When brewing high gravity beers (i.e. high alcohol beers), the beer yeast needs to work a little harder to convert the extra sugar into alcohol. Not all beer yeast strains are cut out for the job. Some get tired, some can’t handle the extra booze. (Sounds like some people I know!)
Here are five beer yeast strains to consider using when brewing high gravity beers.
High Gravity Yeast Strains
- Wyeast 3787: Liquid Beer Yeast: Trappist High Gravity – Wyeast 3787 is great for brewing high gravity Belgian style beers such as Dubbels, Tripels, and Belgian Strong Ales. This beer yeast strain tolerates alcohol content up to 11-12% ABV or higher and produces the fruity flavors and aromas characteristic of Belgian ales.
- Wyeast 1388: Liquid Beer Yeast: Belgian Strong Ale – Wyeast 1388 is another good option if brewing high gravity Belgian ale beers, especially Golden Strong Ales. It can tolerate up to about 12-13% ABV.
- Mangrove Jack’s: Craft Series Beer Yeast / Workhorse / M10 – Mangrove Jack’s Workhorse can handle up to 9% alcohol by volume and is useful for a wide variety of beer styles. Its clean flavor profile will work well for many American and English ales.
- Wyeast 1728: Liquid Beer Yeast: Scottish Ale – Neutral and clean at the recommended temperature range, Wyeast 1728 is ideal for a malty Scotch ale, but it also works well for Barleywine, Old Ale, Russian Imperial Stout, and other big beers. It’s tolerant up to about 12% ABV.
- Red Star Pasteur Champagne Yeast – When going where a normal high gravity beer yeast won’t (say, higher than 12% ABV), a champagne or wine yeast can help reach those higher levels of alcohol content. If going for a super high gravity beer, pitch a standard beer yeast strain for the primary fermentation, then add more fermentable ingredients, such as simple syrup or dissolved candi sugar, along with a pack of champagne yeast during secondary fermentation to achieve that higher alcohol content.
Tips for Brewing High Gravity Beers
- As important (if not more so) than picking the right beer yeast strain, is pitching enough healthy yeast to completely ferment the wort. A beer yeast starter will help ensure that there are enough yeast cells to get the job done. Use a yeast pitch calculator to figure out how many packets of yeast or the volume of yeast starter you need.
- Also use yeast nutrient and be sure to aerate the wort well prior to pitching the beer yeast.
- If you’re trying to get above ~10-12% alcohol by volume, consider adding more fermentable ingredients to the secondary fermenter, combined with an additional yeast pitch using a different yeast strain.
Are you brewing high gravity beers? What tips do you have for achieving a higher alcohol content?
David Ackley is a beer writer, brewer, and self-described “craft beer crusader.” He holds a General Certificate in Brewing from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling and is founder and editor of the Local Beer Blog.