So we’re about to make our next beer, a grapefruit bitter. It’s an exciting recipe in that it’s entirely dependent on the flavour of its hops and the quality of its yeast to make it the distinctive beer it is.
So far we’ve tried two types of yeast – a “smackpack” or wyeast or dry yeast packets. We’ve almost always used ale yeast due to the recipes we’ve been making. I don’t think we’ve ever had yeast problems, but that said I don’t think we’re getting any sort of sophisticated flavours using the yeasts we’ve had.
Dry yeast is around $1.80 a packet, whereas the smack packs run closer to $6-7 each. It’s not hard to see why we’ve chosen dry yeasts lately. So now we’re looking at how to get better, healthier cultures and more distinct flavours with the dry yeast packets. These leads us to starters.
The basic idea with starters is to make a small batch of wort a few days in advance, pitch the yeast in that and then pitch it again when you brew the real batch. Obvious benefits include giving the yeast time to thrive before ever introducing it to the batch, and of course getting quality yeast out of a cheap packet (so money savings). At the same time I can’t help but think of the extra work, the advance planning required and the cost of preparing extra wort.
So, have you ever prepared a starter? Did it make a difference for you? Was it worth it?