A yeasty origin story

We dig into one of the unusual flavours from last month's box

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Often at Beer52, a beer comes up that has something really intriguing in its character—and because we can do this sort of thing and call it work—we’ll spend a bit of time digging into the recipe and finding out where that unique or intriguing twist came from.

In the case of last month’s Juicy Sour IPA from Vault City, we noticed a new stand-out element amid the characteristic tart, fruit profiles for which Vault City is making its name. There was depth to the tart character and citrus notes, a hint of something lightly peppery, as well as a softer mouth feel than we’ve experienced in most sour IPAs.

The magic ingredient turned out to be a new yeast strain called Jovaru, available for the first time ever outside of Lithuania from an innovative yeast lab called Omega Yeast.

Based in Chicago, Omega Yeast is a relatively young outfit with an emphasis on high-functioning, innovative yeast strains for both professional and home brewers. It's run by a coterie of microbiologists, home brew geeks, seasoned commercial brewers and craft beer lovers who seem to have an uncanny feel for wider craft brewing trends.

There are several things that sets this crew apart from some it its more established competitors. For a start, the liquid yeast pitches that Omega Yeast prepares for professional brewers is delivered as fresh as is biologically possible. They accomplish this by propagating the yeast beginning only when the brewer orders it. They do not prepare it in giant batches, as other companies might. This detail, along with obsessive knowledge about each strain they carry, prevents any yeast population from sitting around and losing vitality and fermentation power at either the preparation end or the brewing end of the process; it always drops to its brewer in peak condition, raring to go.

Omega Yeast has a distinctly experimental attitude, and also works closely with brewers to provide new or previously undiscovered, proven strains capable of driving aroma and flavour forward in interesting new directions. It offer a comprehensive catalogue of what it describe as "work horse" strains, those strains that brewers worldwide have been domesticating for centuries.

Jovaru is a great example of what Omega Yeast is a unique, historical strain, sourced from the famed Jovaru brewery from the brewer herself, Aldona Udriene (the “queen of Lithuanian beer”), whose beers have won awards internationally. She continues a centuries-old family brewing tradition, consistently cultivating the same farmhouse ale strain (“aimiskas alus” in Lithuanian). Historical strains like Aldona’s have phenomenal opportunity in continuing to diversify and innovate modern craft beer styling.

Because it’s such a new strain to brewers worldwide, Omega Yeast is still exploring the kinds of recipes that are best suited to Jovaru. So far, the main recommendations have been Belgian-style witbier, Belgian-style pale ales and blonde ales.

An intriguing company with intriguing products, we expect to see many more superb beers featuring Omega Yeast’s strains popping up over the next few years.

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