Now that I’ve started kegging and transferring my hoppy beers in a closed system under Co2, my hoppy beers have improved by leaps and bounds, both in terms of quality and longer term stability. So, now that I’ve gotten that hurdle behind me, what’s next? Dialing in the details! Right now the biggest detail for me is finding a house yeast to use with my ales. Most professional breweries have a go to yeast that helps define their flavor profiles for their ales. Anything from Sierra Nevada has a somewhat familiar flavor due to the Chico yeast strain that they use. Same with Stone, Lagunitas, and so on, all have a house yeast that helps define them. I’d like to dial in the White Pointer flavor profile, and maybe start harvesting and reusing yeast, which is something I’ve never done.
I’ve used a bunch of different yeasts over the past few years and some have been great, some not so much. The Chico strain and other American yeasts I’ve used are fine, but I like to have some subtle esters, so those are out. For English yeast, I loved the convenience of Safale S-04, but there was a hint of tartness that I just wasn’t fond of. I really liked WLP 007 Dry English Ale and it was almost my first choice until I used Conan. The 007 is clean, attenuates well, clears on the beers that I care about clarity enough to use gelatin on, and has just a hint of ester aroma and flavor. 007 was great with my hoppy beers, but Conan edged it out.
I use the DIPA yeast from Omega which is the Conan strain found in The Alchemist Heady Topper. This stuff is steroids for hops and lends an awesome peachy/apricot/pineapple note to the beer. Despite what others have said about the strain, I haven’t had any attenuation issues with Omega’s version of it, usually getting around 80%. I also really enjoy the smooth palate that this yeast helps create, but it remains drinkable. My only complaint with this strain, and I haven’t used it on a maltier style yet so maybe I’m wrong, is it seems a bit one dimensional. The several beers I’ve used it on all have a Heady Topper-esque flavor to them. Now take that criticism with a grain of salt since most of my hoppy beers tend to be lighter colored “Northeast Style” beers anyway. As much as I like Conan’s flavor profile, I’m concerned using it as a house yeast may be a bit one note. The other issue is Conan’s low flocculation, though this is a much smaller concern for me. I actually like my hoppy beers to be hazy. The more fruit juice looking my APA’s, IPA’s, and DIPA’s are, the better in my opinion. I don’t brew hoppy styles exclusively though, and there are certain styles that I’m not sure I’d use Conan on. I’d be interested to see how Conan works in an American Amber or Imperial Red for example, two styles that I feel look better clear. That being said, Conan is my favorite yeast that I’ve used so far and is my leading candidate for being my house yeast for 90% of my beers.
This brings me to my other option, and I just used it for the first time: Wyeast 1318 London Ale III. I used it on my most recent version of my Serrated Summer Ale (Brew Day post coming soon!). This beer is in primary, so I have no personal experience with it, I can only go from what I’ve heard until I keg my summer ale and get drinking. Rumor has it that London Ale III is the strain that Hill Farmstead uses. Anyone who’s had their beer knows why I’d want to emulate them. Their hoppy beers are usually light colored, cloudy, have great hop flavor and aroma, and are smooooooooooth. I’m talking smooth like drinking a glass of OJ. The mouthfeel is so soft, it just makes these beers incredible. Now of course it isn’t just the yeast that does this, its water and brewing technique as well, but the yeast is an important contributing factor. People who have used this yeast report that it accentuates hop flavors well, is clean with subtle esters when fermented at lower temperatures, and has mid range attenuation leaving a creamy body. That all sounds exactly like what I’m looking for. I’ve heard that, as with Conan, clarity can be an issue, but the vast majority of the time I don’t care about that.
I’ll be updating this post with my thoughts on London Ale III and how I feel it stacks up against Conan once I’m able to drink my summer beer enough to form an opinion on it. I’m considering brewing a small batch of IPA and split it between the two yeasts to do a proper side by side comparison, but I’ll make that call after seeing if my summer ale is enough to make that judgement.
Update 06/25/15: I’ve had a decent amount of my beer, Serrated Summer Ale, that used the 1318 London Ale III. I have to say, I’m a big fan of it. All of the things that I read about it are pretty true. The yeast left what I can best describe as a “roundness” in the body and flavors. The yeast, combined with my malt bill and water treatment, left a nice silky mouthfeel. It attenuated at 77% so that’s pretty good for a beer that I mashed at 154 degrees. The hop flavors and aromas of the beer popped nicely. The beer left some residual sweetness, but it was pleasant, not at all cloying. The ester profile was subtle, with some slight fruitiness that blended well with the hops I used. I fermented the beer in the mid 60’s, so the yeast stayed pretty clean. I wouldn’t be afraid to let it ferment warmer in the upper 60s. All in all I’m very pleased with it. I can’t say for sure that this is the yeast used in beers from Hill Farmstead or Tired Hands like the rumors suggest, but its at least a VERY similar strain.
The question is, how does it stack up against Conan, and which would I use as a house yeast? Well, more research is needed for me to commit entirely to one or the other just yet. In reality, I think I’ll need to brew a split batch of APA or IPA and do a side by side with these yeasts.
Both Conan and 1318 complimented the hops well in the beers I’ve used them in. So you can’t go wrong with either of these in a hoppy style. I routinely get around 80% or more with the Omega DIPA Ale version of Conan and I got 77% with the 1318. If brewing a bigger beer, I’d want to maybe use some simple sugar to help the 1318 out.
