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Drink and Learn: 5 great beers with yeasty character

Yeast is the magic ingredient in beer.

by: Karl Tessendorf | 29 May 2018
friends toasting glasses of beer

(Image: iStock)

It produces booze, bubbles and a whole lot of flavour. Let’s dive into a few beers with great yeasty character. 

Darling Brew Bone Crusher

Bone Crusher is one of the stalwarts of South African craft and it’s aged superbly. It’s a Belgian style Witbier (white beer) and they are known for their hazy almost milky appearance. Belgian beer styles are where yeast characteristics really shine and Bone Crusher is loaded with spicy, estery (fruity) yeast flavours. It’s also tradition to throw in coriander and orange peel to further boost the flavour profile. It sounds strange but when it all comes together you get a fresh, zesty beer that is as complex as it is refreshing.  

Cape Brewing Company Amber Weiss

What do bubblegum, banana and clove have in common? If your guess has anything to do with the flavour of Germany’s Weissbier (wheat beer) then you’re spot on. Don’t believe me? Good because I want you to try it for yourself. It sounds crazy but it’s true and it’s all thanks to the yeast strain used to brew Weissbier. Yeast produces esters (fruity flavours) and phenols (spicy flavours) during fermentation and Cape Brewing Company’s Amber Weiss is an excellent example of this. The result is a rich and fruity brew with a hint of caramel and spice on the finish. Fun fact: wheat beer is known as breakfast beer in Germany. Prost! 

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La Trappe Tripel

La Trappe hails from the Netherlands and they’ve been brewing since 1884. The beers are made by real monks and they are one of only eleven monasteries around the world that can call themselves authentic Trappist beer. Their Tripel is an outstanding brew and it’s actually bottle conditioned which means there’s live yeast in the beer. It’s full of complex yeast character with fruit and spices on the nose and palate. Expect peaches, pears, apricots and floral notes and don’t be afraid of the sediment in the bottle. That’s from the yeast and its packed with vitamins and minerals so swirl the bottle and add it to your glass.


As far as special beers go, Orval is up there with the best of them. It comes from a monastery in Belgium and they’ve been making it since 1931. It uses a combination of controlled and spontaneous fermentation as well as Brettanomyces. Brett who? Brettanomyces is a wild strain of yeast that gives Orval its distinctive character. Its flavours range from intensely fruity to earthy, barnyard and even sweaty horse blanket. And yes that is a real tasting note. Like La Trappe, Orval continues to referment in the bottle and the Brett develops over long periods of time. Every Orval is a different experience depending on how long it has been aged.

Rogue Beard Beer

It’s hard to write any list about beers with yeasty character without including Rogue’s Beard Beer. Not only is it a great story but the beer is also highly rated. Brewmaster John Maier has been at Rogue since 1978 and for 15 000 brews he’s had the same beard. One day they decided to see if they could harvest yeast from his beard for a brew and just like that, Beard Beer was born. It may sound a little gross and strange but wild yeast is all around us all the time. At one point in history, all beer was brewed with wild yeast. Unfortunately, we can’t get Beard Beer locally but if you ever have a friend coming over from America, you know what to ask for. 

Karl Tessendorf is one part of the duo that hosts 'Beer Country', South Africa's first TV show dedicated to beer, braai and the open road.


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