Poor old yeast… It really is the unsung hero of brewing.
Take for example Delirium Tremens, today’s beer. The brewery shouts from the rooftops about how three different yeast strains are used in its creation - but I’ll be damned if I can find a single thing about what those actual strains are!
If it were three different types of malt, hops or even three famous monks pitching in - you can guarantee they would all be named... but yeast, nah, not a sausage.
I guess yeast gets a pretty bum rap in general thinking about it. We tend to align it stuff growing between our toes and awkward conversations with doctors following an itch somewhere you shouldn’t… but in brewing, it is arguably the most important single ingredient.
We all know that yeast is responsible for fermentation - it eats sugar and creates alcohol and co2 in the process. What we’re not generally so au fait with, is that yeast also creates phenols and esters that are super important congeners in the final flavour and aroma profile of your favourite brew.
The soft fruity profile of English ale and the fresh crunchy cloves and high attenuation in German lagers are thanks mainly to yeast. Likewise, the peppery tang of a saison, the horse saddle notes of a gueuze and the banana and pear drop aromas of a Tripel - all thanks (in the most part) to yeast!
Delirium Tremens does have a famously ester driven nose which, I have read, is supposed to speak of pears and oranges… so let’s give it a whirl!
It pours like the archetypal blonde - golden orange with a pristine white head. Good start! The nose is pristine too… and with real complexity; the ripe oranges are there, as too are some lifted isoamyl acetate notes - tropical hints of banana and pear drop but these aren’t overpowering and some bitter hop and slightly medicinal clove and rye bread notes round things out nicely. The palate is really full, as befitting the ABV, and all the notes on the nose are there in spades with a an interesting interplay of green banana and citrus. In that classic Belgian style it’s both sweet and tart at the same time, and super moreish.
I’ve always shied away from the Delirium beers, perhaps more so due to the branding and perfume bottle look - but this is a cracker. There’s heaps of complexity with fruit, medicinal and vegetal elements singing together that really have me thinking the three strains of yeast have certainly done their thing.
So, next time you find yourself sipping on a brew remember, it’s not just about hops and malt - and spare a thought for that mighty micro-organism that just keeps on giving.