Conan is definitely the more expressive yeast, throwing off some peach and apricot flavors and aromas. It’ll be be hard for me to go away from this yeast on my IPA’s due to the fruity esters that play with the hops so well. The 1318 is more subtle for sure, fruity, but not like the Conan. I think you could probably get a more diverse array of flavors with this yeast though since everything with Conan will have that/peach apricot profile to some degree.
Both yeasts provide a soft mouthfeel, with the 1318 just edging Conan out here. The beers that I’ve used Conan on seem to have a bit more “pop” to them though. Both yeasts leave a pleasant sweetness to the beers I’ve used them in as well.
Both of these yeasts are winners in my book and I’d feel confident using them both in an wide range of beers. I’m not sure I’ve settled on one or the other being a “house yeast” for me, if I even decide to go that route. I need to use 1318 a few more times, and I really need to do a side by side. I hope this write up helps anyone deciding to use either of these yeasts, you certainly won’t be disappointed in either!
UPDATE! I decided the only way to truly decide between these yeasts was do do a side by side test. Read about my experiment HERE!
I’ve noticed that the Part 2 Side by Side tasting gets fewer clicks, so in the interest of streamlining info, here’s Part 2 if you don’t feel like clicking the link above!
Searching for a House Yeast Part 2: Conan Vs Wyeast 1318 London Ale III Side by Side
Posted on July 28, 2015
On the left is Conan, on the right is London Ale III
In my never ending quest to dial in my recipes, I’ve been trying to decide on a house yeast for most of my ales. I’ve used both Conan and London Ale III and really liked what both have to offer, but which yeast better fits my needs? If you read my Part 1, you’ll see my thoughts on both of these yeasts. Well, The only way to determine which yeast I like better for sure is to do a side by side comparison! I took a pale ale recipe that I haven’t brewed yet, but had been meaning to. I did a 3.5 gallon batch.
3.5 Gallon Batch Size
.5# White Wheat
5oz Caramalt 15L
.5# Flaked Oats
2oz Acid Malt
.25oz Warrior 60 min
.5oz Simcoe 5 min
.5oz Citra 5 min
.5oz Amarillo 5 min
1oz Simcoe 30 min hopstand
1oz Citra 30 min hopstand
1oz Amarillo 30 min hopstand
.5 Simcoe dry hop
.5 Citra dry hop
.5 Amarillo dry hop
My water profile was typical of my pale ales, heavier on the chloride with a smaller gypsum addition.
After the boil and hopstand were complete, I split the batch between two carboys. I pitched London Ale III in one, Conan in the other. Both batches of beer are fermenting at around 66 degrees. I’ll bottle the two batches at about the two week mark, give it a week to carb, and then toss some in the fridge to test.
I’ll post back here with an update as soon as this experiment is over!
Update 08/08/15: I bottled both batches yesterday. I was surprised that both batches finished at 1.006, I had expected the Conan batch to finish just a bit dryer. Both samples already smelled and tasted great, It’s going to be hard to decide which I like better. I plan on waiting a week to carb and then putting the bottles in the fridge for a day. I’ll then do the side by side!
Update 08/13/15 Tasting: Here’s the moment I’ve been waiting for! Let me start by saying that I really like both of these yeasts. They each have strengths and you truly can not go wrong using either. That being said, I have to say that London Ale III is my preferred yeast between the two.
The appearance of both beers was pretty close as you can see in the picture above. The London Ale was just a hint more hazy and bright, the Conan just slightly darker and clearer. Both were pretty looking beers and anyone who reads this blog knows I enjoy hazy hop forward beers.
Both beers smelled really nice. The London Ale had an intense citrus aroma, more orange than grapefruit, with maybe a bit of pineapple. There was also a bit of pine as well as some English ester aroma. A really good smelling beer for sure. The Conan had a more peachy and apricot aroma that blended with some citrus and pine. This isn’t surprising as Conan is famous for that apricot/peach profile. The aroma of both beers were fairly intense, and its hard to say which was more appealing.
The taste of these beers weren’t too far apart, but I slightly preferred the London Ale III. I feel that both yeasts accentuated the hops and malts well, but I like that London Ale III was just a bit more neutral. Don’t get me wrong, the London Ale had some nice subtle ester character to it, but I feel it was the more neutral of the two yeasts. This will let the individual ingredients of the beer shine though in my opinion. Conan was slightly bolder in flavor. The hop profile of the beer was the same obviously, but Conan added that peach/apricot note, while the London Ale was more citrusy. The flavor of the London Ale beer seemed rounder to me if that makes any sense. The bitterness faded quickly, the citrus from the hops was there, and then it had a slightly sweet, juicy finish. The Conan’s bitterness seemed to linger just a bit longer and its flavors seemed sharper. Conan also left some nice sweetness in the finish as well.
The mouthfeel of these beers where both really nice, but I have to give the edge to the London Ale III. This beer just seem so soft. There’s a creamy feel that London Ale gives the beer that Conan, while close, just falls slightly behind. Conan was a bit crisper, while the London Ale III had that roundness I mentioned previously.
Like I said earlier, you really can’t go wrong with either of these yeasts. For my tastes, London Ale III just barely wins over Conan. Conan will likely make for a sharper, bolder beer, while London Ale makes a super balanced, round, and juicy pale ale. I also feel like the London Ale would work better in a wider variety of beers, so if reusing yeast is a concern then that may also impact the decision.
All in all this was a really fun experiment to try. I really like both of these yeasts, and a direct comparison was the only way I was going to be able to choose between them. I encourage anyone who is considering these to try this experiment as well. Taste is subjective, so your opinion may vary from what I found here. I hope this post helps any fellow brewers who are looking to dial in their recipes!