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Is it possible to brew using the same method as a Yorkshire Square but at home? Since the entire thing is open to the air, it seems like it would be a lot easier to brew like this instead of spending all that time sterilizing your equipment (which actually raises the question, how does this method of brewing even work?!?)

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3 Answers 3

You can certainly use an open-fermentation vessel to ferment. Brewing TV did an episode on Open Fermentation, and the tasting notes. The taste of your beer will change with an open fermentation but that doesn't mean it isn't a great method.

You will still need to properly clean and sanitize your equipment, however, as you'll still need to have sanitized racking equipment, bottling equipment, etc.

Edit: From the comments, Sometimes the the purpose of open-fermentation is to use the wild yeast in the air, but sometimes the purpose is to allow the yeast to perform without the co2 pressure that comes from a closed vessel. You should decide why you want to use an open vessel and then prepare accordingly.

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So I assume even though in the picture it looks like a dirty dungeon where they brew these things, that these rooms are actually very sterile? –  Michael Pryor Nov 16 '10 at 16:38
    
It depends on the brewery. Many Belgian breweries actually pride themselves on the particular bacteria in their brewery; they believe that their beer can only be made in that exact location because of the bacteria that infests their walls and air. They are quite clean and sanitary in their general process, but their primary fermentation attic isn't very sterile; it's a semi-controlled bacteria, I guess. –  sgwill Nov 16 '10 at 16:40

I know that Sierra Nevada uses open fermentation for their Kellerweis. However my understanding is that they have air filters that filter out any microbes.

In short. I would worry about infection. For one, whether you were open air fermenting or not, you still need to sanitize your gear. Dirty equipment makes for dirty beer. Your biggest concern would be fruit flies dropping into your beer which could result in an acetobaceter infection.

If you go through with this I would only do it for primary fermentation. 1 week if possible. And then rack to secondary.

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I've visited one particular brewery (not SN; this one will remain un-named) that used open fermentation, with dubious results. Judging from the open-fermentation room, their sanitation was subpar, with mold an funk on the walls. Not good. The beer reflected that, with heavy pediococcus infection in every single batch.

That's not to say it can't be done, as Sierra Nevada and notable English breweries have done, as well as some German Weissbier brewers, but you can't skip the sanitation aspect at all. I'd certainly look to having a good HEPA filter for incoming replacement air for that room.

The big brewers also have an advantage over you: Size. Per sqft of exposed wort/beer, they have several feet of depth churning out CO2, where you might have a fraction of that, so your wort might not get as much "off-flow" to push away floating contaminants.

It would be worth trying, certainly, but as said before: Sanitize very well, beware of incoming air (dust), and pitch a VERY healthy yeast starter to get that CO2 rockin' out of there as soon as possible. Whether it will save time, I question that. But you might get a slightly different and possibly better beer character in the end.

Calvin Perilloux, Middletown, Maryland, USA

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Good point: Sometimes the the purpose of open-fermentation is to use the wild yeast in the air, but sometimes the purpose is to allow the yeast to perform without the co2 pressure that comes from a closed vessel. You should decide why you want to use an open vessel and then prepare accordingly. –  sgwill Nov 16 '10 at 16:48
    
Excellent answer, but just a gentle reminder -- you don't need to sign your posts as each one is already signed with your user profile link. –  Jeff Atwood Nov 16 '10 at 18:40

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