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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Fermenting with wild yeast topic moved from intros

Hello,

I am an archivist and historian who specializes in the American Distilling Industry. I am curious if anyone here has tried to cature their local wild yeast to use in distillation.

Mike Veach


Reply:

Here is a Transcript from the Johnathan Taylor Diary at the Filson Historical Society.

Transcript from Taylor Diary circa 1820 - Filson Club

Distillery - 2 stills - one One of 110 gallons the other 70 gallons _____.

The size of the still House Twenty four feet by thirty. Six feet pitch from the floor of the tubs to the loft.

For a distillery of this kind it will require Eighteen Tubbs. One Doubling Cask 20 Gallons and four Singling Cask to contain 15 Gallons each a Cask to hold Singling with an open end to hold 70 Gallons. The Still Tubs for mashing out (aught?) to be low and it is most convenient to mash in another cool somart (somewhat?) in one two gallon piggins - one spouse buckett to hold four gallons one Yeast cann to hold two Gallons a mash stick.

The art of making whiskey in the first Place the Distiller must be an Industrous man a Cleanly Sober watchfull man _____.

To Prepare the Yeast take two Eggs which you are to break up in three pints of Tolerable warm water with a spoon full of salt Then Thicken it with Rye Mealover shorts so as it wont turn set it where it will keep about milk warm it will work in about Twenty four Hours this Yeast will do to make Bread with but for Distillery after your Water in the Stills Boils say you want to mash four tubbs put one pint of yeast to each after your Tubbs are Cooler so as to be able to bear your hand in then the yeast must be put in, it is a fact that the warmer you put in your Yeast the sooner your Beer will be ready for Stilling.

Mash one Bushel and a half in each Tubb if you have Rye to mix put corn in first & twenty Bushel of Corn make use of 24 Gallons of Scalding waterlet it stand covered up an hour then put in the malt after pouring in a small quantity of warm water from the Flakestand (?) on the top of the crust let it stand so for 20 minutes then stir it up and put in the rye meal let it stand then about one hour before you begin to stir then stir as much as possible and when you get it cool enough to bare your hand put in the yeast and in four days the beer will be ready

As you can see the method he uses for capturing yeast is very similar to what you describe. I would be very interested in knowing how your experiment turns out.

Mike Veach


Reply:Here is a Transcript from the Johnathan Taylor Diary at the Filson Historical Society.

Transcript from Taylor Diary circa 1820 - Filson Club

Distillery - 2 stills - one One of 110 gallons the other 70 gallons _____.

The size of the still House Twenty four feet by thirty. Six feet pitch from the floor of the tubs to the loft.

For a distillery of this kind it will require Eighteen Tubbs. One Doubling Cask 20 Gallons and four Singling Cask to contain 15 Gallons each a Cask to hold Singling with an open end to hold 70 Gallons. The Still Tubs for mashing out (aught?) to be low and it is most convenient to mash in another cool somart (somewhat?) in one two gallon piggins - one spouse buckett to hold four gallons one Yeast cann to hold two Gallons a mash stick.

The art of making whiskey in the first Place the Distiller must be an Industrous man a Cleanly Sober watchfull man _____.

To Prepare the Yeast take two Eggs which you are to break up in three pints of Tolerable warm water with a spoon full of salt Then Thicken it with Rye Mealover shorts so as it wont turn set it where it will keep about milk warm it will work in about Twenty four Hours this Yeast will do to make Bread with but for Distillery after your Water in the Stills Boils say you want to mash four tubbs put one pint of yeast to each after your Tubbs are Cooler so as to be able to bear your hand in then the yeast must be put in, it is a fact that the warmer you put in your Yeast the sooner your Beer will be ready for Stilling.

Mash one Bushel and a half in each Tubb if you have Rye to mix put corn in first & twenty Bushel of Corn make use of 24 Gallons of Scalding waterlet it stand covered up an hour then put in the malt after pouring in a small quantity of warm water from the Flakestand (?) on the top of the crust let it stand so for 20 minutes then stir it up and put in the rye meal let it stand then about one hour before you begin to stir then stir as much as possible and when you get it cool enough to bare your hand put in the yeast and in four days the beer will be ready

As you can see the method he uses for capturing yeast is very similar to what you describe. I would be very interested in knowing how your experiment turns out.

Mike Veach


Reply:

I look forward to hearing about your results. I know the big companies have their own yeast and they protect them constantly, but those yeast had to start somewhere as wild yeast. I would be interested in seeing if a local wild yeast makes good whiskey.

Mike Veach


Reply:I look forward to hearing about your results. I know the big companies have their own yeast and they protect them constantly, but those yeast had to start somewhere as wild yeast. I would be interested in seeing if a local wild yeast makes good whiskey.

Mike Veach


Reply:

Rich,

Thanks for the information. I knew that there were many strands of wild yeast, but did not realise that it was quite that many. I always thought the count was closer to 10 or 12. It would still be interesting to experiment with this process.

I have seen many historical documents with mash bills and such and I am curious as to what this whiskey would taste like. Part of that taste would be from the local yeast. I know several people that can tell from smell alone whether the yeast is right or not, so I would imagine that the same skill could be used to tell if the wild yeast was right or not as well. I often wondered if the best distillers in the early 19th century were simply the one with the best sense of smell and could tell when something was not right.

Now here is another question - if you have some wild yeast and placed in some backset, would that help make it more like the ones used before by killing off some of the variants?

Mike Veach


Reply:

I learned just last night that Herradura Tequila uses wild yeast in much the same way as Belgian brewers. Herradura has been in the same location, in the same building, for 150 years. The distillery is surrounded by agave fields. After they cook the agave, they simply fill the fermenters with the juice and wait. They don't add any yeast but just allow the yeast living there in the atmosphere to do its thing. They don't get variable results because they've been doing fermentation there for so long that all of the yeast in the local atmosphere is "theirs." At least that's how I interpret it. They do about a 4-day fermentation, similar to most bourbon makers.


Reply:Now here is another question - if you have some wild yeast and placed in some back-set, would that help make it more like the ones used before by killing off some of the variants?

Mike Veach


Reply:

The technology exists today to take those old yeasts (even if they're dead) and bring them back to life. If their DNA hasn't degraded it's pretty easy to replicate. And yeast spp. have been extensively studied being one the first living organisms to have their DNA fully analyzed.

You're probably not far off from the time when you could call Lavalin or Wyeast etc. and order a custom made yeast for a reasonable fee. "Yes, a yeast with hints of orange and coriander and a delicate smoky undertone suitable to 14% abv in a sugar wash." The DNA sequencing capabilities are all there. It's just a matter of cost.