As I’ve mentioned before, it’s sometimes hard to find good information about a given strain of yeast.  I experienced this a great deal with one of the White Lab yeasts that I used (I plan on writing about it when the beer is done).  We’ve decided to take on this topic by writing an evaluation of particular strains we’ve used to brew.  Our experience will hopefully be the gateway for more discussion, understanding, and knowledge about yeast usage within the context of homebrewing.  At any rate, I decided to kick off the series with a fairly common yeast with the hopes of hearing some additional input.

I’m still working out a “template” for the information that will best answer a range of questions.  Hopefully, this is a good start.

Yeast Type: Wyeast 1028 London Ale Yeast.

This was one of the so-called “smack packs.”  The thing that I really like about these smack packs is that you can see that you have a healthy yeast going by watching the pack swell.  Normally, three to six hours prior to use is a good period of time to activate the pack.  I’ve personally had great success with this strain using the smack pack; I always get a healthy pack and start.

Yeast Uses: The most common uses for this strain type are porters and stouts.  As the manufacturer suggests, milds, old ales, and barley wines are also acceptable styles for this yeast.  More often than not, the brewer who uses this strain may be looking for a drier and more mineral oriented beer vs. a fruitier and less attenuated style.

Yeast Attenuation: The manufacturer gives a 73-77% attenuation (thinning down) level, which is essentially to say that the yeast will ferment up to 77% of the wort.  I found my beer to be right in the middle of this range at 75% attenuation.  My starting gravity was 1.087 and my final was 1.022.  Bear in mind that I also had lactose, malto-dextrine, and coconut, all of which are not fermentables in my wort.  This accounts for the 1.022 final gravity.  There is no reason to suspect that I might not have achieved 80% attenuation (or more).  Be that as it may, the beer easily reached the 8.5% ABV mark (or right in that range), with most of that coming in the first 24 hours.

Yeast Lag: With some yeast strains, a very long lag time can occur (which is actually why I started this series).  This strain is robust and does not usually have a long yeast respiration cycle.  Once I put in the contents of my smack pack and closed the fermenter, I saw signs of CO2 pressure within 4 hours.  Within 6, I saw active bubbling.  Within 8, yeast activity had drastically increased.  I’ve found this strain to be a consistent and robust performer, always showing a good and active start within 12 hours.  As with any yeast, give yourself a solid 18-24 hours before you worry excessively.  However, my experience has led me to believe that any more than 12-16 hours of lag for this strain may be problematic.  Always check “smack pack” dates when purchasing, and store properly.

Overall Performance: The limit that the manufacturer gives for alcohol tolerance on this yeast is 10%. Normally, a starter is recommended for gravities above 1.070.  However, I opted not to make a starter and still easily achieved 8.5%.  If you are aiming for the 10% ABV, then a starter may be a good idea.  Seeing as how I did not push the boundaries of this yeast this time, it’s difficult to say what the yeast limits actually are. However, about a year ago, I did achieve an 11% ABV with this strain using a 1/3 gallon starter and no yeast nutrients.  I see no reason why one couldn’t possibly achieve a slightly higher level with a larger starter, especially if yeast nutrients were used.