Beer drinkers are often more interested in the hops and malt in their pints than the yeast used to ferment it. Yeast is the great hero of brewing, though, valiant microorganisms that convert sugar into alcohol and leave behind some of their own characteristic flavors.
While many brewers use cultured brewers’ yeasts, wild yeast is all around us — in the wind, on countertops and the skin of apples — and brewing with it can impart unpredictable, sometimes funky notes. Many brewers try their hands at wild-yeast beers — but what not many have done is cultivate a strain of wild yeast for long-term use.
The four brewer-owners behind Farmingdale’s Lithology Brewing were curious how that might go down. This summer, they collected yeast from 12 locations around Long Island, then brought some of those strains to a lab to create what is likely a first for Long Island, if not New York State: a cultivated strain of local yeast, one that CEO Lee Kaplan describes as having grapefruit, lemon and toasty flavors, and that they’ve used to brew a new ale that will debut this week.
“We’re always challenging ourselves,” said Manny Coelho, another partner in the 2-year-old microbrewery. (The other two owners are Kevin Cain and Marc Jackson.)
This summer, the brewers combined their newly forged yeast strain with malted barley from upstate’s Pioneer Malting (which Lithology roasted in house) and fresh Centennial hops from Hops Brothers in the Hudson Valley. The result is a grassy, coppery farmhouse ale they call NY Renegade. “Every beer is our own, but this one is more special because the yeast is our own,” Coelho said.
Tomorrow at 7 p.m., Lithology will do NY Renegade’s big reveal during a release party in their Farmingdale tasting room — and it will stay in rotation until it’s gone. “Every time you come in here, it’s going to be a little bit different,” Coelho said. “It’s a living beer.”
Lithology Brewing, 211-A Main St., Farmingdale; 516-962-0585, lithologybrewing.com