Yeast Ranching notes

These are some notes I took when the owner/brewer of the soon-to-be-opened Kelsey Creek Brewing gave a seminar on yeast ranching to some members of the Lake County Homebrewers club.


To grow and cultivate (aka “ranch”) yeast you want clean clear wort with the trub precipitated out to mix with agar to put on the petri dishes. You will also need inoculation loops and  inoculation needles.

Required for yeast ranching:


Sprinkle agar over the top of the cooled wort. Do not dump the agar rather sprinkle in around (7g/250ml). No need to stir. Sanitation is not critical yet, since it will go into a pressure cooker which serves as an autoclave. Be sure to add nutrient to your wort.
After it has been used, every time you touch something in the pressure cooker you spray it with isopropyl 70 alcohol.

Pour the agar & wort solution using the “pacman” technique
Make sure the agar sets up ~45min before flipping over to lessen the condensation

Place a drop of diluted yeast solution on the dish with the agar. Then remember the spot and drop sterile saline on the yeast’s spot.

Then use the needle to drag the drop to streak it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Nice to haves:

  • Hemocytometer (local veterinary offices may have these lying around)
  • microscope

To check yeast viability a bulb flask is used (9 ml of sterile and 1 ml of yeast and 1 drop of methylene blue) and .0001 ml of of solution is placed on hemocytometer slide



This week on Brew Disasters: House Pale Ale

English: Bathams brewery Mash tun, the spent m...

Aftermash. Spent grain being spaded out of mash tun. (Image via Wikipedia)

This week on Brew Disasters we’re brewing a totally new and untried recipe (at least by us at Batch-22). We’ve got the recipe for a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale clone from the Beverage People (I immediately changed the hops, so don’t blame them; blame me for the recipe) that we want to enter in Beer-vana. With entries due in only four weeks, we’re under the gun. [Queue theme song]

The recipe:

Two-Row Malt  9lb 0oz
Caramel 40L Malt  8.00 oz
Carapils (Dextrin) Malt  8.00 oz
Ahtanum  1.00 oz  60 Min From End
Ahtanum  1.00 oz  30 Min From End
Cascade  1.00 oz  10 Min From End
Cascade  1.00 oz  1 Min From End

Original specific gravity ~ 1.048-1.052

ABV ~5%, IBU ~ 40

I also am subbing a Wyeast 2007-Pilsen Lager for the White Labs WLP001-California Ale since the basement temps are around 52F, darned near ideal for lagers.

I’m still working to find a good house pale ale recipe. Or, perhaps, I have had good pale ale recipes and have had poor execution. These are my brewing notes from yesterday.

For this all-grain recipe, I chose to batch sparge, so the maximum amount of  sugars could be extracted from the 10 pound grain bill. The goal was to have about 8 gallons of wort with a specific gravity of 1.036-1.042 before beginning the boil. After the boil the goal was pale ale wort with an original gravity of 1.048-1.052.

And, I wanted to mash and sparge with equal amounts of water.

The grain will soak up a percentage of the water and hold onto it. So, I started there.
The formula for water loss due to grain absorption is 0.13gal H2O/lb x grain bill (1.3 gal/lb x 10 lb  = 1.3 gallons. If I wanted 8 gallons I needed to start with 9.3 gallons of hot liquor (liquor in brewing terminology is water plus any needed amendments e.g., gypsum).

Next, I decided on how much water to grain I wanted in the mash. I picked 1.5 qt H2O per pound of grain. 10.00 lb x 1.5 qt/lb = 15.00 qt = 3.75 gallons H2O

I heated a tad over 5 gallons (3.75gal + 1.3gal = a tad of 5 gal) to 163F for the mash water. I heat 5+ gallons to 163F (10F above the mash temperature desired), and then “doughed-in” the milled grain (your local homebrew store can help you mill the grain so that it’s not too fine).

After I doughed in making a grain soup,  the temperature was 136F and not 153F. A drop of 27F, and not 10F. So much for rules of thumb. Since I use a keggle with a hand-made false bottom for mashing, I lit the burner under the keggle and set the burner to a low flame (to minimize caramelizing the wort. NOTE: don’t try this if you use an ice chest to mash) and began recirculating wort to equalize the temperature within. Once the mash reached 153F, it sat for an hour to allow the enzymes present on the malted barley to break down the grain’s starches into simpler sugars that beer yeast can digest. After the hour, recirculated wort (Vorlaufed in beer-geek speak) until it ran without bits of grain in it.  I heated the mash up to 168F. Once in the 168F ballpark, I drain into boil pot and measure output (I also put a wire mesh between the bucket and the spigot to catch wayward bits of grain). I measured 3.33 gallons of output (the false bottom area still held about 3 gallons too).

I heated 2.75 gallons to 170F and added that to the grains and stirred it well so the liquor (aka hot water) would need to make new channels in the grain bed. Then it set for 10 minutes. I recirculated, drained, and measured. The two outputs added up to 8 gallons. The pre-boil gravity was a corrected 1.038. (Note: you can’t read hydrometer numbers without correcting for the temperature of the liquid. Hydrometers are calibrated to read 1.000SG in 59F water).

Once the output had been measured (8.0 gallons), it went into the boil kettle.

