A British obsession

I guess what I’m really saying is why as a craft brewing nation are new micros/craft brewers in the UK obsessed with using a very neutral US ale strain (us-05), and one that does not flocculate very well which leaves a lot of yeast in suspension at the time of consumption. I guess as they are trying to emulate some of the great US craft brewers, which if that’s true they really should buy a centrifuge and or filter set, or just fine in the tank and force carbonate before packaging so they can mimic there chosen craft brewers entire brewing process.

But then again, who would you say is making the best Pale Ales/IPA’s in the US and what yeast do you think they are using? Are they using a clean US ale strain or British strains?

It’s probably safe to say that consistently the best IPA brewed in the US over the last 8 years is Union Jack IPA it won gold in the GABF in 2008 and 2009, a silver in 2013, along with a load of other medals from around the world. And what yeast do they use WLP002, or that is what their brew master has said is the closest commercially available yeast, and WLP002 is known simply as the English Ale strain on the White Labs website, and most likely is the Fullers brewery strain.

Stone Brewing has said the closest commercially available yeast to their house yeast is WLP007, this yeast is known on the White Labs site as the Dry English ale strain.

Hill Farmstead Brewery which has just been rated by the rate beer site as the best brewery in the world is rumoured to use a British ale strain, although it’s not known for sure which one. If rumours are to be believed and you have to love a good rumour then it could well be something like Wyeasts 1318 the London Ale III strain or Wyeast 1099 the Whitbread Ale strain.

I don’t know about you but im starting to detect a pattern here and yes it’s only a small sample of breweries and its far from statistically valid but arguably some of the best breweries the US has to offer at the moment are all using English/British yeast strains!

The UK tends to follow the US in brewing trends so how long will it be before more micro/craft breweries in the UK move back to British strains in the search for more balanced beers instead of the bitter hop bombs that are the current trend.

I guess the real question is can more of the new start British micros/craft breweries manage to shake off their addiction to us-05 and other dried yeasts and mover over to wet yeast? The big problem being the major lack knowledge in this area amongst both the new start, and some not so new starts!

I have a feeling the next few years will be very profitable for anyone in the yeast consultancy business!

10th Anniversary Jaipur Brewday at Thornbridge Hall Brewery

I have long known I do my finest work after a pint or 2 and this was no exception, I saw on Twitter that Thornbridge Brewery were auctioning off a brewday in support of The Rotary Jaipur Limb fund, I placed a bid thinking I would never win but win I did – and it was worth every penny.

Every year I try to do a little good in the world and anyone who has had a look through the various pages on this blog will know I work offshore in the oil and gas industry and let’s just say my employment leaves me somewhat devoid of that warm fuzzy feeling!

So after a few emails with Alex at the brewery the brewday was set for Friday the 5th June, which was lucky as I had just got home from work on the Wednesday before. Minor inconvenience is I live in London so 4:30am on the Friday the alarm went off, in the car by 5 and after getting the toe down I was in Bakewell by 8am, I was being joined by a good friend – Steve, he was traveling from Plymouth so had an even earlier start!

We met up at the brewery at about 8.30 and after a cup of tea headed up to the Thornbridge Hall brewery to meet Pete the brewer at the Hall, at which point we started mashing in for the 10bbl brew, about 400kg of low colour Marris Otter malt, Thornbridge get most of their malt from Simpsons (looking in their grain/mill room) which is annoying as I can’t get any malt from them as they don’t supply home brewers or home brew shops (that I am aware of). And yes that is right just the one malt, it appears the greatest beers are pretty simple!

Below is a picture of the HLT, Mashtun and Copper, and possible the best warning sign I have seen in a brewery!


And me helping to mash in, and no its not sweat its just a shadow!!

stiring the mash

While the mash was happening at a toasty 69degC I mainly asked lots of questions about water profiles and sulphate to calcium ratios as any home brewer would, along with fermentation profiles and yeast. On a side note it is also interesting to know that even that the Riverside brewery is capable of doing stepped mashed its rare the use it, most beers are produced using a single infusion mash!

There were no big surprises on the water front, it’s just bog standard mains water (for the Hall brewery) with some additions to get the sulphate/chloride ratio to what you would expect for an IPA, balanced with hitting the right mash pH, again no surprise. The full water profile is also given in the IPA book by Mitch Steel, along with a recipe for Jaipur which is pretty close.

Following the mash was the run off/sparge to the boiler, and here is the compulsory sparge shot!


The mashtun was fairly full so the last of the runnings took a while to drain, approximately 30 min later the boil was on and the first of 2 hop additions went in. The first addition being at the start of the boil, 52 IBU’s, the hop of choice being whole flower Magnum, the key here is just a clean bittering addition.

At this point Alex was back with lunch and a few beers, as the boil was for 75 min, we had time for a look round the gardens and Thornbridge Hall, all I can say I wow the whole place is fantastic, it is the quintessential English home modernised for living today, the basement bar was fantastic as was “Jim’s bar” too on the ground floor, and here is possibly the most famous statue in the craft beer world, well in the UK anyway!


Back in the brewery we add over 7kg of flame out whole flower hops into 1600L of wort, a blend of Chinook, Centennial, Ahtanum, Simcoe, and Columbus. After a 20 min stand/circulation the wort was knocked out aiming for a temp in the fermenter of 18degC ish. On the way to the fermenter after the plate chiller, oxygen was added in-line, and once the knockout was complete the yeast was pitched, the fermentation then took place with temperature control kicking to stop the temperature of the fermentation going over 22degC.

