Brew Blog: "Moveable Yeast" Series

We here at Brew Blog try to be educational. The ultimate goal, of course, is to welcome casual beer drinkers into the more complex but infinitely more satisfying world of craft beer.

So we were flat out exuberant when we heard about a new project from hometown St. Arnold Brewing Co. that founder and brewer Brock Wagner himself describes as educational (and fun).

The folks at St. Arnold are calling this effort the "Moveable Yeast" series, and the concept is to focus on the flavor contributions of yeast, that forgotten component of good beer.

The brewery will take an in-progress batch of a traditional Saint Arnold offering and split it into two fermenting tanks. In one tank, the yeast normally put in that beer will be added. In the other, an alternate yeast will be added, and the beer will be given a new name.

Seriously, this is just eff-ing genius.

"People spend a lot of time talking about the malt and hops used in beers, but yeast is discussed little and probably understood even less. We thought this would be fun, tasty and educational," Wagner said in a release. "We're hoping that bars and restaurants will offer both beers at the same time so that people can compare the flavor differences. I think it will be enlightening, plus both beers will be very tasty!"

Fair warning: If you soon see beer nerds excitedly scribbling Venn diagrams on cocktail napkins and gesturing wildly to each other, this is why.

Before we describe the enjoyment on the way, a quick explanation. Yeast are the little critters that ferment your beer. They eat the sugars in the grains (barley, wheat, etc.), pee alcohol and fart carbon dioxide. That's simple enough. But yeast also produce compounds that affect the flavor and smell of the beer, often in surprising or hard-to-explain ways.

Now, the details:

• On August 16, the brewery will release Weedwacker, a spin-off of its Fancy Lawnmower that will be fermented with Bavarian hefeweizen yeast. Look for the yeast to impart clove and banana flavors. Suiting for a hefeweizen, Weedwacker will not be filtered. • In mid-November, the brewery will release Altared Amber, a take on its Amber Ale that will be fermented with Belgian Trappist yeast. • In mid-February 2011, the brewery will release Bitter Belgian, a variation on its Elissa IPA that will be fermented with Belgian Trappist yeast. • In mid-May 2011, the brewery will release Brown Bitter, an alternate of its Brown Ale that will be fermented with Alt yeast.

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