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I had a brew day yesterday and ran into something a little odd. I smacked a pack of Wyeast London Ale #1028 berfore I started my routine. After everything was said and done with the boil it had been about 4 or 5 hours and I was ready to pitch my yeast. Now I have had smack packs not swell completely and they have worked fine. This smack pack swelled very little and when I opened it there was a strange smell almost sulfur-ish. So before I pitched I did a little searching and read that during fermentation this strain of yeast is known for giving off a sulfur smell that usually settles out.

It hasn't even been 24 hours yet but there is still no action. I just wanted to get some thoughts on this. I am wondering if I should look at preparing an emergency measure just in case this yeast doesn't start at all.

EDIT: And I forgot to ask, has anyone else had any problems with this strain? I have never used it.

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What was the manufacture date on the package? If the yeast was old or had been stored improperly, the number of viable cells could be lower than expected. – Tobias Patton May 7 '13 at 0:04
It was 2 months from expiring. The pack was kept in the fridge and stayed there since I bought it. I brought home from my LHBS so I kept it cold the entire trip home. – TMC May 7 '13 at 2:08
up vote 2 down vote accepted

WY1028 behaves fairly normally, in my experience. It doesn't flocculate readily, meaning that you beer will take a long time to clear unless you add finings or filter. I've never had a problem with long lag time or poor attenuation.

A smack-pack that's reluctant to puff-up, in my experience, means an old or otherwise low-viability yeast colony. You're probably going to be OK with this beer -- just leave it for another 24 hours and it will probably shows signs of activity. In the future, you might think about making a starter wort for your yeast. It will be a big help with low-viability yeast, and will be of benefit even if the smack pack has the advertised 100 billion viable cells.

See here for information about cell counts for pitching, and here for instructions on making a yeast starter.

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I really wish I could have made a starter but I just got a wild hair to brew at the last minute. I haven't been able to in quite some time. I have some Safale 05 that I can pitch if it turns out bad. I'm just really looking forward to trying this strain since it is new to me. Have you ever noticed a sulfur smell during fermentation? – TMC May 7 '13 at 3:28
Not that I can remember. Whenever I've noticed sulphur in the early stages of fermentation, it's dissipated by the time I've ready to keg or bottle. – Tobias Patton May 9 '13 at 0:58
Well I gave the 1028 2 and a half days. Maybe it was too hasty on my part, but I pitched the SO5 last night and when I got home from work fermentation was rocking away. Lesson learned, make a starter, just in case. – TMC May 9 '13 at 2:44

I work in a large, reputable home brew store. My experience with this yeast is the same as other yeasts. The lag time is completely normal in bigger beers. Recently, I brewed a Russian imperial with an OG of 1.100 and pitched 2 packs of this yeast. It took nearly 48 hours to see any activity. If you aerate appropriately, and your smack pack swells, you'll notice a slightly longer lag time than say, a Safale US-05 or a WYeast 1056. In most beers with an OG under 1.070, this yeast will kick off in about 18-24 hours. Anything over that, and you'll need to give it time to start up. Once it is off to the races, expect a moderately aggressive fermentation...might be a good idea to set up a blow-off in primary fermenters with less head space. As long as the pack swells and as long as you aerate, you'll be totally fine. As with any bigger beer, the bigger the beer...the longer the overall process. This beer will finish out at roughly 11%ABV. I brewed it in early August and probably won't start drinking it until mid December at the earliest. Patience is the key.

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