Great service report: Imperial Yeast and Casey

I want to take an opportunity to give a shout out to Imperial Yeast (Portland, OR) and in particular to their rep, Casey Helwig.

Casey came and spoke during the education session of our monthly meeting of COHO back in April of this year. One of the owners also came with her but she handled all of the presentation and ~98% of the questions. I took a lot of notes that night but have sadly been unable to find them.

The main thing I remember was how seriously impressed I was by Casey that evening. She did an excellent job, which I tried to let her know before I left but she was engaged with others answering even more questions after the meeting ended so I was unable to do so.

My first beer, Path of Totality SMaSH pale ale used their A01 House yeast and my second, Time and Tide: A Romance of the Moon, used their A10 Darkness. Both seemed to do a great job right out of the can. They both kicked off to a rocking primary fermentation. I have tasted Path of Totality but it is not yet fully carbonated. Clean with some light esters (fermented at 67F). Time and Tide was last tasted on bottling day so questions remain. I have not detected any off flavors from either so far though.

While I was working on recipes for my third batch, another pale ale, and fourth batch, a big barleywine, I was running into trouble getting the yeast I wanted.

I was trying to get some A15 Independence for my pale and also trying to figure out which would possibly be good for the barleywine. My local homebrew shop had ordered my previous two cans but they have a glut of other Imperial yeast on hand right now and are not ordering currently. With the weather so freaking hot here (and elsewhere) it is not the time of year for mail ordering yeast. Or the time of year for much homebrewing in these parts perhaps (Casey’s suggestion).

So on 3 August I asked some questions on Imperial’s contact form about where/how I might source some A15 and about suggestions for the barleywine. Within an hour, I got a phone call from Casey. She spent at least 10 minutes on the phone with me chatting about yeasts for both of the beers.

Sadly, yet not unexpectedly, she couldn’t help me source the A15 but we ended up agreeing that for what I was trying to do with the hopping in the pale that A04 Barbarian and its stone fruit esters would probably work nicely. That one, Annie Jump Cannon pale ale is still in the fermenter but boy did it get off to a rocking start.

She also gave me four suggestions for the barleywine. My thoughts are still open on this one but I am seriously considering using one (or more) of her suggestions.

So, in many ways, I have little empirical evidence for how the Imperial yeasts have worked in these recipes. I accept that. This shout out is more specifically about the great customer service—even to homebrewers—by a young company putting out, as best I can tell, a solid and very useful product.

Their yeast is all-organic—only organic yeastery in the world (for now)—and comes in convenient, keep cold until use, small cans that have double the amount of yeasts cells as the liquid yeast competition. This means that for normal gravity beers you can skip the yeast starter step and still provide plenty of yeast. Yes, a can does cost a bit more than a smack pack or vial but it is nowhere near twice as much, perhaps 30% more.

For now, I am sold. I certainly will try Wyeast and White Labs yeasts at some point, and hopefully others as more yeasteries arrive, but Imperial has allowed me to feel good about giving my wort plenty of healthy yeast in an easy manner. They have also provided me with education and spent good time on the phone chatting with me. That means an awful lot to me.

By the by, I did tell Casey right away once she called that she impressed me at the club meeting. Wasn’t going to blow that chance! [Thank you kindly, Mark’s mind, for remembering.]

Thank you, Imperial Yeast. And thank you, Casey.