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Mysteries of yeast explained

Besides proper sanitation procedures, what are the two most common mistakes that homebrewers make?

Professional and amateur brewers alike learned answers to this question as well as many others at a forum on proper yeast procedures in Boise, Idaho, on March 10.

The most common mistakes are under-aerating beer and fermenting beer at temperatures that are either too high or too low, said Christopher E. White, president of White Labs Inc.

White's presentation and question and answer session was held at the Ram Brewery and sponsored by the local brewing club. About 100 people attended.

The meeting was part of White's effort to visit brewing clubs and professionals around the country. He has a wealth of knowledge about proper yeast handling techniques as well as a solid understanding of general brewing procedures.

"He took the time to explain the different procedures and answered our questions thoroughly," said Doug Pike, head brewer at McCall Brewing Co. in McCall, Idaho. Pike and Cheryl Rogers of Brew Connoisseurs were instrumental in bringing White to Boise.

Pike said the meeting was well received by those who attended, including several who traveled far to try to get answers to their most difficult problems.

Pike also took a little satisfaction in learning that he was doing a few things right. White said that it is a good idea to taste the yeast, a practice that Pike has been following for a long time even though he thought few did it.

White also explained the unique aspects of yeast, how brewing practices contribute to yeast quality and the differences between yeast handling procedures for commercial brewers and homebrewers.

"In commercial breweries, what is important is the pitching rate, finishing off fermentation, yeast collection and yeast storage. For the homebrewer, what is important is wort aeration, yeast strain differences, yeast flocculation and control fermentation temperature."

White also said that homebrewers are doing it for fun and can experiment more.

White likes to visit local brewing clubs and professionals when he attends conferences around the country. If your group is interested in a presentation by White, call (858) 693-3441 ext. 223, or email