May 18, 2021

SafAle™ BE-134: The Multi-Purpose Saison Dry Yeast

SafAle™ BE-134: The Multi-Purpose Saison Dry Yeast

About the Yeast Strain

The SafAle™ BE-134 is most often presented on forums and magazines as the “Saison yeast” and while it works perfectly in this style of beer, the sky's the limit when it comes to the imagination of homebrewers. When we talk about a yeast strain, we talk about its characteristics, its aromatic profile and so many other things. In the case of the SafAle™ BE-134, this yeast strain is recommended for high-attenuated beers with fruity, floral and phenolic notes and a dry character. This definition can match many styles and our goal is to help you understand the yeast and determine if it’s the right choice for the style of beer you want to produce - be it Saison or the other endless possibilities.

What is a Saison Beer?

Although historically seasonal, Saison beers (meaning “season” in French) are brewed year-round and create refreshing and aromatic beers, with moderate bitterness, low alcohol strength, and a typical dryness. Originating back to the 17th century in Belgium (in the French-speaking Wallonia), Saison beers were made during the active farming period. Originally artisanal, rustic, with local farm-produced ingredients and long maturation time, these beers had low alcohol levels to help refresh, but not debilitate, the field workers. This style began to diversify into higher-strength and other variants after WWII and today we may classify those into ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ Saison beer types. In modern styles, you may find Saisons spiced with herbs and flowers or using adjuncts such as sugar or honey to boost dryness. Base malts are typical, but the grist frequently contains other grains such as wheat, oats, rye – and traditionally spelt - that also provide spicy flavors and its precursors for the yeast.

Today it is easy to find heavily dry-hopped versions, which combine the power of the yeast with an extra charge of flavor and modern hops – though traditionally, continental European hops were the favorites. You’ll also see Saison styles using using darker and caramel malts, but not roasted types. Essentially it all boils down to: if you want to be creative and play with the incredible world of beer yeast and flavorful ingredients, Saison types may be the one to let your imagination run with! Using the SafAle™ BE-134, you have the choice to play around with your homebrewing parameters, including the fermentation temperature.

Fermentation Temperature with SafAle™ BE-134

Saison beers are mainly defined by their sparkling and refreshing characters such as their moderate level of alcohol. Typically the kind of beer you would like to drink during summer, which implies a brewing session in spring when temperatures start to be warmer. So, is it possible to ferment a wort with the SafAle™ BE-134 at a warmer temperature?

Fermentis conducted a study to learn more about the impact of fermentation parameters on this particular yeast strain and what the outcome is for the final beer.  From 54 to 83°F, a wide range of temperatures have been studied. Maintaining a consistent temperature during the fermentation, we found the following results.

  • In term of fermentation kinetics:
    • It’s not recommended to ferment at low temperature (below 61°F), this will significantly increase the fermentation time to more than 20 days or even a month in the case of 54°F.
    • In all temperature conditions, you have the guarantee to reach a minimum of 89% of apparent attenuation (up to 92.5% in some cases), only the time to reach this minimum attenuation will change depending on the temperature. For example, it will take 7 days with an initial density of 16°P (1.065) and a temperature of 75°F.
  • In term of volatile compounds and sensory profile:
    • Generally speaking, SafAle™ BE-134 is a very flavorful yeast with a large variety of esters produced - such as ethyl-acetate (general fruity notes), ethyl-butanoate (tropical fruits notes), isoamyl-acetate (banana notes) or ethyl-hexanoate (red apple / aniseed notes). It also produces other compounds like 4-vinyl guaiacol (4-VG), linked to the phenolic notes (cloves) but we’ll come back on it later. To fully express this wide diversity of flavor in your beer, it’s recommended to ferment above 68°F. Below this temperature you’ll lose a bit of its aromatic potential.
    • At 68°F you’ll have a good profile in terms of fruitiness (tropical fruits amongst other things). By increasing the temperature, to 75°F for example, you’ll change the fruitiness profile, going from tropical to that of banana or apple notes. But the main impact of increasing the temperature will be to accentuate the phenolic power of the yeast giving to your beer spicier, clove-like flavors.

With all we discovered here, we can easily say that it’s not a problem for the SafAle™ BE-134 to work at warmer temperatures, about a range of temperature from 64 to 76°F. It all depends on what you’re looking for in terms of aromatic profile for your final beer. At 82°F, you run the risk of sulphury notes, which is why it’s advised to remain below this temperature. It’s also good to keep in mind that other fermentation parameters could have an impact on your beer - such as the initial density or the pitching rate. If you want to learn more about the full study, contact Fermentis here. In addition to the fermentation parameters, another aspect to take into account when you brew with the SafAle™ BE-134 is the particular species of this yeast, which is not a “classic” Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

Var. diastaticus, a characteristic to take into consideration

SafAle™ BE-134 yeast strain is a Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. diastaticus, which means the yeast naturally releases certain enzymes in the extra-cellular media, such as the Amyloglucosidase (AMG), that are capable of degrading most of the sugars present during the fermentation. This AMG generates glucose that will be fermented and consequently metabolized into ethanol, CO2 and aromatic compounds. Thus, the apparent degree of fermentation is very high, mostly above 90%. According to the literature, all S. cerevisiae var. diastaticus are POF+ (phenolic off flavor positive) and use the ferulic acid present in the malt for the synthesis of the phenols, mainly 4-VG. The other interesting property of the yeast is that flocculation and sedimentation behaviour is low, and the yeast remains in the media to complete the fermentation.

To summarize, we can say that the SafAle™ BE-134 is an interesting yeast to play with when exploring the diversity of Saison beer styles. The characteristics of this yeast strain,  such as its high attenuation power and large flavorful profile make it a good candidate for a wide variety of beers. Discovery and experimentation are key actions for homebrewers and this yeast gives you the possibility to do that.

Special thanks to the Fermentis team, especially Hugo Picard, for this article!

 Hugo Picard, Fermentis technical sales manager Technical Sales Manager for the home segment at Fermentis. Hugo graduated with a Master’s in Science and Agricultural Engineering specializing in Marketing from ISA Lille in France. He also acquired a Master’s degree in International Marketing and Communication at Lille University. Before joining Fermentis, Hugo has been president of a brewing and winemaking association and worked in several breweries and brewpubs in France and New Zealand as a brewer or as a marketing/communication associate.