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Tangerine tree, home of BCT Cali Native and Beancurdturtle Sacc
Tangerine tree, home of BCT Cali Native and Beancurdturtle Sacc

We are one of a handful of breweries (well, brewery related companies) in California that has a proprietary, locally sourced, wild yeast strain for brewing some terrific beers. Beancurdturtle Sacc WLP5179 expresses lots of citrus characters, peachy chardonnay aromas, and an earthy “farmhouse” character.

The short story is this. Sometime around June of 2015 I harvested yeast from the skin of a tangerine growing in the Beancurdturtle Brewing yard.

  • I propagated the wild mixed culture up to cell counts appropriate for brewing a 5-gallon test batch called Ordinary Wild.
  • I brewed a one-barrel batch at BCT Brewing Project called Cali Native with the wild mixed culture. One of the fastest selling beers made by BCT Brewing Project.
  • I took the mixed culture to White Labs for analysis, where they isolated and genetically identified the two predominant organisms as a wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain and a strain of Lactobacillus casei.
  • White Labs is banking both the mixed culture as “BCT Cali Native”, and the ‎S. cerevisiae isolate as “Beancurdturtle Sacc”.
  • White Labs propagated up Beancurdturtle Sacc for a one-barrel pitch and I brewed a test batch at BCT Brewing Project called Wild in the Sacc that was released on February 27th 2016.
WLP5179 Beancurdturtle Sacc Yeast is banked at White Labs.
WLP5179 Beancurdturtle Sacc Yeast is banked at White Labs.

The beer was well liked, and if I can convince a brewery with a seven barrel brewhouse - the minimum pitch size White Labs propagates for private strains - to collaborate with me, we'll brew with it again.

If you want to flesh out the story with some details about how and where we harvested and tested the yeast, here’s an article on our BCT Brewing Project web site.

Cheers!
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Wild yeast on tangerine skin, still on the tree
Wild yeast on tangerine skin, still on the tree

Well, maybe if we kissed first, or at least a bedtime story? Ok then, a bedtime story – and it starts like this… Once upon a time there lived a little patch of wild yeast (and of course bacteria), on a Tangerine, on a tree, in a brewer’s back yard. That brewer was me.

I saw the patch of wild yeast and I was intrigued. Should I harvest it, propagate it, and test it in a beer? My answer? “Hell no!” Nearly everyone I know who tried something similar ended up with a crazy funky nasty beer. And I didn’t have time for that kind of stuff.

Yet a couple days later I found myself at The BrewHouse in San Juan Capistrano, and Ron had given me a taste of a Wild Pale Ale from The Wild Beer Company in Somerset England. It was a very nice simple ale, a little earthy and funky, slightly tart with a nice dry finish. Nothing fancy really, but quite special. …and I thought of the patch of wild yeast.

Tangerine skin with wild yeast in malt starter
Tangerine skin with wild yeast in malt starter

It just happens that it had rained like the dickins that day, so the patch of wild yeast had a good cleansing. If there ever was an opportune time to harvest wild yeast – this was it. So I went home, cooked up a bit of a malt sugar starter solution, sanitized a knife and a stainless steel worktop, clipped the tangerine, sliced the skin with the wild yeast off, and dropped it in a sanitized container with the starter.

First step up
First step up

There was a brief period of fermentation, then the starter settled. So I stepped up to 1-liter on a stir plate. That cleared and I moved the settled yeast to a 2.5-liter starter. That should give me enough mixed culture organisms to brew a 5-gallon batch of beer and keep some aside for lab analysis if the beer turned out well.

The first 5-gallon batch I called “Ordinary Wild” (a pilot batch under the Beancurdturtle Brewing LLC umbrella) because the base beer is about as simple as you can get. One type of malted barley base malt, one hop for a balance of bittering, and the wild yeast mixed culture. Lucky for me, Ordinary Wild turned out to be a truly wonderful beer. So what to do next? Well, time to brew a 1-barrel batch with the wild yeast mixed culture for BCT Brewing Project, and take the mixed culture sample down to White Labs in San Diego for analysis and banking,

First test batch with the mixed culture, Ordinary Wild
First test batch with the mixed culture, Ordinary Wild

The 1-barrel batch I called “Cali Native”. It was my typical grains for a hoppy Pale Ale, slightly aggressive hop bittering, a nice bit of Sorachi Ace hops for dry hopping, and the mixed culture with Wild yeast. Cali Native was frankly a fantastic beer, evidenced by the fact that it sold faster than any beer yet at BCT Brewing Project.

Meanwhile White Labs has isolated the predominant organisms in the mixed culture and had them genetically sequenced. They (and I as well) are surprised to find that there are (but for insignificant numbers) predominantly two organisms. A very large percentage being a wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, and the second being a strain of Lactobacillus casei. As far as yeast for brewing goes, I hit the jackpot – a wild Sacc strain from my own back yard. I have my very own native house yeast that the lab tech at White Labs named “Beancurdturtle Sacc”.

WLP5179 Beancurdturtle Sacc Yeast, one barrel pitch
WLP5179 Beancurdturtle Sacc Yeast, one barrel pitch

But will Beancurdturtle Sacc (without the Lactobacillus casei) have all of the great characters that made Cali Native such a fantastic beer? Only way to know is to make a beer designed to be all about Dat Yeast. Similar to Ordinary Wild – one malt and one hop – and ferment it with the Wild Sacc isolate to see what we get. This beer is done fermenting, and tastes off the fermenter are very promising – meaning very delicious. It will go in kegs this week, and be on draft this coming Saturday February 27th.

I’m very excited about Wild in the Sacc. It totally embodies the BCT/Beancurdturtle brewing philosophy – nothing fancy, something special. Beancurdturtle Sacc expresses lots of citrus characters, peachy chardonnay aromas, an earthy “farmhouse” character, and drops for a beer of amazing clarity even unfiltered. I do hope you’ll enjoy this beer very much as this is the simplest representation I will brew using Beancurdturtle Sacc.

As you might expect, I’m already formulating more exciting ways to use Beancurdturtle Sacc in future beers.

Cheers!
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