October 23, 2012

Perry re-update and EC-1118

I brewed this perry back in early August with EC-1118 champagne yeast left over from what I used to bottle the raspberry lambic over the summer. My initial tasting mid-September was incredibly disappointing. After another month of aging the perry has transformed into something quite pleasant. The pear taste has come through, the cider-y off flavor is gone and the rough yeast character is gone and replaced with a more mellow, pleasant biscuit character. So I've really come around on this drink.

So I'm happy time has fixed the perry, but I'd also like to chat a little about EC-1118. EC-1118 is a champagne yeast and as such it shouldn't be a surprise that the yeast produces a very noticeable biscuit character. I don't get the biscuit character when I use it in a very small quantity for bottling sour beers but it came through in a big way in the perry. It's definitely a yeast that requires some aging when used as a primary fermentor for fruit-based beverages or meads. At about a month it had a strong yeasty-bready character I read described as "brackish". That is more similar to the character I got from bread yeast after a few months (I'm still hoping that flavor goes away from bread yeast, too). After a couple months it mellowed into that more pleasant biscuit character. I assume the biscuit character continues to mellow for years because most champagnes do not have an assertive biscuit character.

I wouldn't use it to restart a stuck beer fermentation because it would likely mean you'll have to sit on the beer for a couple months while that brackish character mellows. Maybe not a problem for a bigger beer that would age anyway, especially give that those beers are the ones most likely to stall. That extra biscuit character might even be beneficial to a barleywine. An additional concern is that EC-1118 is a killer strain that will mess with the ale yeast.

However, I could see that ultimate biscuit character being pleasant in a mead or cider, especially since those are beverages that benefit from additional aging. My next mead will probably be a EC-1118 fermented mead.

Right now I am building up a starter of EC-1118 with some apple juice so I'll have a good supply of yeast to carb up the two sour beers I am bottling this fall/winter (the lambic solera and the sour brown/black/whatever). It smells pleasant with a strong biscuit aroma. I haven't tasted it but it does smell more pleasant than the perry initially tasted. Maybe the yeast flavor compounds just didn't meld as well with the pear flavors.

I know this really isn't the most interesting or exciting info to post but I thought it was a necessary update to the prior review and it's the kind of information I wish I could have found when I was researching EC-1118 in the first place. I promise I'll post something more substantive later this week.

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