Whether you have dipped your toes into the complicated waters of yeast management, or experienced that moment of intrigue toward those microscopic creatures quietly responsible for beer’s existence, or (hypothetically, of course) recently finished two months of research into the subject for an upcoming All About Beer Magazine article titled “The Secret Life of Yeast,” all paths tend to lead toward similar conclusions.
Man, someone should write a book about this.
Dr. Chris White, president of White Labs and a faculty member at Siebel Institute, is way ahead of us. As a family project that started to take shape nearly five years ago, the book ultimately came together with the addition of Jamil Zainasheff (noted beer author, radio host at The Brewing Network, and head of the new Heretic Brewing Co.). The result is a comprehensive approach to the subject that manages to satisfy a broad range of readership: from casual enthusiasts, to beginning brewers, to professional ones. It also follows in the footsteps of preceding Brewers Publications releases such as Brew Like a Monk and Wild Brews by being tightly organized and (unlike a lot of other technical books) a pleasure to read.
That said, because the authors take a rather expansive, in-depth approach to exploring this mycological subject (transitioning from historical tidbits to cell biology to practical homebrewing advice to advanced yeast-lab techniques), one may find certain parts feeling like they were meant for someone else. That’s OK. Faulting it for that is sort of like being mad at your dictionary for having a bunch of words you don’t use.
Chapters one and two discuss the history, essential biology, and byproducts of yeast, with the unspoken goal being a fuller appreciation of what appears in one’s glass. These first two chapters assemble a body of knowledge one would normally have to collect piecemeal in other, nondedicated books, and serve as an engaging primer for any interested imbiber. Chapters 3, 4 and 7 explore further, focusing on yeast selection, fermentation dynamics, and troubleshooting, and these parts are particularly geared toward smaller-scale brewers looking to improve their knowledge base and fermentation practices.
Lastly, Chapters 5 and 6 go well beyond what one is likely to encounter in other homebrewing texts, delving into issues of yeast management and lab techniques, including how to appropriately crop yeast from commercial systems, follow yeast-reuse procedures and set up one’s own yeast lab (you will probably want to check with your housemates and/or spouse first). For most readers, the book has you covered.
Some people will still take issue with the meandering content, reacting that certain parts are meant for very different beer-loving audiences. While entirely fair, there’s always a different way to look at things. Most professional brewers were once homebrewers, and most homebrewers assumed the hobby after finding enjoyment casually sipping a pint. Yeast is a book to return to, wherever you might be right now.