So, for the last few months, we have been embarked on an ongoing effort I refer to as "The Great Yeast Harvest".

As a brewer, there are parts of brewing that I have studied and worked to master, and then there are parts I have just taken as is. Yeast was one of the latter. Not because I did not think it was important, but in fact precisely because I thought it was SO important. Yeast are the life of the beer, and who am I to think I could successfully tinker with that? And besides, I can buy all the yeast I need at my local home brew supply store whenever I need it, so why bother trying to do anything fancy.

Now while all of that seems true enough, the real reason I never did anything with yeast was fear; fear I would screw it up, ruin a good batch of beer, waste a lot of time, etc. etc. Fear that I would fail, and My God, who needs that on their conscious?

But it turns out, more than a few times, the yeast I wanted was sold out. And of course, as luck would have it, the yeast I came to favor for my wit beirs was a special order item, which of course I always forgot about till the last minute. So, gradually, I came to appreciate the value of managing your own supply of yeast... in theory...

Then one day, for reasons we don't need to go into, I needed to make a simple pale ale, and really fast. And of course, the yeast I wanted was not available. So I took a friendly recommendation for an alternative, and marched forward. That yeast performed wonderfully, and as I reviewed my notes, with the sting of yet again not getting what I had wanted initially still fresh, I realized this light pale ale was actually just a big 5 gallon starter... and I now had, quite accidentally, generated a bountiful harvest of a newly discovered, wonderful yeast... if I just had the cojones to finish the job. And so I did.

And just like that, I had a ready supply of yeast for a wide variety of American and generally neutral style ales. And if I could do that, then why not my other favorite yeasts. So now I have high gravity, American, and Belgian yeasts, as well as two proprietary blends for a couple of our specialty beers; another belgian and a London ESB yeast are currently fermenting now.

In all cases, we have used that exact same light ale recipe, and it has been a good experience for tasting the specific contribution of the yeasts; and, in most cases, we have also added some flavors in late secondary to bring out those differences. We consider the beer we get a byproduct, as the real goal has been to build an inventory of yeast that should see us through at least a year of general brewing. And while yeasts are normally available, there is no doubt they are the most expensive part of any brewing recipe, and so this will significantly lower our operating costs over the next year. And creating a boat load of light ales over the hot Florida summer has been pretty much just what the doctor ordered. So, all in all, Win Win.

I love the fact that this hobby continues to offer opportunities for learning and growth, and look forward to the extra pride that will come from being even more involved in the process of creating these magnificent beverages.