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