Omega Yeast labs Sundew Ale, another Half Wit review done the Beer Did way.
Time for another yeast review, this time the review will be based on the new biologically enhanced yeast by Omega yeast labs called Sundew Ale. Once again I received some of this yeast for review from Zack at Toronto Brewing, It's a privilege that I'm lucky to have and appreciate the opportunity this arrangement allows me to have. As soon as I had this yeast in hand I started to imagine a wheat beer with berry forward hops and a softer mouthfeel. So I decided to go with a mix of my go to wheat beer recipe but with my NEIPA water profile and see what I could pull out of this yeast from the expected Passion fruit Pear, and strawberry profile it's touted to produce. I planned to use hops that were expected to have a more berry like flavour to them and less of the dank resinous flavour so many hops tend to have. I had a few different hops in mind but was hesitant to pull the trigger on a couple. So I went with what's listed in the recipe posted below. The Sundew Ale yeast, according to Omega, is a Belgian yeast that has been genetically altered to be non-phenolic. By being non-phenolic as a Belgian strain you essentially open up the door for all the finer details the yeast provides without having the Spicy Belgian character in the foreground drowning them out. Think subtitles rather than big and estery and I think that's where this yeast shines. So of course I put it to the test the only way I know how, The Beer Did Buddha way and brewed up something different to see where things led me. Okay so lets get this out of the way, what is the Sundew Ale yeast and how does it differ from a regular Belgian style yeast? Sundew Ale by Omega Yeast Labs is a genetically altered Belgian yeast that is incapable of producing Phenolics. This alteration was achieved by using DNA technology called CRISPR (Short for, Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) to augment the yeasts DNA in order to cater to a specific and desired yeast profile. Just like in the Bananza Ale yeast scientific processes are used to remove certain biological attributes of a yeast strain to tailor-make a yeast that is genetically incapable of producing certain biological traits that were once genetically written into the yeasts ancestral code. For the Sundew Yeast this relates to the deletion of code that produces phenolic white pepper/clove like spice in a Belgian yeast, leaving a yeast that in theory will produce only the esters desired from a Belgian yeast with none of the phenols. This allows the subtleties to shine through and allows those fruity esters that were drowned previously to present themselves in a little bit more light.... presumably that is. So how and why did I approach this review the way I did? Well, like the consummate non-compliant asshole I am, I did whatever I wanted, again, so I could better represent the unforgiving, non-compliant, and totally oblivious brewers like myself who just couldn't care less whats suggested by the manufacturers of the yeast being used. They just want to, trust the yeast and make great beer dammit! With that being said I feel that when a manufacturer suggests certain ingredients to provide the flavour profile desired from the product being used they limit it's use and in turn also limits the users willing to purchase the product. But that's just my point of view and asshole opinion.
But since I've been tasked to test and review this yeast, not just use it in a beer that it was intended to be used in (if there is such a thing) I want to test the yeast and see what I can do in a beer that's not going to hide much. I wanted to brew a beer that's hops complimented the yeast profile and would be light enough to pull nuances out of the beer if they were present.
I really wanted people to pull the tropical red fruits out of the beer, especially if it's an artifact of the yeast itself. I wanted to see how the yeast presents in a beer style where it would be a complimentary sensory consideration and see if the fruity, tropical, berry esters would overwhelm or compliment the beer. So, I decided that my Half Wit recipe would fit the bill and decided to use that as my base wort. The Half Wit recipe uses lower percentages of wheat, is lightly hopped with a water profile usually I use on my NEIPA's. The hops I used in this beer had a flavour profile I believed should complement the yeast and it's proposed ester profile. The recipe (posted below) is pretty straightforward and pretty repeatable by most new brewers I think. My standard stepped mash schedule for this style of Belgian beer is utilized, Although I did not use a ferulic acid rest, a protein rest and a sacc rest where used before mash out. The pH is tracked throughout the mash and boil process, the same as I do with most of my beers.
Fermentation: Once the wort has been cooled and is then transferred into the Grainfather Pro Conical, I take a pH and Gravity reading and allow the wort to stabilize to 18C. I then pitched the Sundew yeast starter at 18C waited for noticeable activity and allowed it rise for 4 days until I reached 24C. The yeast starter I made for this beer was able to noticeably kick off fermentation within eight hours and kept on steady until terminal gravity was reached on day 9. While fermenting the blowoff aroma was typical Hefe, to the point of where I thought I made a mistake and used the wrong yeast. After the fourth or fifth day of fermentation, I did notice more notes of what I can only explain as a nondescript berry like sweetness poking its head out. But to be honest I'm not sure this was an artifact of the yeast or the hop selection. Once gravity reached a stable level, I like to do a pre-crash in the conical before I decide to transfer the beer to a ball lock keg. As I've said previously I do this for 3-4 days at 4C (the limits of the Grainfather glycol chiller). I then transfer the beer to a keg and allow it to carbonate to 2.75 Volumes of cO2 and kept it cold in my keggerator until it was time to bring it to the GTA Brews Homebrew Club meet. After conditioning for 2 weeks, I tried a sample and can provide my opinion on what I thought of the beer in general, and also the yeasts presence and what position it holds in the makeup of the beer. So what are my opinions on the beer?
