Picking out ale yeast strains can be a daunting task give that there are hundreds available. As a brew you can choose an ale yeast based on a number of characteristics that you are looking to achieve. One of the first considerations for home brewers is whether to use dry or liquid yeast.
There are countless liquid yeasts available on the market. While there are lots of options available, they all suffer from two major drawbacks. Fresh yeast need to remain cold and dormant. Refrigeration during shipping and storage is a must. Liquid yeast also costs substantially more than its dry counterparts.
Dry yeast has come a long ways in the past decade. Where there were once only a few choices available, now there are plenty. Though dry yeast is cost effective and more resilient than liquid yeast, it doesn’t have depth of options available that liquid yeast does.
After deciding use either liquid or dry yeast, the next step is to find a yeast that meets the style guidelines of your specific brew. Consider the below examples that are standout yeasts when used correctly.
Standard All Purpose – Safale US-05 by Fermentis
Safeale US-05 is a dry yeast that is capable creating a large array of delicious ales. This ale yeast strain creates a clean and crisp ale. US-05 flocculates well and drops out of suspension leaving a clean and clear beer remaining. This yeast can handle medium levels of alcohol, reaches 81% attenuation, and handles a wide range of fermentation temperatures (64-82F). This yeast is readily available and at one of the lowest costs of any yeast on the market.
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Fast Fermenting – WLP090 San Diego Super Strain by White Labs
The San Diego Super Strain is a quick and clean ale liquid yeast. This yeast ferments out fast with fair attenuation and high flocculation. Basically it does what it needs to, does it quickly, and leaves little trace behind. WLP090 is a clean fermenting yeast that complements an array of styles with low esters and high alcohol tolerance. This strain performs best under a very specific range of temperatures, 65-68F.
High Gravity – B63 Monastic by Imperial
Monastic is one of multiple high gravity ale yeast strains from Imperial Yeast. It is a liquid yeast that is used in abbey ales and Belgian beers. This strain prefers temperatures on the warmer side between 68F and 78F. You can expect high levels of phenols and esters. B63 Monastic has up to 78% attenuation and low flocculation. This means the yeast will remain in suspension for a long period of time before dropping out.
English Style – 1028 London Ale by Wyeast
London Ale provides the body and flavor to your English style beer. This liquid yeast produces some fruitiness but is often referred to as crisp and rich in flavor. It works in a wide variety of temperatures from 60F to 72F. This is one of many ale yeast strains that provide a unique English flavor but its temperature tolerance makes it versatile. 1028 London Ale has low to medium flocculation and attenuation. This results in a somewhat malty brew that could benefit from clarifying if your style dictates. London Ale can handle fermenting up to 11% alcohol.
(Learn more about clarifying your home brew by reading Six Ways to Increase Homebrew Clarity)
Juicy – A38 Juice by Imperial
The name says it all! This yeast brings out the juicy and fruity characteristics that you’re looking for in an East Coast IPA. A38 Juice highlights the fruity characteristics of the hops and makes them all work in juicy harmony. This strain is a strong fermenter and is known for causing many fermentation eruptions. I would recommend you use a blow off tube instead of an airlock with this and other strong ale yeast strains. Juice can handle temperatures between 64F and 74F while achieving medium flocculation and attenuation. This is a go to yeast for the popular juicy style of IPAs.
(Using a Stainless Steel Blow Off Tube is a great way to contain a serious fermentation. I make a small percentage of this sale to keep the lights on!)
Kolsch – WLP029 German Ale / Kolsch Yeast by White Labs
The WLP029 Kolsch Yeast from White Labs was originally cultivated in Germany for Kolsch style beers. You can now get this imported strain for style specific Kolsch brewing. This lager like ale creates a clean finishing fermented product that highlights hops while keeping sulfur tastes that will go away with conditioning to a minimum. WLP029 prefers temperatures between temperatures between 65F and 69F. This creates an environment that promotes attenuation of up to 78, medium flocculation, and alcohol tolerance of up to 10%.
Stout – 1450 Denny’s Favorite 50 Ale by Wyeast
Denny’s Favorite 50 Ale is a favorite ale strain of many home brewers. It’s versatile and adapts well to many different styles. When used in a stout or another style of dark ale, Denny’s really shines. 1450 can show off the big malt, caramel, and toffee flavors of your beer coming off as cloying. This strain has a very low flocculation and medium attenuation. It prefers to ferment between 60F and 70F. 1450 Denny’s Favorite 50 Ale can handle alcohol levels of up to ten percent. This unique strain is perfect for highlighting malty, toasty, and roastly.
IPA – WLP075 Hansen Ale Yeast Blend by White Labs
WLP075 Hansen Ale Yeast Blend is a favorite of many hop-heads. Many different ale yeast strains can create a good IPA. Hansen’s strain creates a dry end product that accentuates the hop characteristics present. This strain can even be used in high gravity IPAs and DIPAs with an alcohol tolerance of up to 15%. Hansen’s Ale Yeast Blend reaches a high level of attenuation and flocculation. This yeast strain has an optimum fermentation temperature range of 66F – 70F. Look to this instead of other ale yeast strains when looking to create a showstopping, hop forward India Pale Ale.
Picking from these and the many ale yeast strains on the market can be a monumental task. First I would consider whether I wanted to purchase dry or liquid yeast. After making that decision, I then weigh how much the yeast will factor into the style of beer I’m wanting to brew.
For example, US-05 will make a great IPA. Depending on my budget and goals, I may choose US-05 over the WLP075 Hansen Ale Yeast Blend. However, if I’m using expensive and delicate hops like Galaxy or Mosaic, I would spring for the WLP075. When making a NEIPA, the style dictates using a yeast that leaves a juicy result. So in this case, using A38 Juice is a must.
I always suggest having US-05 on hand. It can be used to make countless styles of beer. It also helps to have incase of a stuck fermentation or if your pitched yeast isn’t alive and well. Then as a brewer you need to make a decision of a specialty yeast strain is necessary to create your final product and if you want to pay for liquid yeast.
The climate in your individual area should play a factor into your buying decision. Shipping yeast rarely turns out well in hot climates. Also, if you have a local home brew store with liquid yeast you may be more willing to use it. Either way, experiment and try new things. If all else fails, add some US-05 to your fermenter and you’ll still get a beer!