming sugar in the carboy there is the strong potential for not having complete mixing.

    “We either overpitched priming sugar….” How much sugar did you use?

  14. utahbeerdude

    utahbeerdude Disciple (393) May 2, 2006 Utah

    I'll add several remarks (some of which have already been made):

    (1) Given the spiciness and the high level of carbonation, you may have an infection. I suggest measuring the gravity now and then in a couple of weeks. If it is an infection, then the gravity will likely go down over time or the gravity may already read very low.

    (2) Given your bottling technique (which should be changed), it is not clear that you mixed the priming sugar sufficiently. If some bottles are highly carbonated and some lowly carbonated, then this would indicate insufficient mixing of priming sugar.

    (3) I highly doubt that (i) you over pitched priming sugar or (2) fermentation was not terminal. I believe (1) or (2) most likely account for the high carbonation levels. The large amount of trub in the bottles is more likely due to simply siphoning trub (perhaps resuspended when you added sugar) from your fermenter into your bottles.

    (4) (1) and (2) indicate you have at least two major issues with your process with this batch. (1) Improper fermentation temperature. This beer should have ben fermented in the mid 60's for best results. (2) You should use a bottling bucket. You will then have the capability to mix the sugar without stirring up lots of trub, which you should take care to leave behind in the fermenter.
  15. udubdawg

    udubdawg Initiate (0) Dec 11, 2006 Kansas

    OK. Sounds similar to what others have said. I bet it tasted great in the bottling bucket, right? (edit: or, in this case, the dregs from the fermenter)

    For a long time I assumed this was sanitation-related. But there's simply been too many instances, and I've seen some statements from yeast manufacturers to this effect, so I'm starting to come around:

    For highly flocculent English yeast strains, like Fullers' strain, I am careful to keep rousing and keep increasing temperature as I ferment. The reason is that they have a tendency to quit working and flocc out with practically an audible thump. And many imitate Fullers' fermentation temp profile since their results are so awesome. When the heat of primary fermentation fades the temperature can drop and they end up staying in the mid 60's. When you add more oxygen and sugar during bottling, the yeast seems to wake back up and not only eat the priming sugar, but those last couple points - measure FG on a de-gassed sample and I bet it'll be lower than at bottling.

    Look around the various interweb homebrewing forums over the years and you'll notice a curious higher rate of trouble with such strains.

    I'm still hesitant to say that sanitation does not have anything to do with this. I think the highly flocculent nature means you may end up bottle conditioning with fewer cells than other strains, and thus perhaps other organisms have more time to gain a foothold before the priming sugar is eaten. The statement "some strains are more prone to infection than others" isn't one I'm ready to make myself but I've heard it from a major yeast manufacturer. Locally I've got a wild yeast we just call "fizzy bug" that is fairly flavor neutral, just a light spiciness and a tendency to overcarbonate/dry out the beer. Things become kinda-sorta-saison-ish. All that CO2 you've got dissolved in there has also lowered the pH and made the beer more tart too.

    For 1968/002, I keg now. I think this yeast makes beers that are made to be consumed fresh, preferably on cask, and thus I haven't had to deal with it in a while. I've been thinking about trying bottle conditioning again though.

    We've got a lot of highly experienced homebrewers here. I don't have time to do every experiment I ever want to do but I would welcome more input...

    #15 udubdawg, Dec 17, 2014
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2014
  16. shredder83

    shredder83 Initiate (0) Feb 21, 2013 Illinois

    Just my two cents; I brewed an all citra pale with wy1968 (london esb) which is a yeast that I like using for ipa/pales and sometimes I get the faintest hints of a more estery/phenoly belgian style strain in my latest batch. Not an off-putting flavor and it is very faint behind the english yeast flavor, but with temp controlled fermentation (65) I know it wasn't throwing phenols and fusels to throw off the flavor. In my case however, I did miss my target gravity by 10 points, I planned for 1.060 and hit 1.050 (this was only my 2nd a.g. batch), and a made a starter calculated for a brew 10 points higher so I slightly overpitched. In my case, overpitching was the most likely culprit for a slightly off yeast flavor, but the beer turned out tasty anyway.
  17. shredder83

    shredder83 Initiate (0) Feb 21, 2013 Illinois

    There was a video I remember of kimmich speaking at a conference that was all about his history, the alchemist and heady in which he touched on conan being a relative of an English yeast strain. If I remember correctly he said conan changes slightly from generation to generation with it putting off slightly different flavors dependant on what generation it was in. I also read that the alchemist starts heady at 68 and finishes at 70 (72?), this could explain the variation of flavor you had in your brew.
  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,883) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Michael has some interesting discussion topics concerning the Fuller’s yeast strain (WY1968/WLP002). I have brewed with WY1968 once and I did not have any issues but I fermented in the 60’s and I roused the yeast periodically a few days after pitching this yeast. Maybe some other BAs who frequently brew with the Fuller’s yeast strain can provide more input here.

    Michael posted: “The statement "some strains are more prone to infection than others" isn't one I'm ready to make myself but I've heard it from a major yeast manufacturer.”

    I can add one data point here wrt Danstar Windsor yeast. I had overcarbonation issues with a few batches of Bitter Ale using this yeast. The folks at Lallemand (Danstar) were kind enough to analyze one of these batches and they confirmed that it was wild yeast that was the cause of the overcarbonation. Since that finding I do not use Danstar Windsor during warm times of the year (e.g., June, September) when wild yeast population can be higher in the ambient air. I have used Windsor several times during the cool times of the year (most recently this past October for a Porter) without having any issues.

  19. pweis909

    pweis909 Poo-Bah (1,905) Aug 13, 2005 Wisconsin

    In a Zymurgy article from about 2 years back, on how to maximize banana esters in hefes, the author suggested that the ratio of glucose to maltose played a role. I wonder if by spiking your beer with apples, you altered the ratios of different sugars and subsequently, the creation of esters and phenolics. Just speculating. I'll leave it to someone else to flesh out the hypothesis and test with a rigourous study,
    JackHorzempa likes this.
  20. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,909) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    Arcadia is able to brew one of their pub beers, Apollyon, ( ) which they refer to as their take on a Belgian Triple (although it is classified in the BA link as a Strong Belgian Pale Ale) by using their Ringwood yeast. The beer picks up very good Belgian ale characteristics, but I can't say whether it comes from the yeast or the malt bill (which I don't know).
  21. sjverla

    sjverla Disciple (397) Dec 1, 2008 Massachusetts

    I made a pale mild with Whitbread yeast a few months back. Definitely more phenolic than I expected. If someone were to tell me it was a Belgian Pale Ale, I'd probably believe them, but think it was a shitty one.
  22. nickdank

    nickdank Initiate (0) Feb 13, 2014 New Jersey

    1) I should clarify, my buddy boiled the weighed priming sugar in water and added the cooled solution to the carboy. We didn't add in dry corn sugar, though I can see how you may have thought so from my lack of explanation. I suppose it's necessary to treat me like I've never brewed before, to catch all potential process errors.
    2) I wasn't there when the priming sugar was weighed and boiled. By the time I got to his house, it was cooling off.
    3) I really wish we used a bottling bucket rather than a direct pitch - when he did that I kind of cringed. hah.
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