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The Science of Brewing: Thiols, Thiolized yeasts, etc


The Science of Brewing: Thiols, Thiolized yeasts, etc

There’s a lot of talk around these day concerning thiols, thiolized yeasts, etc. And so much of that talk revolves around super technical aspects of brewing and the science of brewing. Fact is that there is a ton of research still being done on this subject that we all still have so much to learn. I have talked to so many brewers about this and everyone seems to be equally split on both sides of the fence.

I’ve done my fair share of research here. Both in reading articles and using that information and practical information learned from experiences. I do believe that the most important piece of this that I have come to terms with is that this is not an area where “conventional” brewing knowledge and techniques are the most helpful. It’s time to think outside of the box.

One of my favorite summertime wines is White Haven, a Sauv Blanc from New Zealand. To me, it’s the purest expression of what New Zealand Sauv Blanc grapes should be. Juicy white grapefruit, bright passion fruit, faint undertones of lemon grass. It’s acidic and thirst quenching. And a lot of the reasons why these flavor profiles exist is Thiols.

Now how do we coax these characteristics in beer? Some of our favorite hops are already rich in these compounds. And some that we don’t even associate have the same capabilities, but we just need to unlock them.

The wine industry has been unlocking these components for years through practice and yeast. It’s not been until recently that the same technologies were used to modify yeast for beer fermentation. Companies such as Omega (my personal favorite), Berkely and Escarpment have produced wonderful examples of these. So how do we now use these yeasts to their greatest potential?

This is where hops come in and how we use them. Using hops in the mash can be a huge help here. The process adds enzymes to the mix that can be helpful in sending a wort into the fermenter that has the potential to be more thiol rich. In addition, certain lowly kilned malts, such as base malts, have shown the ability to add their own thiols to the mix. Hops that work well here are Saaz, Calypso, Cascade and even German Perle. It’s important to remember that these hops are best used prior to fermentation, as it’s the yeast that will free the thiols in them.

Dry hopping is a huge factor in the next step. My hazies have always had a traditionally large pellet dry hop. But the large charge of dry hops and the vegetative matter that come with them can have a negative effect on the thiols that you’re aiming for. Scale down or omit these charges. Even investigate advanced hop products in liquid form or concentrated form and at lower levels. The thiols you’ve already released can literally make up for using less hops at this stage, or even increase aromatic values and the perception of hop saturation.

Finally, we move into the more traditional dry hop stages. This is where we have the discussions about those pricier hops used in larger amounts. Now is when we match and accentuate the thiols that we have created earlier in the process without disturbing them or eliminating them in the same way we could have earlier.

With this all said, I do realize that this is simplified and there are things left out. But it’s a short blog, so I can only hold your attention for so long. I do think that it is a good start to find your way. We currently have plenty of Saaz, US Cascade, GR Perle , Calypso and others in stock. Grab some with your Citra and Mosaic. Hit up your local maltster and use their Pilsner malt. Start playing around with your process and bend what we can do with hops!

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