It’s become hard to stand out in San Diego, which has built one of America’s most robust craft beer scenes, but White Labs provides key yeast and fermentation knowledge to brewers and guests. Their tasting room, which features a wood bar, high-top tables and 32 stone-backed taps with vial-shaped handles, resides in an industrial park across from a John Deere outpost.
White Labs beertenders offer flights by style, with four riffs on the same beer. The only distinguishing variable, yeast, which generates differences in flavor and mouth-feel. According to the menu, “Each flight contains one batch of beer for that style that was separated at fermentation and pitched with different yeast strains. Our tasting room provides the unique opportunity to taste the multiple flavor compounds yeast provides to the beer. Each beer is available as a pint or a 4 ounce taster.” Options include Hansen Hefeweizen, Buchner Pale, Pasteur Porter, Tabberer IPA, De Clerck Dubbel, or my selection, Leeuwenhoek Saison. FYI: Anton van Leeuwenhoek was a 17th Century Dutch scientist who developed a precursor to the microscope and discovered things like bacteria and protozoa.
Their tasting flight, which cost $6, showcased the sessionable saison in four iterations ranging from 5.4 – 5.8% ABV and 30-34 IBUs. The line-up consisted of WLP566 Belgian Saison II Yeast, WLP568 Belgian Style Saison Ale Yeast Blend, WLP670 American Farmhouse Yeast Blend and WLP644/645 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois & Brettanomyces Clausenii Yeast Blend. Sipping subtly spicy saison was an enjoyable experience, just sitting at the bar and watching the Georgia Bulldogs play the Clemson Tigers on the opening weekend of the 2014 college football season. However, if you’d like to dig deeper, which would be useful for brewers, it’s possible to perform a nuanced study of each yeast’s key characteristics, and figure out exactly how your favorite yeast might accentuate your own brew.