You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

Dry yeast has come a long, long way in the past decade, and there are now good dry yeast choices for most broad classes of beer.

Dave Carpenter Oct 25, 2015 - 4 min read

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby Primary Image

I love to use dry yeast. It’s one of the ten essentials I keep on hand for every brew day. Yes, there are certain beer styles for which I always insist upon liquid strains, but a great many recipes are well-suited to dry yeast. And in the event of an emergency, it could very well save your beer.

It used to be the case that brewers who preferred dry yeast were severely limited in their choices. This is still true in a strictly numerical sense because manufacturing dry yeast is more technically complex than propagating liquid strains. So liquid cultures will probably always outnumber dry products. But stylistically speaking, there are now good dry yeast choices for most broad classes of beer.

  • Fermentis Safale US-05 and Danstar BRY-97 work well for most clean, hoppy American ales.
  • Fermentis Safale S-04 is a great all-around British strain that delivers classic esters with superb flocculation.
  • Danstar Nottingham offers a clean balance of malt and hops and is highly attenuative.
  • Danstar Belle Saison produces those phenolic notes so critical to saison and, given enough time, could probably ferment a compact car.
  • Fermentis Saflager W-34/70 is the renowned Weihenstephan 34/70 lager yeast, the most widely used such strain in the world.

Now, when it comes to most Belgian styles, German wheat beer, and any style whose yeast character is critical to its flavor profile (e.g., Heady Topper’s Conan strain or Crooked Stave’s many variations on Brettanomyces), selecting the right liquid culture is generally the best option. But dry yeast strains offer several advantages that make them worthy of consideration.

  • Most dry strains cost less than their liquid counterparts. The price difference is less than what it used to be, but it’s still real.
  • They exhibit excellent storage properties and maintain good cell viability for months, or even years when refrigerated.
  • They’re less likely to suffer when subjected to poor storage conditions in transit.
  • Dry yeast products have everything needed for a healthy fermentation built right in. Wort oxygenation is not strictly required, though many of us do so anyway out of habit.
  • There’s no need to prepare a yeast starter in advance. If more cells are needed, simply use a second sachet. This is particularly convenient for lager fermentation.

Liquid yeast will always have its place in my home brewery (you can have my Wyeast 1469 and White Labs WLP835 when you pry them from my clean, sanitized hands), but dry yeast has come a long, long way in the past decade. If nothing else, keeping a couple of packets in the refrigerator offers cheap insurance if, say, you forget to make a yeast starter.

Not that I’d know anything about that…

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