Disclaimer: Even if you are not a homebrewer, this article is still worth reading, as it may improve your knowledge of beer and the flavors within.
As Mike has stated before, ascertaining good information on a given yeast strain is hard to find
. Yes, one can search around on homebrewing forums; however, I find such tools difficult to navigate and the information is often faulty.
Choosing a yeast is one of the most important steps in the building of a recipe, in my opinion. The microscopic creatures created chemicals that are often identical to those found in fruits and other natural products and thus have drastic influence on the outcome of beer. In building the recipe for my recently brewed Sour Belgian Double India Pale Ale, I chose Wyeast’s Trappist, 3787. I have used this beer before and appreciate the flavors it excretes while devouring my sugary wort. While this yeast comes in a smack pack (there is a little bit of a starter in the package, that when ruptured begins fermentation) I made a liter starter to grow the strain before pitching into my wort.
This strain is used for classic Belgian beers: Dubbels, Trippels, Biere De Garde, Belgian Strong Ales, Nate’s Homebrew. I ended up choosing this over other similar strains because it does not create much iso-amyl acetate, which is that classic banana flavor. I just did not think this would pair well with my hop choices. This strain does produce a lot of esters; in fact, the starter, which was nothing more than a pale malt extract, was full of redolent apricot, peach, and grape aromas. If you want a fruity, drier beer with hints of clove, this strain is a good choice.
Wyeast’s states that this beer has a highest attenuation of 78%. My brews original gravity was 1.082 while final gravity 1.018, which is an attenuation percentage of 78.04%. That is .04% higher than the “cap” and it was still fermenting. I pulled the beer out of primary fermentation even though there was moderate fermentation happening because I was pleased with the flavor. Knowing that I was still going to dry hop the beer, I wanted enough residual sweetness for balance.
If you don’t see any signs of active fermentation within the first 36 hours, be patient. This strain is a slow starter. It took a good 30 hours for regular bubbling in my airlock to occur, and even then it was not a violent fermentation. Helpful hint: Having used this strain before, I was prepared to keep the yeast warm. The yeast can putter out if it ferments much below 65 degrees. I tried to keep the temp around 72 degrees. Comparing the two brews, the higher the temp, the more fruity characteristics.
Be patient with this yeast. It is slow, but steady. To speed things up, adding a few additions of wort throughout the fermentation process will help, as the manufacturer suggests. In my opinion, the yeast takes longer to settle than other strains, and you may want to go beyond just secondary fermentation, as I did. The flavor is outstanding. You won’t be blown away with spice, as other Belgian strains tend to do. As I said, I cut this beer off at 9% for flavor purposes; however, in the past I have have achieved just under 11% ABV.
Good beer geekery, Nate! I’m starting to orient myself to the brewing process in preparation for starting to homebrew, and stuff like this is priceless. I can actually follow this, which would have been a challenge for me just a few weeks ago. Perhaps that a good sign that a little brewing knowledge is beginning to ferment in my brain!
Please keep this stuff coming, as I have lots to learn and you have lots to share.
@Jim, We’re working on our second homebrewing series right now. I’m hoping to start getting some of those done this week. I’m glad you are learning.
Thanks Jim…that’s quite a compliment!