5 tips for brewing beer with wild yeast

Jocelyn Bernier-Lachance is an experienced amateur brewer with around ten years of experience. He is also a trained microbiologist who has previously worked for the company Lallemand, the artisanal brewery Gallicus, as well as La Chope à Malt/Beer Grains. Today, he wants to share his experience with you to spread his passion for microorganisms and fermentation

Tip 1: Be patient

To get the best out of beer styles that use mixed fermentation, it takes time. Wild yeasts work slowly and the expression of the flavors associated with them can take several months, even several years! It is therefore important to plan for a longer fermentation period to allow the wild yeasts to finish their work. In addition, wild yeasts can produce more complex aromas and flavors, which may require adjustments in the recipe to balance the beer profile.

Tip 2: Get separate equipment

As the fermentation will be very long, you will not have another fermenter at your disposal if you only have one. If you use the same fermenter, I recommend using a glass or metal fermenter. Plastic has the bad habit of retaining odors and scratching more easily, which makes it more difficult to clean. You also risk contaminating a future brew. It doesn’t take much wild yeast to contaminate a beer, so clean your equipment well!

Tip 3: Make multiple different brews

The beauty (and also the downside) of mixed fermentations is that it’s difficult to predict the final result. The presence of different microorganisms is one of the causes of this problem. If you make multiple different brews, you can blend them together and thus save a brew that would otherwise have probably ended up down the drain. For example, a brew that’s too acidic or contains too much tannin can be softened by diluting it with a sweeter brew. For optimal results, use high-quality ingredients. Mixed fermentations can bring out the complex aromas of grains, hops, and fruits, but they must be of the highest quality to be appreciated to their fullest. Opt for fresh and high-quality ingredients, such as fresh hops, local seasonal fruits, and high-quality grains, to create exceptional beers.

Tip 4: Don’t buy oak barrels

First of all, it is difficult, and probably more expensive, to get a reasonably sized oak barrel. Those you see in breweries can hold at least 200 liters of beer! In addition, they require a lot of space to store, must be completely filled, and their maintenance takes a lot of time. The inside of such a barrel must remain moist, otherwise it will start leaking and the risk of mold appearing will increase. Finally, you need the agreement of your significant other, which is not always easy! The good news is that there are simple solutions to replace these barrels. Badmotivator Barrels produces reusable and affordable mini-barrels. Personally, I use oak chips. One ounce of these chips added to the beer a week before bottling is enough to give you a similar woody taste as a barrel. La Chope à Malt/Beer Grains sells different varieties.

Tip 5: You don’t need to be a microbiologist to do mixed fermentations!

You can buy ready-to-use yeasts and even pre-made yeast blends. Ask suppliers like La Chope à Malt/Beer Grains. Even simpler, if you’ve tasted a very good mixed-fermentation beer at home, keep the bottom of the bottle. You can even add fresh fruits (that you’ve grown or picked yourself) and the yeasts and bacteria on their surface will do the job. That being said, be careful of cross-contamination: wild yeasts are present everywhere in the environment, so it’s important to take measures to avoid cross-contamination with other beer brews. This can be done by carefully cleaning and disinfecting the brewing equipment and avoiding practices that can introduce unwanted wild yeasts into the brew.


Jocelyn Bernier-Lachance M.Sc., Mcb.A.

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