Author Topic: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?  (Read 1788 times)

S. cerevisiae

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I have always considered maintaining a yeast bank to be an integral part of the hobby.  A bank of pure yeast cultures was a great thing to have when I first started brewing back in the the early nineties.   Back in those days, there was no such thing as a reliable dry yeast culture, one could enumerate the Wyeast catalog on two hands, and White Labs did not exist.  Being able to plate and slant yeast made available any yeast culture for which one could obtain a non-filtered/non-pasteurized beer sample.

A question that has never crossed my mind did so this evening while subculturing one of my expensive cultures; namely, "What am I a gaining from this extra work?" That question would have been easy to answer twenty years ago.  Today, it is not so easy answer, especially after spending a summer obtaining acceptable results from dry yeast cultures.  My only justification for maintaining a yeast bank in 2014 is that plating and slanting makes available yeast strains that are not available via the home brew trade.   The culture that I subcultured this evening is one of those strains.  It is also the most box of chocolates-like culture that I have propagated thus far.  I only know its genus (Saccharomyces), species (cerevisiae), and its anonymized source (ale, England, beer).   I have absolutely no idea of how the beer is going to turn out.  Heck, I may have spent the better part of a C-note on a Whitbread B culture.

Offline ynotbrusum

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2014, 02:05:59 AM »
I have several slurries at any point in time, but that strain sounds pretty expensive to take a flyer on... your commitment to yeast knowledge here confirms to me that it is worth it...to the rest of us at least!
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Offline erockrph

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2014, 03:53:32 AM »
I think, at this point, the reason would largely be "because it's my hobby and I enjoy it". With all the craft beer out there today I could be perfectly happy drinking nothing but commercial beer. Yes, I can brew stuff I can't get commercially, but I can certainly get by without homebrewing.

In the end, I enjoy brewing. That's why I do it. That would be the main reason for keeping a yeast ranch right now as well.
Eric B.

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2014, 04:10:09 AM »
I have five other strains that cost at least as much as this strain.  Culture collection strains are very expensive when compared to mass-produced strains, but they are bargain when the fact that the culture one gets is usually propagated by a Ph.D. is factored into the equation.  The process usually involves obtaining a culture from cryostorage, propagating it in a liquid medium, plating the liquid culture, and then finally streaking a slant.

Almost all culture collection strains involve a leap of faith to some extent.  There is usually very little in the way of brewing data available in most culture collection data bases.  However, I have found a couple of gems that would have remained unused had I not requested to have them propagated.  For example, I have a culture called Copenhagen Ale.  It was isolated from a culture taken from Kongen's Byghus (Christian the IV's Brew House).  The culture was deposited in the U.C. Davis culture collection in the forties by Catherine Roberts.  Catherine Roberts was an American scientist who worked at Carlsberg Laboratories with Øjvind Winge in the forties and fifties (Øjvind is considered to be the father of yeast genetics).  I contacted Jürgen Wendland late last fall to inquire about the culture. Jürgen is in charge of yeast genetics at Carlsberg Laboratories.  He was surprised to hear of the culture because most of the brewing yeast research at Carlberg Laboratories involves lager yeast. 

The neat thing about the exchange with Jürgen was that it gave me an opportunity to inquire about a Carlsberg yeast strain that I had encountered while reading a yeast-related publication; namely, Carlsberg production strain number 244.  I had assumed that the strain was a diploid given the fact that the first pure lager yeast culture isolated at Carlsberg by Emil Hanson was a Saaz strain (Carlsberg bottom yeast No. 1), and Saaz strains at that point in time were thought to be diploids (two sets of chromosomes).  I was completely blown away when Jürgen stated that the strain was a tetraploid (4 sets of chromosomes) with aneuploidy (the total number of chromosomes is not evenly divisible by 16).  I had never heard of a tetraploid lager strain.  The members of the other family of lager yeast strains; namely, the Frohberg strains (W-34/70 is the prototypical Frohberg strain) were believed to be triploids (3 sets of chromosomes) at that point time.  What I did not know was that Jürgen was giving me information related to a study about the Saaz and Frohberg families that he and his team were in the process of publishing (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025477/).

I recently exchanged e-mail with G.G. Stewart after discovering that he deposited two Labatt ale cultures in the NCYC in 1973.  I wanted to know more about the cultures, so I Googled his name and discovered that he was still alive.  Graham was a brewing scientist at Labatt.  In the late sixties, he was tasked with identifying why Labatt's ale culture would floc prematurely.  What Graham discovered was that there were two separate non-flocculant strains in the culture that when mixed would co-flocculate (both of these strains are held by the NCYC).   Graham was kind enough to share the black and white photos from his giant colony morphology analysis of the two strains.





 
« Last Edit: October 07, 2014, 05:13:02 PM by S. cerevisiae »

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2014, 11:56:00 AM »
Nice article.  So, yes, your yeast acquisition was worth it.  I use 34/70 a lot and repitch it a few times.  Maybe I will repitch less times, since it is so inexpensive (the references to wild yeast invasions during summer months with lager beers is confirmed anecdotally by me).  Not severe infections but enough to think that multiple repitches could be problematic during summer months when there are so many things in the air....
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2014, 02:33:37 PM »
To the extent that you have unique and rare strains, I would say it is worth the effort if the benefit of having those strains exceeds the work required to maintain the bank.

