Less is more. Keep it simple. Don’t gild the lily. The better the fish, the lighter the sauce. There seems to be no end of proverbs (clichés?) that advise us to avoid overcomplication, and I’m going to add one to the list: fewer is better, at least when it comes to yeast strains in a brewery.
Flip through any book of recipes or prowl around the archives of beer recipes on beerandbrewing.com, and you’ll find a riot of yeast strains listed. Just one major yeast purveyor in the United States offers (currently) about six dozen different strains of brewing yeasts and bacteria year-round, not counting specialty and one-off and seasonal strains. A brewer—professional or home—could be forgiven for feeling a bit overwhelmed, and I’m writing today to pitch (pun intended) a simpler message: fewer yeasts, better beer.
I don’t mean less yeast—this isn’t about pitching rates. I mean fewer strains of yeast in your recipes. Rather than choosing a singular, must-have strain for each recipe and style, like a wine snob who just can’t drink that 2003 Syrah out of anything except a Bordeaux glass, my argument is that you’d be better served and produce better beer by choosing from a curated selection of go-to yeasts that are capable of fermenting a wide range of recipes within broad style categories. Simplify your lives with just five yeasts. Improve your beer by knowing intimately what those yeasts tolerate, produce, and taste like. Fewer yeasts, better beer.