Author Topic: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew  (Read 1573 times)

Offline erockrph

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Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« on: January 17, 2012, 02:34:06 PM »
I'm about to crack into my 1986-Vintage Thomas Hardy Ale and I'm wondering if it's possible to harvest any usable yeast from the leftover (26-year old) sediment. Does anyone have a link to a step-by-step procedure for this? If I do get any usable yeast, is there any way to be able to store it long-term? I'm just starting out homebrewing now at a really basic level (partial-boil extract with dry yeast/no starter), but it seems like a waste if I don't at least try to save this yeast and stash it away for later use.
Eric B.

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Online Joe Sr.

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2012, 02:41:49 PM »
Yes.  You can do this, though it will likely be more difficult with an older stronger beer like a 1986 Thomas Hardy.

Leave the sediment in the bottle.  Dose the bottle with a small amount (maybe 4 oz.) of weak wort to start waking up the yeast.  Shake it to aerate it and cover it loosely with tin foil.

Give it 24 hours and add another small amount of wort.  Shake, cover and wait.  Next step would be to decant it into a larger vessel with more wort.  Ideally this would be on a stir plate, but that's not required.

Continue stepping it up until you have a usable amount.  Pour some off and taste it at some point in the process to make sure it's good yeast (ie. not sour or otherwise infected).

I've had luck with this process with commercial beers.  It is not fool proof, but it will work more often than not.
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Offline beer-geek

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2012, 06:15:51 PM »
Twenty-six years in a high-alcohol environment is a long time to expect a yeast to survive.  One of the oldest yeasts recovered from beer (that I'm aware of) is almost 200 years old; but the bottle of beer was at the bottom of the English Channel, a very cool place for the yeast to remain dormant. 

If your bottle has been in a similarly very cool location for 26 years, there may be a chance to recover something, and Joe Sr.'s technique is the way to go.  The only thing I would add to his plan would be to flame or sanitize the opening of the bottle/fermenting vessels to reduce the liklihood of contamination.

If you are not successful at capturing the yeast, use a modern alternative.  Thomas Hardy Ales have been a passion for me for the last 20 years or so, and I have worked on making a clone of this beer for just as many years.  As unorthodox as it may sound, my literature search and brewing experience has shown that Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian Lager) yeast works well in a Thomas Hardy clone.  Pitch the wort on the yeast cake from a prior batch of beer, and ferment at ALE temperatures, not lager temperatures.  The esters given off by this strain of yeast at ale temperatures fit very well with the aroma and flavor profiles found in the Eldridge Pope era Thomas Hardys.

Good Luck!

Kevin

Online Joe Sr.

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2012, 08:14:51 PM »
I just happen to have Bavarian lager yeast in a starter right now....
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Offline mrbowenz

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2012, 10:28:31 PM »
Twenty-six years in a high-alcohol environment is a long time to expect a yeast to survive.  One of the oldest yeasts recovered from beer (that I'm aware of) is almost 200 years old; but the bottle of beer was at the bottom of the English Channel, a very cool place for the yeast to remain dormant. 

If your bottle has been in a similarly very cool location for 26 years, there may be a chance to recover something, and Joe Sr.'s technique is the way to go.  The only thing I would add to his plan would be to flame or sanitize the opening of the bottle/fermenting vessels to reduce the liklihood of contamination.

If you are not successful at capturing the yeast, use a modern alternative.  Thomas Hardy Ales have been a passion for me for the last 20 years or so, and I have worked on making a clone of this beer for just as many years.  As unorthodox as it may sound, my literature search and brewing experience has shown that Wyeast 2206 (Bavarian Lager) yeast works well in a Thomas Hardy clone.  Pitch the wort on the yeast cake from a prior batch of beer, and ferment at ALE temperatures, not lager temperatures.  The esters given off by this strain of yeast at ale temperatures fit very well with the aroma and flavor profiles found in the Eldridge Pope era Thomas Hardys.

Good Luck!

Kevin

Kevin, are you referring to Flag Porter?, I have successfully cloned that strain from a modern bottle ( a clone of a clone, if you will ) , and your advice is solid as gold, as I have seen this advice somewhere else on the internets..
To the OP, this is an ambitious endeavor as a new brewer, but try it , you may be successful & with the best of luck !
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2012, 11:11:32 PM »
Kevin, are you referring to Flag Porter?, I have successfully cloned that strain from a modern bottle ( a clone of a clone, if you will ) , and your advice is solid as gold, as I have seen this advice somewhere else on the internets..
To the OP, this is an ambitious endeavor as a new brewer, but try it , you may be successful & with the best of luck !
Really?  I was under the impression the beer was either pasteurized or filtered.  If it can be cultured, I need to get my hands on a bottle :)
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Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2012, 12:09:25 PM »
Also make sure you're EXTREMELY clean/sanitary with the whole process. Sanitize the bottle before opening, sanitize the bottle opener, don't let the bottle sit open any longer than absolutely needed, etc. You're culturing up what may be a few yeast cells and a few cells of contaminating yeast/bacteria will be cultured up along with them.
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Offline anje

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2012, 11:13:52 AM »
Also make sure you're EXTREMELY clean/sanitary with the whole process. Sanitize the bottle before opening, sanitize the bottle opener, don't let the bottle sit open any longer than absolutely needed, etc. You're culturing up what may be a few yeast cells and a few cells of contaminating yeast/bacteria will be cultured up along with them.
Indeed.  If you have the equipment to work with solid media, it might be worth plating and isolation streaking after a short revival time.  Then you can try to pick the isolated yeast colonies separate from any obviously contaminating bacteria.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2012, 12:31:57 PM »
Indeed.  If you have the equipment to work with solid media, it might be worth plating and isolation streaking after a short revival time.  Then you can try to pick the isolated yeast colonies separate from any obviously contaminating bacteria.
You can also just dump the dregs directly on a plate and grow it from there.  It's worked for me in the past.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline mtnrockhopper

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2012, 06:54:54 AM »
Indeed.  If you have the equipment to work with solid media, it might be worth plating and isolation streaking after a short revival time.  Then you can try to pick the isolated yeast colonies separate from any obviously contaminating bacteria.
You can also just dump the dregs directly on a plate and grow it from there.  It's worked for me in the past.

What do you use for media? Petri dishes would be a fun addition to the kitchen.
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Offline tschmidlin

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2012, 10:45:18 AM »
Indeed.  If you have the equipment to work with solid media, it might be worth plating and isolation streaking after a short revival time.  Then you can try to pick the isolated yeast colonies separate from any obviously contaminating bacteria.
You can also just dump the dregs directly on a plate and grow it from there.  It's worked for me in the past.

What do you use for media? Petri dishes would be a fun addition to the kitchen.
They are generally 2% glucose YPD . . . but you can use up to 3% DME with some agar and a little yeast nutrient and it will work well.  MB Raines has some recipes on this page, you can add agar to any of them to make plates.

Another option is to buy pre-poured plates - morebeer used to have them but I'm not seeing them on their site now.
Tom Schmidlin

Offline erockrph

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Re: Saving yeast from bottle-conditioned brew
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2012, 06:30:35 AM »
Thanks for all the feedback guys. We cracked into the Thomas Hardy last night. Smelled great, tasted like a vinaigrette  :(

Needless to say I didn't try to save the yeast. But since I already had the wort ready I pitched the dregs from a Dogfish Head Squall IPA to it. I'm never one to turn down the chance for a little microbiology experiment. Can't wait to see how it turns out.
Eric B.

Finally got around to starting a homebrewing blog: The Hop Whisperer