reader question: desert island yeast strain

Sorry to do this two posts in a row, citizens, but this one is a stumper (and worthy of debate). Andrew writes:

I have recently moved to China. I will be in the US to see some friends in a couple of weeks and intend to bring a supply of hops and yeast back to China.

My question is, “what yeast would you take to China for a years worth of brewing?” Is there a strain that you absolutely couldn’t live without?

First off – unfair question!

I’ll do what I always do when I inevitably get asked what my favorite beer is, and give multiple answers. So secondly, yes – several strains.

Here’s my highly subjective and somewhat evasive, possibly unhelpful in narrowing it down, desert island list for broad categories I brew within at least a couple times a year:

  • for American-style ales: 1056 ‘merican
  • for Weizens: 3068 Weihenstephan
  • for Belgian-style ales: 3787 Trappist … or maybe 3522 Ardennes
  • for Bavarian lagers: 2487 Hella Bock
  • for Czech lagers: 2782 Staro Prague
  • for British ales: 1275 Thames Valley … or maybe 1469 West Yorkshire

And yours?

32 thoughts on “reader question: desert island yeast strain

  1. WLP29; But all I brew now-a-days is kolsch and alt biers. Very clean ~68F, high attenuation, and good/fast setteling with a week or so of lagering. I have a house strain that is going on a year old at this point, and still boogying through the wort. I haven’t noticed any change in beer quality. In fact my beer is getting better! I am also a much more experienced brewer, so that might have something to do with it. FWIW, Stephen.

  2. Mine would be…
    1007 German
    1056 American
    3068 Weihenstephan
    But it’s hard to narrow it down with always trying new stuff but I could probably survive with those 3 if I had too.

  3. From the time you have the liquid yeast in hand to the time you get to a fridge in China, well, do you really think they won’t already have swelled? What about all the packing/luggage rules and regs? If it were me, without the support of this wise community, I’d rule out liquid yeast. Packets of dried yeast would be sure to get there, but then that wouldn’t be as interesting a discussion.

  4. If I really had to choose one, and I had temperature control, I would choose a Belgian strain (3787) or even a Saison strain like 3711 just because you would have a lot more options to make a variety of styles by controlling pitching rates, fermentation temperatures, wort composition, and all of the other usual suspects.

  5. My 2-cents: Wyeast 1056, 3787, 3944 (wit), 3724 (Belgian saison), and as much as I would love to kick 3068 to the curb because he’s kind of a jerk, Wyeast 3068 will always be an unfortunate part of my go-to yeast bank. Not to offend our favorite beer-blogger, Nottingham is totally welcome in my brewery. Wyeast 1968 and I don’t get along…at all.
    Don’t remember the #, but Wyeast’s Pacific Northwest strain is pretty awesome (yeast suggested for NB’s Caribou Slobber).

  6. For me it’d be either something English or Belgian. An English yeast gives you potential to tackle UK and American styles. So probably 1469 or maybe 3787 and look at it as an opportunity to really get to know one of them and their limits.

  7. If you’re stuck with only one, you definitely want a workhorse that cover you for most styles. 1056; 001 and US-05 all would seem to fit that description. Of course if you’re brewing mostly one specific style, you should tailor the yeast towards that style.

  8. For me a mixture of dried and liquid yeast
    S-04 and US-05, good all purpose alrounders, good work horses.
    T-58 for a bit of Belgium funk
    WLP380 My favourite Weizen
    WLP568 for Saison, a new style for me this year and I like the results from this yeast
    W34/70 for my Pilsners, I’m still learning about this style as I’ve only just got suitable ferm temp control. I’m slowly improving but still got a little way to go before I’m happy, as it happens I’m just about to start my next attempt 🙂

  9. If I absolutely had to use only one it would be WLP007 Dry English. It ferments fast. Floccs well. It gives pretty nice English esters when fermented around 68. If you keep it in the low 60s for the first couple days it is quite clean. So its good for American and English styles.

  10. Ok, I have an dark horse here: Wyeast 1335 (British Ale II)

    This yeast doesn’t get a lot of love but I think it’s very versatile.

    Points to consider:
    + Ferment it is low (65-68) and it’s very clean
    + However, ferment it in the low 70s and the esters begin to appear albeit very gradually, making it controllable (so no fruit bomb surprises)
    + It’s highly flocculant so it cleans up nicely
    + However, it’s also well attenuating and you can get a moderalty-plus dry beer out of this.

    This won’t handle all beer styles, but I think you can probalby do all Brit and American styles.

