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Subzero Temps? Meh, Yeast are Tough Buggers

Posted by homebrewdad on 2/25/2014 at 05:05:55 AM


 A month or so ago on /r/homebrewing, /u/GirkinFirker was awesome enough to offer three vials of limited edition yeasts to good homes.  I asked for (and was granted) a vial of WLP920 (Old Bavarian Lager) yeast.  I was stoked about it; not only is this a platinum yeast, meaning it is only available for two months per year, but it seems to be a very well reviewed strain.  After some homework, I settled on brewing a traditional bock, and set to creating a recipe for one. 
  At the time, the northeast was in the grip of an ice storm (my friend lives in Connecticut), so he had to wait a couple of days to ship the yeast to me.  In the middle of the transit process, Alabama was hit with an event that we now lovingly refer to as "Snowpocalypse 2014".  Sure, 2-4 inches of snow doesn't sound like much to the rest of the country, but we lack winter equipment such as snow plows, snow chains, or any meaningful sand/salt trucks.  Adding to that were the facts that the weather was unexpected (it was supposed to miss us by a couple of hours' drive), and the temperatures had been below zero for two or three days; we ended up with an inch of ice of the roads within a couple of hours, and thus, the state shut down completely for a good three days afterward.

  As a result, my yeast was stuck in a FedEx truck... somewhere.  A shipment that was originally supposed to take a few days to get to my house ended up taking a week and a half, and I got concerned that the yeast's viability had suffered - perhaps significantly.

  I stuck the vial in the fridge for a couple of weeks, but this past weekend, I finally got around to making a starter.  My plan was to make a 1.5 liter starter to see if I did, in fact, have viability.  I figured that, if the yeast did still live, I could then step this smaller size up to a proper (4+ liter) starter for the actual brewday.

  Twelve hours later, I thought that I had activity; there was visible sediment in the starter, and I felt like there was more than could have come from my vial.  Twenty-four hours in, I had visible krausen.  At forty-eight hours, I had TONS of visible yeast.

  Clearly, my concerns were completely unfounded.  Did I lose some viability?  Probably.  But the fact is, yeast are actually pretty darned hardy. 

Tags for this post: yeast, starter, lager, viable, snow, cold, wlp920

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