Name of Beer: Half Wit
Brewery: Bine Cone Brewing Company
Brew Style: Experimental Belgian Wheat beer
Please rate the following beer attribute based on a scale of one to five and leave a small note on your experiences.
1- Terrible 2- Poor 3- Okay 4- Good 5- Excellent
The aroma on this yeast was very subdued, considering I used hops I knew wouldn't overwhelm the subtle yeast character, at least that's what I thought. If I'm being completely honest, I was hoping for a bit more than what I received from the yeast. There was some berry notes, but nothing I could with good conscience say was coming from the yeast or the hops, but to me, the Sundew yeast just seemed like another Hefe yeast with no phenolics and a slightly different ester presentation. I mostly got a bit of what I'd call juicy berry sweetness, maybe a bit of a floral note along with some light banana, but I just couldn't pull berries or red fruits from this one. Believe me, I tried, it just wasn't presenting that way to me. It wasn't a disappointment considering, but I wouldn't buy this yeast if you were looking for what it says it produces, because personally, I didn't get any of what they were dealing. With this yeast as well as with the Bananza Ale yeast there was zero indication of any sort of phenols present, just as you'd expect from a yeast with that part of it's genome deleted. But there were some slight spicy aromas from the hop selection.
A hazy straw yellow with long lasting soft white head that leaves lots of lacing behind.
Light, malty, smooth, appropriately hopped for the style with hints of pear, mango, banana and possibly bubblegum that could be perceived as berryish..... I guess, but nothing standout strawberry or tropical red fruits IMHO. Esters are pretty muted in the flavour of this beer, but actually complement the style of beer. With hints of light Banana, bubblegum, some yellow stonefruit, I found it pretty utilitarian in profile and if one wanted, it could be used for a multitude of juicy beer styles. Again, as with the Bananza there were no hints of the clove pheolics associated with some Belgian yeasts. There where some hop spice present, but no clove/white pepper flavours that some Belgian yeasts produce. The flavour was more of an herbal spice.
Light, soft, heavily carbonated, full bodied and exactly what a wheat beer should be, but with a soft juicy NEIPA touch due to moderately high chloride levels.
Overall Impression: 4
I don't think I'd drink this beer on a regular basis, not that the beer was in any way flawed in my opinion, I just missed the clove phenolics and it wasn't what I'd want in a wheat beer. I get it, this is a Belgian yeast, and I understand some people aren't fans of the clove phenols, but you take what you get. And when you drink some Belgian beers you get cloves. Take it for what it is.
Would you recommend this yeast to other homebrewers?
The answer is yes, BUT, I can't honestly say that the yeast did what I wanted it to do in the way I believed it would turn out like. With that being said, the beer it produced was enjoyable, it was fruity, in a hoppy way, had some mild Belgian beer esters and an easy drinking feel. The yeast on its own I'd like to give another go, I think with proper hop selection and a slightly water profile I could turn out some pretty juicy beers with this yeast.
Any additional comments:
If I choose to use this yeast in a future brew I think a choice of hops lower in Humulene, and Caryophyllene would be key.
Thank you for rating this beer.
Any time your Beardedness.
What did the GTA Brews Club members say about this beer? Since this beer was reviewed at the same club meeting as Sweet Emotion the Bananza Ale yeast beer, I did not have my evaluation sheets with me as I forgot to bring the sheets with me, and only realized it when I got to Muddy York Brewing Co. . So as with the Bananza Ale review take what I'm going to say with a grain of salt, as I'm recalling this from memory, and I'm an old Beerstard, so the old noggin isn't always the most reliable recollection device anymore. With that said I can say that the overwhelming consensus was a very positive one. Since this wasn't an A/B or Triangle test, people felt more confortable giving personal perspectives rather than opinions on how two or three beers differ. There were only a few who could pull out the esters and knew it wasn't just a regular Wit yeast used to brew the beer. But in the end there weren't any club members who could identify the yeast solely based on it's ester profile. Most felt the body was appropriate for the style, the overall balance was good, and there weren't any overly obvious off flavours. Most agreed the yeast wasn't the star and that it presented itself as a clean fermenting Belgian strain without the phenolics (except for hop spice). Some I spoke with agreed that it would be a fantastic yeast for hazy, juicy style beers with hops being the primary flavour compounds and the yeast character a secondary sensory aspect. Overall it was agreed the beer was subdued and not an overly yeast-forward beer.
Was this yeast all it was hyped up to be? No, no it was not, but this could be due to hop choice. But if I'm to be fair here, a yeast that requires specific hops for it to shine, is not a yeast I'd use a lot. Although with this yeast and its somewhat subdued ester profile, it will certainly work as a low ester, utility yeast with a clean and easy to use fermentation habit. Did it perform as expected? No, but not everything will meet expectations when utilized in a way that it's not intended to be utilized. Do I feel there is a place for this yeast in the beer industry? Sure, but I'm not sure the place would be with me. I'd personally rather use a Wit yeast or a Hefe yeast in place of this one, sorry Omega, not the Bearded ones cuppa tea.
Here's to Cheers and Beers with lots of Suds with Buds. If you'd like to purchase this yeast for your own experiment you can find it at www.torontobrewing.ca