  11. Maybe “what yeast would you take to China” is an oblique reference to opening a brewery?

    For whatever reason, it seems that a lot of US “craft” breweries seem to think that they need to settle on a house yeast, and use that strain for EV-RE-THING. Ugh. There’s a local brewery that even tried to brew a Leipziger Gose with their house, Irish Ale strain!!

  12. New idea – don’t bring any – go to Qingdao and ask them for some. The brewery was actually built by Germans during the concession days. I’m sure they’ll give you some and simply asking would be a great adventure – but I’m clearly missing the point – which is on the versatility of various yeast strains – but why wasn’t that the question? The hypothetical: going to a deserted island – what strain would you bring? – would be a more accurate question. Sorry – just being snarky.

    It’s so stinking hot in China in the summer that you’d be dumb not to bring some kind of saison yeast.

  13. Thanks for the suggestions.
    I like the Charlie P – Cry Havoc response, very utilitarian. (How is your dog Chip?)
    My question was motivated by the quest for flavour. Beer over here like the joke about sex in a canoe…… American “Macro Swill” is full flavours by contrast.
    I think 2782 Staro Prague and 2487 Hella Bock have a place in the suitcase.
    Any suggestions on what makes a clean saison like Brasserie Duport Saison?

  14. As with others WLP862. If dry only, US-05…but honestly, when in Rome…I would take it as an opportunity to explore native yeast strains, sugar sources and brewing techniques. You might bring back something truly unique.

  15. I just returned from 2.5 yrs in China and brewed over 30 batches there. If near Shanghai or Beijing, there is a craft beer scene which can be connected with and is supportive of homebrewers. But I did bring plenty with me and recruited colleagues to mule stuff over too. I recommend a Saison strain for the crazy hot summers and an alt/Kolsch for the dank winters beyond your preferred US and Brit ale strains. I always harvested, washed and saved yeast. I kept dry packets on hand as reserve, but never used it. When my 3711 failed in a starter from bad handling/age, I used 3 bottles of Saison DuPont dregs. I kept a dozen strains on hand in vials. I was equally varied in my hop inventory, although the local brewers and homebrew shops were willing suppliers. Send the inquirer my way if he needs connections.

    • Thanks Dave. I picked up some supplies from Great Leap Brewery in Beijing. Slow Boat is the only other craft brewery that I am aware of in Beijing. Happy to accept any other leads.

      • Andrew – send me an e-mail at I was based in Shanghai, but I know of one expat run homebrew shop who would ship up to Beijing for you. But for yeasts, bring it in. Find yourself the lab equipment street market, and get flasks and a stirplate to propagate starters.

  16. Generally speaking, I agree with Dave. In the North, the summers are (f**king) hot and are winters are (f**king) cold. A Saison strain would be a good choice in summer, and Alt/California Common/German Ale could be interesting in the winter. US-05 for the short in-between. In the South, it’s usually warmer all year round: American and English Ales in the late fall/winter/early spring; Saison and other warmer strains in the summer. My experience has been that the local lagers are drinkable, but unremarkable. So forget about lagering if you only plan to be there for a year. To make a long post short: brew your own ales, buy local lagers.

  17. I don’t know how I missed this post, but here are mine:

    The workhorse: US-05 – this is always on hand in the fridge for an impromptu brewday. Ferments the majority of my beers (I brew a lot of APA’s and IPA’s, but I use it for stouts and porters as well). A damn good dry yeast
    English ales – 1968, but I’m still experimenting. S-04 is OK, but a bit too bready compared to 1968. I have a vial of WLP013 in the fridge that I’m trying next for a scotch-ale based session-strength Winter Warmer, followed by a gigantic barleywine.
    Belgian ales – WY3864 Canadian/Belgian rocks. This should absolutely be a year-round strain (hint, hint). I am about to trial it as my house ale strain for the next several months. It works great in hoppy beers (best beer I ever brewed was a bastardized “Session-Dubbel-meets-Pale-Ale” hybrid using this yeast). It works great in malty beers. It can stay relatively clean at cooler temps with a big pitch, but it always has that distinct Unibroue flavor in the finish. Got a Belgian Pale and Belgian Amber Strong (Marzen x Belgian Golden Strong) going right now, with a Belgian ESB, Belgian IPA and rebrews of the Session Dubbel and Quad I brewed last year lined up for the winter.
    Lager – I don’t brew enough, but anything other than 2007 (too clean) works for my purposes.

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