In my first few years of homebrewing I wanted to keep all the yeast I ever bought so I had a large library of yeast and get better value out of a $7 pack of yeast. It was too much work for the benefit, especially as I started winnowing down the number of yeast I use in a given year. Outside of tapping the dregs of sour beers as a source for bacteria/brett, I usually only use 2-3 strains per year. Much easier to just keep three strains active for several batches and buy new packs each year. It's increasingly less valuable to bottle harvest from commercial beers because many of the new yeast distributors are obtaining their yeast that way and growing the yeast in a cleaner environment that what most of us are using.

I have a few strains that are pure from a yeast bank that are kept frozen (athough I'm not sure why I have them or what I plan on doing with them) and a few strains frozen in the usual homebrewing frozen yeast bank technique that are probably all dead at this point since I never use them.
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Offline denny

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2014, 03:36:40 PM »
I was a yeast rancher for about 5 years.  I decided in about 2005 that for me, the payoff wasn't worth the effort.  The only strain I was interested in keeping around that I couldn't buy was CL-50.  A microbiologist in the club stated keeping that, so I didn't have to.  Once Wyeast picked it up. there was no reason for either of us to do it.
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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2014, 03:46:02 PM »
I was a yeast rancher for about 5 years.  I decided in about 2005 that for me, the payoff wasn't worth the effort.  The only strain I was interested in keeping around that I couldn't buy was CL-50.  A microbiologist in the club stated keeping that, so I didn't have to.  Once Wyeast picked it up. there was no reason for either of us to do it.

And I'm glad they picked up the 50/1450. Love it !
Jon H.

Offline ibru

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2014, 04:06:36 PM »
And I'm glad they picked up the 50/1450. Love it !
[/quote]

Yup, that's a good one. I use it on over half my ales.

Bruce

S. cerevisiae

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2014, 05:00:46 PM »
I had a long conversation with Chris White at NHC about the possibility of bringing another gem that I found in the UC Davis collection into the White Labs line.  I sent a follow-up e-mail message after NHC, but never heard back from Chris.  I would love to have aseptic transfer-less access to this particular strain.

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2014, 07:12:05 PM »
I had a long conversation with Chris White at NHC about the possibility of bringing another gem that I found in the UC Davis collection into the White Labs line.  I sent a follow-up e-mail message after NHC, but never heard back from Chris.  I would love to have aseptic transfer-less access to this particular strain.
Don't give up, he has been known to accept strains from home brewers. Jeff Renner claims some involvement with getting the 833 and 022 into White Labs.
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Offline bassmannate

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2014, 09:09:36 PM »
I was a yeast rancher for about 5 years.  I decided in about 2005 that for me, the payoff wasn't worth the effort.  The only strain I was interested in keeping around that I couldn't buy was CL-50.  A microbiologist in the club stated keeping that, so I didn't have to.  Once Wyeast picked it up. there was no reason for either of us to do it.

Everyone keeps talking about this strain and I have yet to try it. Gotta come up with something that would be tasty.

Offline kmccaf

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2014, 09:16:21 PM »
I was a yeast rancher for about 5 years.  I decided in about 2005 that for me, the payoff wasn't worth the effort.  The only strain I was interested in keeping around that I couldn't buy was CL-50.  A microbiologist in the club stated keeping that, so I didn't have to.  Once Wyeast picked it up. there was no reason for either of us to do it.

Everyone keeps talking about this strain and I have yet to try it. Gotta come up with something that would be tasty.

I would recommend one of Denny's recipes. His rye IPA, and waldo lake amber are great! Make a really nice porter as well. You can find them in the recipe wiki.
Kyle M.

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2014, 09:35:19 PM »
I was a yeast rancher for about 5 years.  I decided in about 2005 that for me, the payoff wasn't worth the effort.  The only strain I was interested in keeping around that I couldn't buy was CL-50.  A microbiologist in the club stated keeping that, so I didn't have to.  Once Wyeast picked it up. there was no reason for either of us to do it.

Everyone keeps talking about this strain and I have yet to try it. Gotta come up with something that would be tasty.

I would recommend one of Denny's recipes. His rye IPA, and waldo lake amber are great! Make a really nice porter as well. You can find them in the recipe wiki.

Yeah, I love 1450 in most American styles - Amber, Brown, Porter and Stout. Good stuff !
Jon H.

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Re: Is maintaining a yeast bank really worth the extra effort in 2014?
« Reply #14 on: October 08, 2014, 10:16:08 PM »
Brewtek CL-50 (a.k.a. Wyeast 1450) is North Coast's house yeast strain (used to make the famous Red Seal Ale).  North Coast acquired the strain from the old UC Davis culture collection.  From what I understand, Lucy and Kyria performed a major house cleaning on the old collection.  The cultures that remained in the main collection were given new accession numbers starting with the year of deposit (or the number 40 for the really old cultures).  The cultures that were culled and deposited into the secondary collection carry a the "UCD" prefix (a few cultures carry modern accession numbers from both collections).  The culture that I am planning to brew with this weekend carries an old UC Davis accession number in addition to a new accession number. 
« Last Edit: October 09, 2014, 12:29:26 AM by S. cerevisiae »