In the wake of my Belgian yeast experiment, I decided I would try to do side by side comparisons of several British strains. I have already worked with WLP 002, and very much enjoyed it. I did get yeast from a local brewery, Black Bear Brewing who uses the same strain as Wyeast 1318, which made a very nice bitter that I enjoyed more then the one with WLP 002. Using that as my benchmark, I obtained 4 other British strains, and brewed a batch of beer out of left over grains and hops I had on hand. I was going for a malty brew, with a decent hop bitterness but light on the hops taste/aroma to highlight how the yeasts express the bitterness, but not mask the esters from the yeast. I split the batch into 5 fermentors, and fermented them next to each other to control for conditions. The strains are:
WLP 007 — reported to be one of the strains from Whitbread, which does not actually brew anymore, having had the brand bought by InBev in 2001. However, the yeast lives on, and it is the strain that Stone Brewing, as well as several other American breweries use.
WLP 023 — reported to be from Brakspear Brewing. Brakspear had closed, and Wychwood Brewing bought the brand, building a completely separate brewhouse and using the same equipment that was used by Brakspear. However, I am not sure if they are using the original yeast.
Please note I got the reported origins of the yeast strains from Mr. Malty.
The recipe was:
3.38 lb Munich Malt – 10L (10.0 SRM)
2.38 lb Pale Malt, Grambrinus (3.0 SRM)
2.00 lb Pale Malt (2 Row) US (2.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Bonlander (10.0 SRM)
1.00 lb Vienna (3.5 SRM)
0.50 lb Caramel/Crystal Malt – 40L (40.0 SRM)
1.25 oz Sterling [8.70 %] (60 min)
1.00 oz Crystal [4.30 %] (15 min)
The mash was a single infusion mash at 154F for 60 minutes. It was then batch sparged, and the OG was 1.052. The beer was fermented in primary for 4 weeks. I would have liked to have bottled it earlier, but fate and holidays conspired to keep that from happening.
The FG of the beers were:
Wyeast 1318: 1.014 WLP 007: 1.012 WLP 013:1.013
WLP 023:1.014 WLP 028:1.014
This puts them all in the 5.0-5.2% range, with 72-76% attenuation.
Tastings were done blind. I was mostly just looking for the yeast notes and the expression of the bitterness.
WY 1318: The beer is clear. There is a strongly fruity nose, more cherry/dark fruit, and some malt coming through. It tastes malty, has a nice thicker mouthfeel, and finishes a bit sweet. Fuller, more rounded finish, bitterness not as pronounced
WLP 007: Clear, has a soft apple/peach nose with some spiciness like cinnamon. The taste carries the apple notes through, but the esters are much more muted. Has a decent malty backbone, not as strong as the WY 1318 or WLP 028, but the bitterness comes through more.
WLP 013: Clear. The nose is more toasty and earthy, a mustiness to it, and mineral note. The taste is pretty crisp and dry compared to the others, but there is still noticeable malt. The most bitter finish of the 5
WLP 023: Clear. Has a strong spiced cider nose. The apple notes are much stronger then in anything else. The apple carries through on the taste, very noticeable. The bitterness is there, but not as strong as 013, comparable to 007.
WLP 028: Cloudy. Very faint apple, more caramel and malt coming through. The taste had a solid maltiness to it, a round finish, balancing well with the hops. This was the cleanest yeast as far as fruity/estery flavors go.
Discussion: As far as ester profile goes, I have to give it to WY 1318. It has a wonderful nose, not apple like the others more cherry and berry. It is also the maltiest of them, with I think WLP 028 coming in second. It gives a round mouthfeel to the beer, and a slight sweetness at the end. I just really love the flavor of this beer, and can pick it out almost immediately, as nothing else I have tried taste likes it. I think WY 1318 is my favorite yeast for malty and fruity english ales. I have yet to try a better strain for a bitter.
The cleanest of the bunch was WLP 028. Even fermented at the same temps as everything else, it was no where close to the estery flavors the others produced. The bitterness was not hidden, but it definitely expressed the malt sweetness well, and gave a very nice mouth feel. I would suggest that this maybe a good yeast to use if you wanted to make a malty style “lager” such as a bock, but at ale temps. It also would work well in maltier American styles, such as ambers, American browns, or stouts. It is not dry, so that crisp bite of an American Pale would probably not work as well. That being said, I often get a peachy flavor from Safale 05, my usual American yeast strain, and I did not get that at all from this yeast, which I liked. It has earned further experimentation from me, but more for cleaner styles. Perhaps an American Yeast Experiment is in the future. A note, it was the only beer not clear, so this yeast seems to be much less flocculent then the others.
WLP 023 I did not like at all. It smells and tastes like cider. Yes, the hops are there, but the esters were overwhelming, not my cup of tea, and was my least favorite. WLP 013 was the crispest and tasted the driest of the bunch. However, the nose is not fruity at all, it is musty/earthy/woody, which I did not enjoy. I likely will not use these strains in the future.
The most interesting is WLP 007. It has some soft apple notes on the nose, but much more subdued then WLP023. It had some of the apple taste, but was fairly clean compared to WY 1318, WLP 023, and WLP 013. It had a nice bitterness, but you could still really taste the malt in the beer. I would say this is probably the most versatile of the bunch, not really clean, but also not really pronounced on the esters. The malt and hops both come through well. I can see why guys like Stone would use this, it seems a very versatile yeast which brings more flavor to the party, but lets the other ingredients come through.