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Letter from the President:
Enzymes and Beer

By Chris White

In the last issue, I discussed the shared history between breweries and distilleries, at least from a fermentation perspective.

Both industries treat yeast as the central ingredient in their beverages. Distillers have learned many lessons from brewers, because as you probably know some whiskey starts as beer, minus the hops.

One important difference is that distillers crank their beers up to 13 percent alcohol before distilling the whiskey. Thus, they have wide experience in making high-gravity beers. Brewers, who increasingly are making higher alcohol beers, can learn a thing or two from their distilling counterparts.

The main lesson, naturally, centers around stuck fermentations. Distillers use special enzymes to prevent stuck fermentations, and these same enzymes can be used to great benefit by brewers.

Why? The enzymes eat through the sugars, giving your yeast lots of simple sugars to consume.

In high-gravity beers, this practice will help prevent the chance of your yeast stopping because of the high amount of dextrin in the sugars.

It can be added in the mash or to your fermentation vessel. If your fermentation stalls, add the distiller’s enzymes directly to the fermenter.

If you are brewing and have a stuck fermentation, order some with fast service and add it when it arrives.

You can get these enzymes at a number of places, including through White Labs. We have a large inventory because we work with many distilleries around the world. Here is a brief description of some of the nutrients and enzymes I am talking about:

AYF 1177 – This yeast nutrient for use in fuel ethanol and beverage alcohol fermentations.

It contains a proprietary blend of plant extracts and is formulated to provide yeast with the correct nutrient balance. Available in 18 kg pails. ($685)

AYF 1200 – Available in 10 kg box (4 pk of 2.5 kg) ($129)

Alcoholase I 120 – Available in 18kg pails ($175)

Alcoholase II 300 (Glucoamylase) – Alcoholase II is a fungal glucoamylase or amyloglucosidase enzyme for use in the production of fuel ethanol and beverage alcohol. Available in 18 kg pails. ($325)

High T 120 (Alpha-Amylase) – High T is a thermostable bacterial alpha-amylase enzyme used in the production of beverage alcohol. Available in 18 kg pails. ($325)

Fermaid K — Fermaid K is a blended complex yeast nutrient that supplies ammonia salts (DAP), alpha amino nitrogen (derived from yeast extract), sterols, unsaturated fatty acids, key nutrients (magnesium sulfate, thiamin, folic acid, niacin, biotin, calcium pantothenate) and inactive yeast. Fermaid K should be hydrated before adding to an active fermentation to avoid CO2 release and overflowing of tanks or barrels. It is available in 10 kg boxes for $145 and 2.5 kg bags for $45.

Chris White is President of White Labs Inc. and is a chemistry and biochemistry lecturer at the University of California, San Diego. He has a Ph.D in biochemistry. Feel free to write him about this column.