Rat Pack Brewing: Brewing with Kveik, Part One

Bottles of beer are illuminated to check volume levels on the bottling line at the Myanmar Carlsberg Co. plant in Nyaung Inn Village, Bago, Myanmar, on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015. Carlsberg opened the $75 million brewery in May in a joint venture with local partner Myanmar Golden Star Breweries. The expansion in Myanmar comes at a time when Europe's largest brewers are turning to far-flung parts of the world for growth opportunities as sales in their home markets contract. Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hello and welcome to the inaugural article from Rat Pack Brewing. This will be a semi-regular series of articles exploring topics in modern homebrewing and commercial brewing. The first edition of these articles is going to explore a hot topic as of late: Brewing with Kveik (pronounced kuh-vike).

Rat Pack Brewing: Brewing with Kveik

Kveik is a hot topic among home and commercial brewers alike as of late. These Scandinavian yeast strains are truly remarkable. One of the most interesting things about them is that they are POF- (phenolic off flavour negative). That means that these yeasts will not produce undesirable flavours like rubber, clove or anything of that sort. This allows those without proper temperature control to continue to brew good tasting beers.

For the sake of not being longwinded, this article will be split into multiple pieces to focus on the many strains of Kveik. The anecdotal information will also be strengthened by information gathered from the Milk the Funk wiki page and the blog from Lars Marius Garshol.

Without further adieu, let’s dive in to a few of these fantastic yeast strains.

Sigmund Gjernes Voss Strain

The Voss strain of Kveik is the most widely known and most commercially available at this point in time. Imperial Organic Yeast, Escarpment Labs, Omega Yeast Labs, and many more have isolates of their own of this yeast.

While every lab’s isolate will likely be slightly different, primarily due to the original culture containing three strains of Saccharomyces Cerivisiae, they all have similar characteristics. This particular strain has been known to ferment well above 100F/38C without producing any off flavours of any sort. This heat actually encourages ester production in this yeast, which is said to come off as orange and orange peel.

In both my own experience and just about every anecdotal and lab experience, this strain can ferment a standard gravity wort down to terminal gravity in as quickly as two to three days when pitched at the upper ends of fermentation temperature.

Another thing about this strain, and many of these Kveik strains we will talk about, is that they defy yet another note of conventional wisdom within brewers yeast: pitching rate. Homebrewers have reported smashing success, myself included, with pitching one teaspoon of healthy yeast slurry into a standard gravity five-gallon batch. This is well against all reason with other yeasts, as this would undoubtedly lead to a stressed fermentation. This level of underpitching could result in autolysis (savoury, soy sauce) and other unfavourable off flavours like dimethyl sulfide (cabbage, vegetal) and many others.

The last thing that should be said about this yeast is that you do not have to store it in a liquid slurry. The Voss strain is more than happy to be dried out for longterm storage. This makes it much easier to maintain over multiple generations and further distinguishes it from common strains of Sacc. Cerivisiae.

If you want to learn more about drying this strain and its viability over a long period of time, check out Sui Generis Brewing’s blog.

Terje Raftevold Hornindal

The Hornindal Kveik strain from Terje Raftevold is likely the second most commonly used and commercially available Kveik strain currently. This strain shares similar brewing practices as Voss, but there is major differences in the final fermentation profile.

Where Voss comes out with a ton of orange and orange rind in the aroma and flavour, Hornindal provides you with fantastic tropical fruits like mango and papaya. Some brewers also report it having a very light touch of funk.

Like Voss, this strain can ferment happily as high as 108F/42C, but according to the Kveik registry from Larsblog, the optimal pitching temperature is 86F/30C. The major difference in this area of performance between the two yeasts is time. Hornindal usually takes a bit longer than Voss to take off. Hornindal also takes slightly longer to finish out, albeit much quicker than conventionally-used Sacc. Cerivisiae strains.

This strain, as mentioned above, is also widely available for purchase at both the commercial and homebrewing level. Omega Yeast Labs and Escarpment Yeast Labs are the two main suppliers with is year-round.

Rundown

We could go on endlessly about the interesting information about both of these strains (we will in the future), but part one comes to an end here. These strains are the hot new thing. With the positives they bring with them, they are unlikely to go away any time soon.

As stated above, you can visit Larsblog for more of the backstory of these strains, the kveik registry on the same site for basic information and links, Milk the Funk for a massive amount of information and links and the Escarpment Labs Blog for more information on these fantastic “new” yeast strains.

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