Has anyone done any experiments trying to capture wild yeasts around their home/property and ferment with them? Any tips, methods, ideas, etc. would be appreciated.
I think its largely trial and error of leaving an open fermentor around for a day, then close it up and seeing what you get. Not sure if the "coolness" factor of saying you did it would outweigh the cost of burning through enough worts to get one batch right.... then you'd probably spend just as much time trying to repeat it.
Yes, I have done this. In fact, I'm doing it right now. I took some wine grapes (pinot, from my winery) and crushed them into juice and skins. DON'T rinse them first. The first time I just left them in a mixing bowl, loosely covered with an unsealed plastic lid, until they fermented spontaneously on the native yeast. From there, I made a sourdough starter by mixing in flour every few days while straining out seeds and skins until it was entirely white.
This year I just poured the mashed up juice (aka must) into a plastic bottle and loosely covered it with the lid. It fermented on the native yeast after 5-7 days. Then I poured the wine off the top and boiled up some DME, cooled it and pitched the native yeast into it (in an Erlenmeyer flask), covered loosely with foil. It fermented. When done, I poured off most of the beer after the yeast settled out and stored it in the fridge in a sanitized jar. Voila. Native Saccharomyces that you can brew with.
I haven't yet brewed with it though... but am making a mean sourdough. Will let you know what happens with the beer.