The wort boiled for 75 minutes. 30 minutes before flame out the wort chiller is placed into the boiling wort to sterilize it. The specific gravity at the end of the boil was 1.050. The yeast was pitched after the wort had cooled to 62F.

The Better Bottle Carboy is now in the basement and the thermal strip reads 52F. After 12 hours there is no sign yet of bubbles from the blow-off tube.

Tune in later to see if fermentation has started.

Stuck fermentation?

Carboy fermenter. Image via Wikipedia

Ten days have passed since I brewed a batch of “Hop Grenade,” an IPA. The image on the right is pretty much how my fermenter looks. After ten days, the yeast are still eating. CO2 continues to escape from the airlock. The bubbling isn’t as active as it was seven days ago, still it’s still percolating. The batch tasted pretty darn good. I detected no off-tastes.

This batch’s starting specific gravity was 1.075. It’s now at 1.030.

The recipe for this (coupled with my notes), my second batch Hop Grenade, was:
2-Row Malt, 12lb 0oz, (80.0 % by weight of grain bill)
Caramel 40L Malt, 1lb 0oz, (6.7 % by weight of grain bill)
Carapils Malt, 1lb 0oz, (6.7 % by weight of grain bill)
Corn Sugar, 1lb 0oz (6.7 % by weight of grain bill)

Input 11.0 gallons hot liquor (it’s really hot water but since it’s for making beer and we are particular about the minerals and pH of the water it’s “liquor.”)

66% conversion efficiency expected. Mash (mash is the hot porridge made by combining hot water and the milled grain) at 152F for 60 minutes. No sparge (sparging is rinsing of grain to get all of the sugary goodness).

Output 8.0 gallons wort (raw, unfermented beer)

Wort’s Pre-boil gravity: 1.051

Boil wort for 90 Minute

Hop addition Schedule:

Simcoe 0.80 oz … 60 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk) 0.80 oz  … 60 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk) 0.20 oz … 30 Min From End
Simcoe 0.20 oz  … 30 Min From End
Simcoe  0.60 oz  … 15 Min From End
Columbus(Tomahawk) 0.60 oz  … 15 Min From End
Amarillo  0.60 oz … 10 Min From End
Simcoe  0.40 oz … 1 Min From End
Amarillo  0.30 oz … Dry-Hopped
Simcoe  0.30 oz … Dry-Hopped
Citra 0.30 oz  … Dry-Hopped

The only thing I have done different from what I have done in the past was to make a yeast starter with White Labs WLP001-California Ale

So, to summarize, I have a batch of beer that indicates the yeast are actively fermenting after 10 days. The specific gravity is 1.030 (starting was 1.075). And, it tastes fine.

Have you had a similar “stuck fermentation” that kept on fermenting? What did you do?

Cloning Dogfish’s Shelter Pale Ale…

Pale Ale

Image via Wikipedia

…And making a delicious hash of it.

A while back I found a clone recipe at for a Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale. I decided that it was as close as I was getting to tasting the real thing, so I brewed it three weeks ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Simco hops for the flavoring at turn-off of heat; I subbed 0.5 oz of warrior hops instead (since didn’t have Simcoe–in the future I’ll try a 50/50 mix of chinook and Citra as a sub for Simcoe). I also first wort hopped (FWH) this batch. FWHing does not appear to make the beer more bitter than a 60-minute addition.

The Bader Brewing recipe calls for malt extract, but since I wanted to go all-grain, I subbed in 14 lbs of pale ale malt (using a 6.5 gallon outcome with 65% efficiency for the grain calculation). And, instead of using corn sugar for the bottle conditioning (carbonating the beer in the bottle), I tried a commercial method and used speise (unfermented wort).


This is a single-step infusion mash at 155º F (68º C) with 14 lbs. (4.9 kg) American pale ale malt grain, 6 oz. (.25 kg) crystal malt, 120°L grain, and 2 oz. (.17 g) amber malt, 35ºL (substitute dark Munich or carastan if needed). Sparge slowly with 175º F (79º C) water.

Mashing grains within a mesh grain bag

Collect approximately 6 gallons (27.3 L) of wort runoff. Add 0.5 oz of warrior hops to wort. Bring wort to boil for 60 minutes. Add yeast nutrient and whirfloc and wort-chiller (to sanitize) after 45 minutes of boiling.

Cool the wort to 75º F (24º C) and pitch English ale yeast. Aerate the wort. Cool to 64º F (20º C). Hold at that temperature until fermentation is complete. Bottle when final gravity has stabilized (around 1.014). Condition for 2 weeks, if you can wait that long.

Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.042 SG
Expected OG: 1.052 SG
Expected FG: 1.014 SG
Apparent Attenuation: 73.0 %
Expected ABV: 5.1 %
Expected ABW: 4.0 %
Expected IBU (using Tinseth): 32.0 IBU
Expected Color (using Morey): 9.6 SRM

Wort (the unfermented raw beer) in the boil kettle.

Beer fermenting in Better Bottle (TM) carboy. The 1/2″ blowoff tube drops into a bucket of water.

Sam Calagione explains the safe harbor idea of Dogfish Head’s Shelter Pale Ale