What is kveik yeast and why are breweries using it?
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Like coffee, beer is a ubiquitous beverage found all over the world throughout history. It isn’t a hard-to-find spirit or a specialty delicacy. Rather, it often follows the same root recipe of water, hops, yeast and malt. Yet it can carry hallmarks of its home geography and culture that then create differences in style.
Because of the seemingly endless variation, the current wave of craft brewing has brewers and drinkers thinking about local ingredients as much as possible, but there is merit in importing high-quality products. Kveik yeast, which hails from Norway, is one such item.
Pronounced so it rhymes with “bike,” kveik yeast is a trendy ingredient you might spot on a menu the next time you’re at a bar. The increased interest is credited to writer Lars Marius Garshol for spotlighting the tradition and history of the yeast. Now brewers everywhere want to give it a shot.
It can be found in beers like Broken Compass Brewing’s Brut Together India pale ale, Highside Brewing’s Just Another Hazy IPA and Pump Tracks IPA from Outer Range Brewing Co. I first had it years ago in Angry James Brewing Co.’s Norwegian Farmhouse Ale.
“It gives it this nice, fruity, funky aromatics and slight acidity on the aftertaste,” Angry James owner A.J. Brinckerhoff said, adding that they use the Voss strain of kveik. “Our Norwegian Farmhouse is just a nice combination of fruit, a little acidity and then some malt sweetness on the finish.”
Aside from the flavor, the resilient characteristics of kveik can make it a desired component of a recipe. The yeast can ferment at a much hotter temperature than others in a shorter time frame. This means it’s easier to get those fruity and funky flavors — even though it’s counterintuitive to standard brewing practices that use temperature control to prevent off notes.
Brinckerhoff reckons the lack of temperature control technology out in the fields is how it and similar Belgian strains became synonymous with the farmhouse way of life. To get that foreign yeast in the States, he relies on Denver’s Inland Island Yeast Laboratories to provide the Voss strain of kveik.
It was the company’s inclusion of kveik in its catalog that initially caught Brinckerhoff’s eye. Voss was the only kveik Inland Island carried three years ago, and the company now has seven options due to its popularity. Brinckerhoff researched the yeast and brewed the Norwegian Farmhouse before opening in 2018, and it remains a staple on the menu.
“We had all of these other beers scheduled to brew, and I didn’t think a month before we opened that Norwegian Farmhouse would be a beer that we would have forever,” Brinckerhoff said. “But it’s a unique product, and I think it’s something kind of fun.”
Aside from slight tweaking, Brinckerhoff believes it’s the only beer recipe that remains unchanged at the brewery.
Kveik was originally used for the White Woolly IPA to complement the hop styles, but that switched when Subtle Sunshine brewed with Lemondrop and Hallertau Blanc hops joined the menu. At 5.3% and 4.3% alcohol by volume, respectively, Brinckerhoff didn’t want two similar beers as the lighter alternative to the 7.1% Norwegian Farmhouse.
“It’s a really nice, light, fruity beer, and for a 4% beer, the yeast gives it great flavor and mouthfeel,” Brinckerhoff said. Kveik is also used in the less-often-brewed Scree Field Pale Ale.
Brinckerhoff doesn’t have a crystal ball to see what will be the next hottest yeast strain, but he’s always up for experimenting to make something new. And I’ll be there to try it.
Jefferson Geiger is the arts and entertainment editor for the Summit Daily News and managing editor for Explore Summit. Have a question about beer? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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