After bottling my previous brew, the Baldwin St. Bohemian Pilsner, I was excited to get started on my next batch. For my second round, pun completely intended, I decided to try out making an Irish Blonde Ale. You can find the recipe for the Blonde Ale here. I also decieed that this time around I would try out making a yeast starter.
A yeast starter is basically a mini, unhopped, beer that you make a day or two ahead of time and pitch your yeast into. In my case I made it with a reduced mash which gave me about ~0.4G / 1.5L to work with in my flask. Then I boiled it for about 20min or so to make sure it and the flask were sanitized.
After the boil you chill it just like you would your normal big batch. For mine I just gave it a quick ice bath.
Once the temperature is low enough (at least less than 70°F / 21°C) you can pitch your yeast. The yeast I was using for this recipe is Safale S-04.
With the yeast pitched you want to loosely cover the top of your flask with some sanitized tented aluminium foil. You then keep shaking it periodically (every hour or so, or you know… whenever you happen to walk past it) or stirring it using a stir plate (if you have one) to ensure that the yeast get a good amount of oxygen and agitation. The whole point of this is that you should end up growing your yeast supply so that you have far more than you started with.
After 24 hours or so you can see the yeast growth at the bottom of the flask.
You can then use the starter and pitch it directly into your real beer as you would have used your dry or wet yeast in the first place. Some people recommend that you decant the top, non-yeast, bit off before hand but if your yeast starter is made from the same thing your beer is going to become then it doesn’t really matter because it shouldn’t change the taste anyway.
With the yeast starter completed I went ahead and started brewing according to the recipe.
Once the wort was transferred to the brew kettle I cranked up the heat and tried to get a boil going. Tried being the key word here… it’s not that I wasn’t able to achieve a boil, it’s that this brew came rather close to boiling over on me on a few occasions. Thankfully I caught it just in time, lifting the kettle off the heat slightly, and finally got past the heat break.
I’m pretty sure the only other new thing I tried this time around was to use a muslin bag when adding my hops. I figured this might make cleaning things up a little easier but to be honest I didn’t notice much difference.
Once the boil was complete I cooled it down in an ice bath…
…and transferred it to my carboy for fermentation.
I got a measured original gravity (OG) of 1.054 which is just about right on the money and then dumped the whole yeast starter in and gave the carboy a shake to mix it in and add additional oxygen for the yeast. With some luck it won’t be long now until I get to drink this!
Maybe it was the yeast starter but this particular beer has gotten off to quite a strong fermentation when compared to my previous attempt.
After a few hours:
After 24 hours:
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