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.

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 measure dried yeast as grams and slurry as volumes. The pitch rates below follow this rule.

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, assorted fruits, Christmas spices, and umami flavors. This yeast also produces hard-to-describe flavor that I call woody. This wood flavor intensifies bitterness and can make even a non-hopped beer taste slightly bitter. I suspect that this yeast gives beer with more polyphenols. That’s what my palate is telling me but I don’t have any hard evidence.

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 umami-woody flavor.

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 or fermentation temperature increases. 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 umami-woody flavor 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.

Omega Espe Kveik produces delicate notes of plum, raisins and warming alcohol. Farmhouse Yeast Registry’s flavor description “cognac” is surprisingly accurate. I think this is a great yeast for malty beers where subtle fruity complexity is welcome. I have used this yeast at 28–30°C (82–86°F) and with 50–60 % of a typical modern rate. This yeast raises massively to the top and it may need to stirred back into beer to complete fermentation. The attenuation has been moderate. Fermentation can produce plenty of foam. When I have used Omega Yeast pack or grown yeast with a stir plate the fermentation have taken 4–5 days. Once I started fermentation with top-cropped yeast (one week between cropping and pitching) and the beer fermented in a day.

I have brewed good malty and fruity ales with Omega Hornindal. At 28–30°C (82–86°F) and with higher pitch rate (close to modern rate), this yeast produced a nice restrained fruitiness similar to English yeasts. At 30–32°C (86°F) and reduced pitch rate (50–70 % from modern rate) this yeast gives stronger tropical fruit flavors. I have made good kveik IPA with this yeast and the tropical fruit character paired well with Cascade hops. This yeast raises to the top early and I have always stirred the yeast back into suspension to gurantee finished fermentation.

Omega Lutra Kveik produces a clean beer with almost no esters. No wonder this yeast is often used for making lager-like ales (so-called pseudo lagers). It is available both as dry and liquid yeast and I have used sucessfully both versions. This yeast is a reliable workhorse for clean fermentation character.

With this yeast I have fermented at 22–25°C (72–77°F) and pitched around 70 % from a typical modern ale pitch rate. The beers have been very clean. I have noticed only a faint aroma of red berries (some might call it citrus flavor) that dissipates over time. This yeast raises to the top before the fermentation is over, but not excessively so. If a thick yeast layer appears on the top and fermentation slows down, stirring or shaking the yeast back to beer helps. I have obtained medium apparent attenuation in the range 73–78 %. At 23°C the fermentation was completed in 4–5 days. This yeast seems to drop pH slightly more than a typical ale yeast. For example, one amber ale finished at pH of 4.2 when with ale yeast I would have expected finishing pH of 4.3–4.4.

I have used LalBrew Voss Kveik Ale once in an imperial stout and once as a secondary yeast to complete a sluggish fermentation. Both batches fermented extremely robustly. Based on my very limited experience I believe that this yeast has many traits of the original Sigmund’s kveik described above. Perhaps this yeast gives strong woody-umami flavor than the original Sigmund’s kveik.

In 2023 I have started to test commercial dried kveiks from Norwegian Kveik Yeastery. This yeast company is secretive about their process but they promise to deliver multi-strain cultures similar to the originals. They seem to remove the souring bacteria that might be in the originals. So far I have tested their Ebbegarden kveik. I pitched 5 g sachet into 25 liters of IPA and fermented at 30°C (86°F). I got a wonderful tropical fruit flavor (mango and pineapple) that complemented Centennial hops well. My favorite yeast for kveik IPA! I have Kveik Yeastery Stalljen kveik lined up for tests.

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.

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.

Update History

June 16, 2020: added clarification about pitch rate quantities and the spicy flavor of Sigmund’s kveik. Added LalBrew Voss Kveik Ale.
November 8, 2020: added Omega Espe kveik.
December 13, 2020: updated Omega Espe description.
September 17, 2021: added Omega Lutra Kveik. Changed the flavor descriptions of Sigmund’s kveik: what I earlier described as spicy flavor is now described as umami-woody flavor.
June 24, 2023: updated descriptions of Sigmund’s kveik, Omega Hornindal, Omega Lutra and LalBrew Voss. Added description of Kveik Yeastery Ebbegarden.

7 thoughts on “Farmhouse Yeast Descriptions

  • May 26, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    Once again, thank you Mika for sharing all this information! I have a couple of questions:

    Sigmund’s Kveik is POF-, how come it produces spiciness? Is it really from the yeast? Or maybe you got a contamination with a wild yeast?

    You mention pitching rates in grams per liter. Is it yeast slurry or dried yeast flakes?

    • May 27, 2020 at 5:22 am

      Thanks Johann, good questions! The text needs some clarifications. To my palate the spiciness of Sigmund’s kveik is peppery and woody but not phenolic and clove-like. I taste this “spiciness” also in commercial beers made with Voss kveiks. Perhaps somebody else would not describe these flavors as spicy but it is the best overall description I can think of. I measure dried yeast as grams and slurry as volumes, so that pitch rate in grams always refers to dried yeast.

  • May 27, 2020 at 5:33 am

    Every palate is so different… I appreciate your efforts to describe what you taste in this beers.

    Thanks for answering. Kippis!

  • June 1, 2020 at 7:57 pm

    With regards to Tomasgård, you’ll need to keep it right below 30 degrees C, and make sure to use enough hops. The lactobacillus are active at 30-40 degrees, and if your IBU is low, they will have a ball. I have also had it go sour on me (but in a good way!), and once I got vinegar acidity.. That was due to me being sloppy and forgot about the beer for a day or two when fermentning in an open fermentor, so that the beer was exposed to oxygen at ca 30 degrees. So it seems there are some acetobacter hanging around in there as well. Third time’s a charm, and it produced a perfect raw ale.

    • June 2, 2020 at 4:19 am

      Thank you for this advise! The batch that went sour with Tomasgård was unhopped sahti. Clearly hops are important with this yeast. I too got acetic acid (strong ethyl acetate aroma during fermentation).

  • October 24, 2020 at 10:59 pm

    Hello Mika, how do you harvest Framgarden? Top or bottom?

    • October 26, 2020 at 6:02 am

      I haven’t used Framgarden kveik and for some reason Farmhouse yeast registry doesn’t list this information. If it forms a yeast cake on top I would assume that the original owner harvests from top.


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