Farmhouse Yeast Descriptions

Farmhouse Yeast Descriptions

The following list describes my experiences with various Norwegian kveiks and Lithuanian farmhouse yeasts. Hopefully, these notes give you an idea of how these yeasts work and what kinds of beer they are good for. This is the final part of my practical guide to farmhouse yeast. If you have missed the earlier parts, please check Introduction, Fermentation, and Harvesting (to appear).

I have brewed with Nordic and Baltic farmhouse yeasts since 2015 and the descriptions below are based on my personal experience. I have used these yeasts for traditional farmhouse ales, various kinds of modern beers, and ciders.

I’m keeping separate notes for the original farmhouse cultures and yeasts from each commercial producer. As explained in the Introduction, farmhouse yeasts can be different even if they are originally from the same source. I’ll update the descriptions when I learn more.

For more farmhouse yeast descriptions, see Milk The Funk Wiki and Farmhouse Yeast Registry.

Many of my original kveik cultures are from the Norsk Kornølfestival in Hornindal
At the Norsk Kornølfestival in Hornindal farmhouse brewers are offering not only samples of their farmhouse beer but also samples of their kveik. Many of the kveiks in my collection are from this fabulous event.

Original Farmhouse Cultures

I have obtained the following original kveik cultures from Norway. Some are from the original owners, and some from the people who have collected them into yeast banks.

Sigmund’s kveik (Farmhouse Yeast Registry #1) is the original source for the most popular commercial kveiks. Usually, they are named “Voss Kveik” although the Voss region in Norway has other good kveiks too. Anyway, this is a fantastic yeast. Very robust and highly complex. The flavors include orange, fruity wine-gums, Christmas spices, and umami flavors. Sigmund himself ferments around 40°C (104°F) but I have used this yeast successfully at 18-40°C (64–104°F). At 20-25°C (68–77°F) the flavor reminds fruitiness from English yeasts. In my brews the intensity of spiciness has varied a lot but I’m not sure what causes this variation. Perhaps lowering the fermentation temperature down to 25°C (77°F) is a major factor reducing the spiciness. I have used this yeast successfully for various kinds of malty farmhouse ales, blond ales, sour ales, porters, imperial stouts, and ciders. The pitch rate has varied from 1 g per 20 liters to modern rates. The flavor intensity seems to increase steeply as pitch rate decreases. I have gotten 80 % apparent attenuation from this yeast and this is a good kveik when you want higher attenuation. Commercial Voss Kveiks are often used in various kinds of IPAs, but in my opinion, this is not the best kveik for intensely hoppy beers. The spiciness intensifies bitterness and but it also makes the bitterness coarser.

Stalljen kveik (registry #22) is from Stig Seljeset in Hornindal (see my story Brewing Norwegian Farmhouse Ale in Hornindal). This kveik starts and ferments very fast. Once it fermented in less than 24 hours and I missed the opportunity to top crop the yeast. This yeast produces firm complex citrus fruit flavors. This is one of my favorite kveiks for blond and amber beers that pair well with citrus flavors. Good for hoppy beers too. I have used this for raw ales fermented at 30°C (86°F). The pitch rate has been 1–2 g per 10 liters. Pitching low seems to increase the flavor intensity considerably.

Otterdal kveik (#23) originates nearby from Stalljen and these yeasts are similar: citrus fruits are the primary flavors. This yeast produces also an interesting aspirin-like flavor – this flavor isn’t bad but it is a clear marker for beers fermented with this yeast. Compared to Stalljen, this yeast rises to the top faster and produces sweeter beer. Stirring or shaking the yeast back to work may be necessary. Good for mellow malty ales where sweetness and citrus flavors suit. I have brewed a raw ale with this yeast. I have fermented at 30°C (86°F) with a pitch rate of 1 g per 20 liters.

Skare kveik (#41) is from Ørsta, 50 km north-west from Hornindal. This yeast ferments fast and reliably. The fermentation flavors are surprisingly neutral and leave the center of the stage to other ingredients. This yeast seems to be an excellent workhorse when eccentric fermentation flavors are not needed. I have brewed a raw ale with this yeast. I have fermented at 30°C (86°F) with a pitch rate of 1 g per 20 liters.

