Written by Ken Carman for PGA
The Topic: Beaver River Bootlegger’s Yeast
I could be admitting to a high crime for my community here. The punishment: my property could be confiscated. In our deeds here at Beaver River there’s a phrase that states anyone caught brewing or distilling can have their property taken away. I asked Scott Thompson: a member of a five generation Beaver River family, and fellow wise… guy, about that and we agreed it was probably put in the deeds by his grandfather, or great grandfather during Prohibition.
And I asked, “Because he wanted everyone to stay above the law, right?”
He chuckled, “No, he probably didn’t want the competition.”
Then he added, “I don’t care if you brew back here.
But let’s just add to my story that all this kind of, sort of, happened somewhere else, OK?
We have green apples growing here in Beaver River. Not sure what type they are: they’re not really “green,” or “crab,” since they turn somewhat red in spots when completely ripe. The tree across the tracks has apples that turn totally red. I suspect they are of a different variety.
The apples closest to my Anywhere But Beaver River Brewery are a grand mix between a nice shade of sour and slightly sweet. I’ve been attempting various versions of… “making cider…” out of them over the years. This year I bought a small fruit press, tired of the very inefficient potato masher mashing method.
Hey, I know yous guys and gals who are all high tech-y homebrewers are shaking their heads in disdain but, for me, it’s a hobby. I’m having fun with it. If I ever go pro I’ll go pro, but I actually enjoy low tech winging it. I even… gasp! …often forget to take specific gravity readings. I have no idea: and don’t care. Is it good? Great. Not? I try to guess better next time, or just brew something else.
This year was bountiful, which is interesting because the tree across the tracks seemed poor in comparison. Some years it’s just the opposite. So I have plenty of cider. Some I… uh… took somewhere else and put some honey in it and Nottingham yeast. I was disappointed. A bit harsh, though it has mellowed. Maybe a hint of higher alcohol? But that sense seems to be fading and what I’ll be left with is a very dry cider.
I have a metal Grolsch growler and a sealable plastic water jug. No yeast used. I sealed them both immediately. First time I opened the metal growler it damn near exploded. The water jug? Same. I have tasted both and one is going towards dry, the other sweet. I keep adding cider, so it varies.
I am surprised by this yeast. Without adding any cider it has remained active for weeks, even with the screw top on just a few twists, the Grolsch just placed on top of the growler. In the water jug it has, occasionally, had just a hint of lactobacillus, but mostly it seems just the perfect yeast for what I’m doing. With more dry, complete, fermentation aspects to the cider within the vessel, same is true of the Grolsch. It out performed Nottingham as far as how good it tastes as per this application. Seems almost designed to ferment these apples.
All apples were washed with a very weak Star San solution: often used by brewers as a sterilant.
I don’t think this an “accident,” or just some wild yeast. And I had no cross contamination with the Nottingham. Indeed it’s absolutely a different yeast, from what I sense. Seems to be a yeast far more suited to making fermented cider, and it’s also quite aggressive. My guess: someone was fermenting these same apples many years ago: maybe even someone who was great grandpa Thompson’s competition.
Yeast is a survivor. Yeast has been pulled from the bottom of the ocean: British shipwreck from the 1800s, revived, and then brewed with. And, if I remember right, that is by no means the record. So I’m not surprised that yeast: which is all around us, might wait deep in some apples, or on some tree though one might think that wouldn’t be as pure as this yeast seems to be. “Yeasts” may be more accurate, though both containers seem to share quite similar characteristics, yeast-wise.
So have I uncovered some forgotten piece of Beaver River history? Railroad workers/bootleggers? Grandpa Thompson, or his competition’s, forgotten cyser operation?
But until I find out I’ll sit here on my front porch with my blunderbuss waiting for the revenuers to come and try and take my property. I ain’t budging.
Maybe I can get my pit bull like pet dinosaur to chase them off?
“Sic em Dino!”
Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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