What is Kveik yeast?
You probably have heard of this word, or maybe you have not until today, so let’s go ahead and answer the question in our title, first; “What is Kveik yeast?”. The very simplest explanation is that “Kveik” refers (currently) to about 3, brewer’s yeast strains that are native to Norway, specifically. Now, that is the short definition, but Kveik gets much more interesting than that! I field many questions about Kveik yeasts, every summer because, unlike most other brewing yeasts, it can tolerate very high temperatures by comparison, and it attenuates VERY quickly. Because of this higher temperature tolerance and blazing speed, warmer months seem to be when ya’ll really want to know about the stuff! Hey, I get it and you know by now, I need very little justification to talk about brewing yeasts, so here we go!
“Where does Kveik come from?”
As already briefly mentioned above, Kveik yeast originates in Norway and the word itself literally means “the yeast”! Certain varieties of Kveik can also be found in Lithuania, Latvia, and other surrounding areas… But these yeasts are part of the family associated with the “Norwegian farmhouse” style, or as we often call it nowadays, just “Farmhouse” style. Many of the original varieties of “old world” Kveik have been lost to time, but on the west coast of Norway, from Hardanger in the south to Sunnmøre in the north, there are still some yeast cultures that have survived and are in use to this day, along with more contemporary strains and blends, as well. Specific, regional cultures were usually passed down as well guarded family secrets, so the wild varieties of Kveik that we may not even know of today, likely existed on a vast spectrum.
“What’s it got, that other “Ale” yeasts, don’t?”
You likely already gleaned; Kveik’s special talents are SUPER fast fermentation and high-temperature tolerance… But so, what? There are other yeasts that do that too, right? Well, sort of… But there are not many yeasts that can do all that and still taste GREAT, that’s where Kveik gets “extra” special if time and temperature are management issues for you. Depending on the specific variety of Kveik you are brewing with, “ideal” fermentation temps can run anywhere from 90-104 degrees F! That is some sultry, stuff!
“Can I only use this yeast for Farmhouse styles, then?”
That is probably the best part of this whole “thing”. Kveik yeast is surprisingly flexible, at least far more flexible than you might think! Brewers across the country have used it to ferment anything from IPA’s to Pilsner-style beers! That means you can have wort, to beer in as little as 3 days and conditioning will happen much faster, too!
“What kind of flavors can I expect to get from Kveik varieties?”
Kviek yeast is typically characterized as “estery” (fruity), but usually low in phenols, which are those spicy flavors you will sometimes find in Belgian styles. Different labs will create varying mixtures of Kveik varieties a long with bacteria, in order to modulate and or manipulate various flavor characteristics, so it is very important to make sure you “do your research” prior to purchasing and brewing with a Kveik strain. Some varieties even boast “neutral” flavor profiles when brewed at the lower temperature ranges. Keep in mind though, with a few exceptions, Kveik’s usually provide the best flavors, at higher temperatures.
“Where can I find Kveik yeast of my own to brew with?”
While we are not yet carrying Kveik varieties, over at Mr. Beer… “YET, You might be please to learn that LOTS of specialized vendors carry it, so make sure to check in the brew shops that are local to you as well, they might just surprise you with what they have in stock!
Alright, folks, that might have seemed like “a lot” but when it comes to the wild and funky world of Kveik, the rabbit hole can get MUCH deeper! I hope that answered some of your questions and if you find yourself wanting “more”, give us a call or send us a message and we will be happy to talk “shop” on wild yeasts with you!
Until next time, Cheers!