A couple recent posts from Nate have dealt with the nature of consistency in brewing. The first article addressed the need for consistency in the brewing process if one is to become a good brewery. More recently, another post stressed how inconsistency can make for a better beer experience.
Both articles make great points, and I wouldn’t want to detract from the fundamentals of what Nate is expressing. However, there is a certain type of inconsistency that I find intriguing. The type of of inconsistency that is on my mind is the type that comes from serial re-pitching. Actually, I think “inconsistency” isn’t a particularly just term for describing this practice. In fact, I would call it continual development.
Yeast is a living organism. In a sense, it has a mind of its own and responds differently to different situations. I could, for instance, have the exact same yeast strain pitched at the same gravity of a brew with the same temperature and get a slightly different brew. Volumes of wort (and hydrostatic pressure from that) can have an effect on the yeast as well. However, let’s not forget that yeast is living. It’s one thing to get yeast from a yeast bank and pitch it, in a sense, tabula rasa. Yet, it’s quite another when you use that same yeast time and again.
Remember, the unique and pure strains that we use today are the results of serial re-pitching. They developed and evolved over time. This is not simply a historical phenomenon. For instance, Chico Ale yeast is used as a basic ale yeast in many places across the U.S. to develop a house strain/character. Why? The conditions and type of brew-houses are different enough that the strain takes on its own type of meaning within a different context.
So, philosophically speaking, consistency can be inhibitive to evolution and revolution. Consistency can be really good, but it can also be a bit uninteresting.