Hovden kveik (#48) is from north of Hornindal and fairly similar to Skare. The clean taste suits for malt, hops, and juniper flavors. The yeast rises to the top faster and you might need to stir the yeast back to work when fermentation is slowing down. I have brewed a raw ale with this yeast with fermentation temperature 30°C (86°F) and a pitch rate of 1 g per 20 liters.

Ørjasæter kveik (#62) from Geiranger produces a very malty beer with candy-like flavor. note. Not fruity at all. I have brewed two raw ales with this yeast and I like how this highlights maltiness. Excellent for malt-forward farmhouse ales. I have fermented at 30°C (86°F) with a pitch rate of 1–2 g per 20 liters. The pitch rate of 1 g per 20 liters produced slight fusel alcohol note but 2 g per 20 liters worked better.

I have tested Espe kveik (#20) from Hornindal only once and it wasn’t a success. The fermentation started far too late at 18 hours and the flavor was off. I suspect that the pitch rate of 1 g per 20 liters rule was too little. At Norsk Kornølfestival 2019 the Espe family’s farmhouse ale was one of my favorites: a delicate fruity flavor with notes of pear and plum. I have high hopes for this yeast and I’ll continue to experiment with this.

Tomasgard kveik (#21) from Hornindal has been a tricky one for me. The original owner of this kveik, Lars Andreas Tomasgård, is two-times winner of the Norsk Kornølfestival farmhouse homebrew competition. His ale is extremely tasty and features a complex blend of red berries and citrus fruits. However, when I have tried his kveik my ale has turned sour. Perhaps I cellared the ale too late. I believe that the bacteria in this kveik contribute to the flavor but producing a beer that is not sour requires skill.

Smoky Norwegian farmhouse ale in the style of Stjørdal fermented with kveik
This Stjørdalsøl (smoky Norwegian farmhouse ale in the style of Stjørdal) was fermented with Ørjasæter kveik. This kveik highlights nicely the flavor of smoky farmhouse malt that is the primary flavor of this beer. Photo by Mari Varonen.

Commercial Farmhouse Yeasts

With Lithunian strain The Yeast Bay Simonaitis tropical fruit flavors are at the forefront: pineapple, mango, and passion fruit. As if someone had poured exotic juice into your ale. There’s also a subdued earthy phenolic flavor. Despite the phenolics, the flavor is quite different from Belgian yeasts. This makes smooth, refreshing, and easy-going ales. I like to use this for blond beers with pilsner malt. The phenolics seem to slightly accentuate bitterness but there’s no conflict. This might be a good yeast for hoppy beers. I have used this yeast at 30°C (86°F) and with 70 % of a typical modern rate.

Lithuanian strain Omega Labs Jovaru produces phenolic flavor with black pepper and lemon. It ferments very dry and I have gotten 90 % apparent attenuation (this yeast is so-called STA1+). This feels a bit like saison yeast and makes excellent saison-like beer. On the other hand, the beer where this yeast is from, Jovaru Alus, is a sweet and fairly malt-forward raw ale that tastes nothing like a saison. I have used this yeast successfully at 30°C (86°F) and with 70 % of a typical modern rate.

I’m currently brewing a series of malty ales with Omega Labs Hornindal. At 30°C (86°F) and with a modern rate, this yeast produced a nice restrained fruitiness similar to English yeasts. This yeast raises to the top early and needs to shaken back into suspension to finish fermentation.

Other remarks: When visiting Voss in February 2020 I tasted Voss Bryggeri’s Vossaøl fermented with a strain isolated from Rivenes Kveik. This is an excellent beer and I like the fermentation flavor profile with assorted fruits and distinctive umami notes. I’d like to try this kveik. On the same trip, I tasted Byggland Bryggeri’s For The Love of Kveik Framgarden fermented with Framgarden kveik. Intense yet pleasant tutti-frutti flavors – this yeast is definitely on my wish list.

I plan to test soon LalBrew Voss Kveik Ale Yeast to see how it compares to the original.

My sour ale fermented with Sigmund's kveik (a.k.a Voss kveik) and lactic bacteria from skyr.
This sour ale was fermented with Sigmund’s kveik and lactic acid bacteria from skyr (Icelandic dairy product). Kveik added nice tropical fruit flavor and as if peaches had been added to the fermenter. Sigmund’s kveik (or commercial Voss kveik) is extremely versatile yeast. Photo by Mari Varonen.

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