I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of dry yeasts. I know a lot of homebrewers think dry yeasts are inherently inferior to the various liquid offerings from Wyeast and White Labs. But I’m not one of those guys. I’ve been consistently happy with the results I get from Danstar Nottingham and Safale US-05 for quite a while. However, after a friend’s recommendation, I recently tried Safbrew S-33. So far, I’m not terribly impressed.
The original plan was to brew a Dopplebock. However, I don’t have access to a proper lagering system. So after some modifications to the grain bill, we brewed what I think most homebrewers might accept as a Baltic Porter.
8.0 lb. Extra Light DME
1.0 lb. Crystal 10L
1.0 lb. Crystal 40L
0.25 lb. Chocolate Malt
0.25 lb. Roasted Barley
1.0 oz. Northern Brewer @ 60 mins
1 pkg. Fermentis Safbrew S-33 Ale Yeast
Fermentation started fast. The airlock was bubbling steadily in less than 12 hours. However, after 3 weeks in primary, our hydrometer indicated that we were still 10 points above our target final gravity. I was a bit surprised, but I wasn’t particularly concerned yet. We simply put the lid back on the bucket, carefully roused the yeast back into suspension, and postponed bottling day. After an additional week, we were 3 points closer, but still too high to start bottling.
After five weeks, we were still 5 points above our target gravity. However, hydrometer readings indicated no change over the course of 3 days, so we called it “done” and started bottling. So already I’m frustrated with this yeast. We gave it 5 weeks in primary to do its job, and it crapped out short of 70% attenuation.
Despite an unusually long primary fermentation, the beer tasted fantastic. It had a rich, full body with toffee and caramel malt sweetness and subtle nutty/coffee flavor. Maybe not 100% “according-to-style”, but to hell with that, it was great. At this point, I was starting to think the wait was worth it. I couldn’t wait for this to carb up. Little did I know just how long I was going to have to wait.
After 3 weeks of bottle conditioning, and a quick 24-hour cold crash, we popped the top off the first bottle. I don’t have the vocabulary to explain how frustrated I was to see absolutely flat beer pouring into the pint glass. And I mean flat — not a touch of carbonation. Disheveled and heartbroken, we pulled the beers out of the fridge and gave them more time.
Two weeks later, we gave the beer another try. There was finally some carbonation, but it was mostly just fizzy bubbles, incapable of producing anything that could possibly be interpreted as a head. The worst part is that all the wonderful flavors that I remembered were gone. The beer was now overwhelmingly cidery and acidic. I know we didn’t have problems with fermentation temperatures, and I know we used an appropriate amount of priming sugar. The only conclusion I can make is that the beer is still very green. But after five weeks?
You’re killing me, S-33! It’s been 10 weeks and I’m still waiting on this beer to mature. If this were some sort of massive barleywine, I would have expected this. But 1.072 is hardly the type of gravity that should require extensive aging. I did a little research and found a number of forum discussions indicating that S-33 has a bit of a reputation for being a lazy prima donna — you have to babysit it, pamper it, stroke its ego, etc. I’m not digging it.
I’m certainly not saying that S-33 is incapable of making great beer. In fact, I found a number people who love it and use it regularly. But frankly, I don’t see the point in waiting 3+ months for a 7% beer to finish, when Nottingham or US-05 could have done this in 6 or 8 weeks. With that in mind, I think this is the last time I’ll be using S-33.
Has anyone else tried this yeast? How did it work out for you?