Monday, May 3, 2010

To Wit or to Wheat?

One of my favourite beers that I like to brew has the "brand" name LimeLight. LimeLight, for those not in the know is my take on a Belgian witbier, but instead of curacao orange peel, I use lime peel, I use just one type of hop, the noblest of noble in my opinion, Saaz, and usually I ferment said brew with Wyeast's Belgian Wit.

My first batch of LimeLight this year was given the working title LimeLight 2.0, a reference to the fact that I was expecting it to be different from the original LimeLight that I brewed back in Prague, largely because I assuming the malt extract I was using was different. However, using Munton's wheat extract didn't change things dramatically and 2.0 was a slight, although definite, upgrade on version 1.

I planned to make a batch of 2.0 for the wedding of a friend in Greenville, South Carolina, that Mrs Velkyal and I went to last weekend. As it was, when I went to the homebrew shops here in Charlottesville, neither of them had the required yeast, and time was short to order it from Northern Brewer. Invention being the mother of necessity, I decided to use Wyeast's Belgian Wheat for the fermentation process, and hope the differences weren't huge. Thus LimeLight 2.1 was born.

Stuart Howe, over at Real Brewing at the Sharp End, posted last week about yeast, which was almost serendipitous as I had decided to post about the difference the yeast strain makes in two batches on the same beer, what I wasn't expecting was just how different the two beers are. Here is LimeLight 2.0:

and here is 2.1:

Quite a difference there in colour, the original is golden with an orangey depth to it, whereas 2.1 is coppery orange. I have read that yeast can affect beer colour, but I wasn't expecting that difference. Reviewing my brewing notes, yes I am that sad, and there were no significant differences between the two brews other than the yeast. So I need to ask those brewers more experienced and skilled than I, is it possible for yeast to make such a difference in the beer colour?

In terms of flavour, 2.1 has a more pronounced booziness, which in turn brings out the spiciness of the coriander, and has a fuller body, which would make it an excellent autumnal beer, as the nights draw in and the leaves turn the colour of the beer. 2.0 however, is dry and crisp, bursting with a lemony citrusness that makes it ideal for hot summer days, cold from the fridge.

It would seem then, that the yeast strain, even two which seem very similar according to the description in the catalogue, can make a huge difference in the beer. Naturally, this opens all kind of avenues for playing around with my homebrew, avenues that of course need to be taken, just to see where they go.


  1. Could another contributing factor be the age of the extract?

  2. That is something that crossed my mind - so I am planning to re-do the experiment with a couple of 1 gallon carbabies, so that they have the same wort and the only difference is yeast.

  3. Extract can darken when it older

    Was the difference in colour in the extract use for the yeast starter?

  4. Given the size of my batches, only a couple of gallons, I don't do starters - I find that the Wyeast smack packs have enough viable yeast to do the job.


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