Off-Grid Yeast Ranching Revolution

Say goodbye to beer out of a can, American brewers are now experimenting with wild yeast in their beers! From Brett and other wild strains, brewers are pushing the boundaries of craft beer styles. Brave new brewers like Dmitri Serjanov are meeting this new demand for wild yeast off the grid with a new concept: Yeast Ranching. Get ready to make your taste buds go wild.

Yeast Ranching: Wrangling Wild Yeast and Other Microorganisms, Off the Grid

In their quest to push the boundaries of brewing and redefine craft beer styles, American brewers are deep into experimenting with brewing’s most fickle ingredient: wild yeast. And as demand for Brett and other wild strains skyrockets, lab geeks like Dmitri Serjanov are stepping up to meet it.

Forms of Yeast

Yeast is classified into two major forms – cultured yeast and wild yeast. Cultured yeast strains are those that have been isolated from nature through controlled laboratory processes, and are then propagated to large volumes in specialized brewing laboratories before being distributed to the market for brewing use.

Wild yeast strains, on the other hand, are naturally occurring yeast organisms found in the environment, such as on the surface of fruits, grains, flowers, and even bodies of water. Although some wild yeast strains are used in brewing beers such as Lambic and Saison, they are especially difficult to duplicate in a laboratory setting and they tend to vary greatly from one region to another.

Cultured Yeast

Cultured yeast strains are preferred by most commercial brewers because they are more consistent and easier to manage. Brewers can purchase a specific yeast strain from a lab, and have a very good idea of what flavors that yeast will bring to a beer before even starting the brewing process. The same is not true for wild yeast, as every strain tends to have its own unique qualities that vary from brewery to brewery, or even from batch to batch.

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The most common type of cultured yeast used in brewing is Saccharomyces cerevisiae, also known as ale yeast. This strain is known for its ability to produce a wide range of flavors, from malty sweet to tangy tart. Brewers can also purchase various other strains of yeast, such as lager yeast, lambic yeast, and even Brettanomyces, which is used to produce sour and funky beers.

Wild Yeast

Because wild yeast strains are constantly changing and adapting to their environment, they are much harder to predict and control than cultured yeast. This unpredictability makes them a popular choice among brewers who are looking for something new and interesting, as each batch can yield an entirely different end product. Wild yeast strains are also responsible for the intense flavors of sour beers such as Lambic and Flanders Red.

The process of harvesting and culturing wild yeast is known as “yeast ranching.” This process requires brewers to sample the ambient air of a given environment, capture the wild spores, and then culture them in the laboratory in order to produce a viable strain of yeast.

Upsides of Yeast Ranching

Yeast ranching has a number of benefits over traditional brewing techniques. First and foremost, it allows brewers to capture and reproduce wild yeast strains that could otherwise only be found in their natural environment, allowing brewers to experiment with unique, regional or one-off flavors that would otherwise be unattainable. Additionally, ranching can produce a much purer strain of yeast than the wild strains found in nature, since the laboratory environment is much more controlled and sanitary.

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Yeast ranching is also much more eco-friendly, as it does not require large swaths of land to be cleared for the purpose of harvesting wild yeast spores. This means brewers can reproduce wild yeast strains without disturbing the environment or having any adverse effects on the local ecosystem.

Harvesting Wild Yeast

In order to harvest wild yeast, brewers must first isolate the spores and then culture them in the laboratory. This process typically involves a sterile environment, such as a laminar flow hood, which helps to avoid contamination from other wild microbes that may be present in the environment. Additionally, the brewer must also have a good understanding of the ambient environment where the spores are being sampled, such as the temperature, humidity and other variables that may affect the propagation of the yeast.

Once the spores have been successfully isolated, they can then be propagated in a laboratory. Depending on the strain of yeast, this may involve cultivation on agar plates or in liquid media, often with the addition of nutrients, such as minerals and vitamins, to ensure the growth of the wild yeast.

The Benefits of Yeast Ranching

Yeast ranching is becoming increasingly popular among craft brewers who

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