Brewery visitors are frequently asking what makes a Belgian-style beer a Belgian-style beer. We think the answer is simple: it’s in the yeast.
Belgian yeasts are ale yeasts, (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), that generally leave beers dry, with lots of phenols and esters. Phenols and esters are chemical compounds that give the beer a complex bouquet of flavors, often fruity, spicy, and/or earthy. Most phenols and esters are produced during fermentation, while the yeast is metabolizing the sugars in the beer. Fermentation temperatures have a large impact on the intensity and diversity of phenols and esters, and that’s where good brewers are separated from great brewers. Belgian yeasts are dynamic, and require constant attention, like babies.
At Adelbert’s we use three yeast blends to make all of our beers:
Trappist–Tripel B, Flyin’ Monks, Dancin’ Monks, Black Rhino
Ardennes–Scratchin’ Hippo, Travelin’ Man
Wit/Saison blend–Naked Nun, Philosophizer
The Trappist yeast puts off a massive range of fruity flavors, and is pretty difficult to work with because the yeast stays in suspension longer than other strains, which clouds the beer. Because our beers are not filtered or centrifuged, we let them sit in the tanks longer than most other breweries. This allows most of the yeast to settle out at the bottom of the fermenter; however, some stays in the beer, which adds flavor, and helps with bottle conditioning.
The Wit/Saison blend brings forward notes of spices, with a mild tartness.
The Ardennes is the cleanest of the three, and probably the least recognizable because it tends to play up the flavors of the malt and hops more than it introduces flavors of its own. In the Travelin’ Man, the yeast pushes the floral side of the hops, cutting some of the bitterness without neutralizing the hop character completely. In Scratching hippo, it plays up the malt profile.
We take very good care of our yeast, and often use a strain for many generations before having to refresh with a new pitch. When a beer is finished with its primary fermentation, we pull yeast from the bottom of the conical fermenter, and put it into our propagator, where fresh wort is introduced, and the yeast colony is grown to be pitched into a fresh batch the following day.
Our beers are proof that if you take care of yeast, it will take good care of you.