I did not see it and forgot to confirm but im guessing further salt additions are also added to the boil along with yeast nutrient and a kettle finning.

For the gravity the OG that was aimed for was 13.7 plato or 1.056, and Jaipur aims for 5.9% abv which gives a FG in the region of 1.011. The Jaipur brewed on the day hit the OG bang on and finished a tad high giving an abv of 5.8%.

Yeast is an interesting point, Thornbridge use a different strain in their cask beers compared to keg and bottle, the cask strain is along the lines of West Yorkshire ale yeast the closest available to home brewers being Wyeast 1469. In the keg and bottle beers the yeast is California ale yeast WLP001, and yes they get the WLP001 (along with other yeast) in a vial from a home brew shop. The yeast is then grown up in the lab and transferred to the yeast propagation system.

Now the tricky bit and what may cause some problems for the home brewer is to get the Yorkshire ale strain to ferment out that far with a mash temp of 69degC, a lower mash temp may have to be used to achieve the correct FG – this will take some experimentation to get right I feel!

Jaipur is then dryhopped with a relatively small addition (compared to the flame out hops) of Chinook and Centennial, while the fermentation is still pretty vigorous, the duration of the dryhops is 3 days and then the beer is crash cooled when it is about 2 points above final gravity, it is then held cold for a short period before being racked into casks. Auxillary finings is added in the fermenter/racking tank and then isinglass is added to the cask.

So what makes Jaipur so good compared to IPA’s being knocked out by other breweries? From the day I spent at the Hall brewery it was obvious that are not doing anything massively different to other breweries i have seen, they certainly don’t have any big secrets – it’s simply they have a great process with attention to detail and they use the best, freshest ingredients it’s possible to get, including the use of high quality liquid yeast, no US-05, Notty or US-04 in sight! I really believe this wet yeast helps to create a beer thats leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Not to mention a simple but great recipe and countless levels of QC and QA, ensuring a consistently great product.

So as a home brewer the logic next step is to brew a beer along the lines of Jaipur, and surprise surprise that is exactly what i have done, with a few differences due to what i had available, and what I know works in my brewery.

Here is what i came up with for a 50L batch size, 80% mash efficiency. Mashed at 69degC for 60 min, yeast nutrient and whirlfloc add with 15min to go in the boil. the whirlpool was for 30min after which the wort was knocked out and transferred to the fermenter, Once cooled to 18degC the wort was oxygenated at a rate of 1L per min for 90 seconds and the yeast pitched.


Amt Name Type # %/IBU
13.06 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) low colour UK (4.0 EBC) Grain 1 100.0 %
1 1 x hopshot [14.00 %] – Boil 75.0 min Hop 2 25.1 IBUs
30.00 g Chinook [12.30 %] – Boil 75.0 min Hop 3 22.1 IBUs
70.00 g Chinook [12.30 %] – Whirlpool 30min Hop 4 8.6 IBUs
60.00 g Centennial [10.00 %] – Whirlpool 30min Hop 5 6.0 IBUs
50.00 g Ahtanum [6.00 %] – Whirlpool 30min Hop 6 3.0 IBUs
20.00 g Columbus (Tomahawk) [14.00 %] – Whirlpool 30min Hop 7 2.8 IBUs
20.00 g Simcoe [13.00 %] – Whirlpool 30min Hop 8 2.6 IBUs
1.0 pkg Dry English Ale (White Labs #WLP007) [35.49 ml] Yeast 9
50.00 g Centennial [10.00 %] – Dry Hop 3.0 Days Hop 10 0.0 IBUs
50.00 g Chinook [13.00 %] – Dry Hop 3.0 Days Hop 11 0.0 IBUs

Beer Profile

Est Original Gravity: 1.056 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.056 SG
Est Final Gravity: 1.015 SG Measured Final Gravity: 1.011 SG
Measured Alcohol by Vol: 5.9 %
Bitterness: 70.1 IBUs
Est Color: 7.6 EBC

So the differences, which you have probably spotted, bittering hops I had no Magnum so just used a blend of Non isomerised CO2 hop extract and Chinook. Malt – I used Warminster malting Low Colour Marris Otter, its the closest grain I can get to Simpsons. Aroma hops are the same however i used pellets not whole flowers, this is again simply because its what I had. And for the biggest deviation – yeast, WLP007 has kind of turned into my go to yeast when brewing IPA’s with a bit more malt character, but still wanting it to finish dry, this and i had a vial in the fridge! The amount of dryhops has also been increased just to try and get about more out of them.

I had 1 x vial of WLP007 that was approximately 60% viability, I split this vial between 2 x 3L starters, then grew the yeast up on stirplates at a temp of 24degC, this resulted in approximately 900 billion cells being pitched giving a pitching rate of 1.3 million cells / ml / deg Plato, a bit of an over pitch I will admit put I do always tend to pitch a minimum of 1 million cells / ml / deg Plato as a general rule.

As the fermentation began to die down the dryhops were added for 3 days and then as I use conicals both the yeast and the dryhops were removed from the fermenter via the bottom port.

Then unfortunately at this point I was called back to work before i could force carb the beer and start drinking it! its now sat in the fermenter at 2degC waiting for my return, on the up side the beer will be bright when I get back home, and should not suffer from chill haze.

I will report back on the final beer in mid august.

And finally i would just like to say thanks to Jim, Alex and Pete for a fantastic day at the brewery.