Friday, November 8, 2019

On the hype of Hornindal (and others), a kveik Q&A with On Rotation

Image courtesy of On Rotation.

Earlier this week, I posted a piece on kveik, a family of farmhouse yeast strains originating in Norway. Entitled Brewers harnessing Norwegian beast of a yeast, the article acts as an intro to kveik, hitting the highlights on what makes the yeast special, and also calling attention to the growing list of local breweries exploring its use.

The mysteries of kveik were first brought to light by Lars Marius Garshol, a beer enthusiast living outside of Oslo. On his blog, Garshol extols the virtues of kveik, summarizing practical aspects as well as outlining flavor profiles obtainable across known strains.

Of particular interest to brewers, kveik yeasts ferment quickly at high temperatures, leaving no off flavors. Not only that, some strains are highly flocculant, resulting in finished beers being ready to drink sooner. Combined, these characteristics suggest kveik can reduce turnaround time and boost production, while allowing breweries to be more energy efficient thanks to less reliance on temperature control.

As they say, though, the proof is in the pudding...or, in this case, the yeast slurry. So, to find out how well kveik performs in practice, I contacted Jacob Sloan, co-founder of the craft beer laboratory On Rotation. The Dallas-based brewery has tested four different strains of kveik to date, and from those experiments Sloan shared insights into how using the yeast has impacted production at On Rotation, along with thoughts on ester formation, its influence on flavor and more.

Q: What initially led you to explore using kveik in your beers at On Rotation? Were you interested in the practical aspects, the taste elements, or both?

JS: I'd say it was really both for us. We've always been big fans of high-performing, saison yeast strains, and we gravitate towards dry finishes in our brews. Kveik beers are prone to dry, wine-like finishes, so those characteristics definitely align with our tastes in designing recipes. We like throwing aggressive yeast strains at complex flavor profiles and seeing what we get as an end result.

Q: The performance characteristics of kveik, specifically its ability to ferment quickly and cleanly at high temperatures, have gotten a lot of attention. How do you see these traits impacting a small-batch operation like On Rotation from the production side?

JS: As a small batch brewery with limited tank space for fermentation, the quick-turn nature and ability to ferment without temperature control is, of course, appealing. Not having to ferment with our existing tanks that control temperature means we can produce these beers outside of our process limitations as a way to increase our overall brewery volume.

Q: Profiles for commercial kveik strains list citrus, stone and tropical fruit as predominant flavor elements, which I imagine is why many brewers are using them in IPAs. Is that style the sweet spot for kveik, or is the yeast a fit for other types of beers?

JS: The strains themselves vary in intensity. We've now brewed with four different strains, and a few of them definitely produce strong tropical fruit and citrusy flavor notes. Others are less pronounced, and may err more on the side of "candy" fruit flavors. That said, I think the flavor profiles and esters imparted by the kveik strains are worth experiencing regardless of what beer styles you typically choose to drink. While we've mostly done IPAs to date, that wasn't our intention. We just had a few IPAs in our schedule that we fast-tracked with the kveik strains.

Q: Using your IPAs as an example, how did kveik affect the presentation of those beers?

JS: With Heimdall's Vision and Last Stand of the Warriors Three, we split tested on the same IPA batch and same dry hop additions across two kveik strains to see the differences the yeast would provide.

We fermented Heimdall's Vision with Hornindal kveik yeast. This Norwegian farmstead strain is known for bringing out intense tropical notes of fresh pineapple, mango and tangerine, while adding an extra dimension to fruit-forward hops.

Last Stand of the Warriors Three, by contrast, fermented on Voss kveik yeast, another aggressive Norwegian strain with an entirely different flavor profile. Voss brings out more of a clean, orange-citrus profile, but it similarly emphasizes fruit-forward hops.

Both of these beers feature Citra, Pacifica, and Huell Melon hops, but the way the hops come through in the finished product has been heavily influenced by the yeasts, especially the way they reacted to identical double dry hop additions of Pacifica and Huell Melon. One of the two definitely came through more prominent and tropical.

Q: That brings up a point discussed on Garshol's blog. He says to avoid using too many "craft" hops, because they could mask the flavors of kveik. What's your take? Have you had to alter your hop bills compared to what you might normally use in similar recipes?

JS: I wouldn't say we're reducing our hop usage in these beers, but we are factoring in the expected flavor profile of the yeast when we build out hop schedules. I do agree it's definitely something you have to account for as you brew. If you just throw an overwhelming amount of hops into a beer and don't account for the notes of the yeast, you're missing out on embracing kveik's unique characteristics.

Q: Now, earlier you talked a little about how kveik delivers on the promise of a production boost. Looking at it in terms of the finished product, how would you evaluate the yeast's flavor enhancement capabilities?  Do kveik strains live up to the hype from that perspective?

JS: There are many strains of what I'd call traditional yeast that promise interesting flavor outcomes, esters and notes. Few of those truly pay off in every execution, but what we've seen with our experimentation with these kveik yeast strains is that they live up to expectations.

Q. I mentioned before how a lot of breweries have led out with IPAs when using kveik, but as brewers explore its use beyond craft beer's most popular style, what is it about kveik that should pique the interest of consumers going forward?

JS: Beer drinkers should be excited because I see these strains leading to more experimentation in craft brewery settings given their lack of practical limitations. I am always a fan of encouraging more experimentation and exploration in brewing and craft beer as a way of continuing to appeal to the large population of folks who haven't jumped into craft offerings yet.

Q: On that note, what's next at On Rotation? Are there more kveik beers to come?
JS: We absolutely plan on continuing to produce kveik beers. We'd like to explore more use in our favorite style beer style, saison, as we get more in the queue. In the short term, we're testing every strain we can get our hands on to determine which we like for different use cases and recipes.

No comments:

Post a Comment