Perhaps the biggest brewing trend of 2019 has been the explosion in popularity of Kveik (pronounced Ki-Vike) yeast. Kveik is a group of Norwegian yeast strains that were previously best known for their use in Norwegian farmhouse brewing. Kviek yeast has been used in brewing for over 400 years now, but recently has seen a resurgence in popularity because of some of its unique properties.
So what is so special about Kviek? Primarily it boils down to temperature! Unlike typical ale yeast, which ferments best around 68F, Kviek yeast strains ferment well up to temperatures of 100°F (a temperature that would kill most lager or ale yeast strains). In fact, the sweet spot for Kviek yeast strains is between 70°F and 95°F and at high temperatures it imparts little noticeable difference in ester production. The ideal fermentation temperature for a lager is typically between 45F and 60F ; for an ale it is 68F and 72F. Unlike Kviek, most lager and ale yeast strains produce undesirable off flavors / esters once they exceed their optimal fermentation temperature ranges. If a home brewer does not have the ability to control their fermentation temperature this often times translates to sub par beer.
The high fermentation temperature range of Kviek yeasts has another big benefit, SPEED! You know how cold blooded animals like snakes and lizards move slower when it is cold outside and faster when it is hot? Well yeast works the same way. When the temperature is high, yeast gets super charged. It is the reason why lagers ferment so much slower than ales. Using Kviek yeast is kinda like trading in your old 2007 Dodge Caravan for a 2020 Porsche GT2 with a carbon fiber spoiler, reduced weight seats and upgraded suspension package.
Not wanting to drive a Minivan any longer, I figured I would give Kviek a shot and see what all the hype was about.
Home Brewing with Kviek Yeast
To take full advantage of the Kviek fermentation benefits, I purchased a dual stage temperature controller and an “always on” heating pad for my fermentation chamber (converted chest freezer). Keep in mind that as yeast ferments it is releasing a bunch of energy as it replicates, digests sugar, pees out alcohol and burps out CO2. In the image at the top of this article, you can see that I set my fermentation temp to 86F and the yeast brought the temperature all the way up to 90.1F during primary fermentation. It is advised that you make sure you keep that in mind as you set your desired fermentation temperature into your temp controller if you happen to use one.
For my first Kviek batch, I fermented a Double IPA and used the Imperial Loki Kviek yeast strain. Here is some of Imperials information on it:
Imperial Loki Kviek Yeast
TEMP: 65–100F (18–38C) FLOCCULATION: MEDIUM-HIGH ATTENUATION: 75–85% ALCOHOL TOLERANCE: 10%
Norwegian Voss Kveik Strain that can be used in a wide variety of beer styles. A traditional Norwegian Kveik strain that has an extremely wide fermentation temperature range. This strain has been traditionally used in Norwegian farmhouse style beers however, due to it’s fermentation temp range can be used in a variety of beers from pseudo lagers, Belgian inspired, and hop forward beers. The possibilities seem endless when fermenting with Loki. On the cool end of the range Loki is super clean; producing little to no esters. On the high end of the fermentation range, 85-95F, it tends to produce a huge fruit ester profile.
I created a yeast starter with the Kviek yeast the night before. The brew day went well with no mishaps. I pitched the wort, placed the fermenter in the fermentation chamber and checked in on it periodically. The fermenter was already bubbling after just a few hours. I had never seen fermentation begin so rapidly. Primary fermentation concluded in just 3 days which was incredibly fast for a beer with an approximate ABV of 8.5%. I dry hopped the beer for 3 additional days and then cold crashed for 2 days at 45F. My highest fermentation temperature reached was 91F.
I named my first Kviek beer Battle Hammer – Viking Double IPA. It is extremely hoppy, but with a name like Battle Hammer, I figured it needed to be. I had only let the beer condition in the keg for about a week and at this point it is still a little cloudy; I am hoping it will clear a bit over the next couple of weeks. The beer tastes fantastic; very clean and with no off flavors that might have come from the yeast. I was unable to taste any noticeable difference between brewing with this Kviek Loki yeast to when I had brewed this same beer in the past with a Wyeast 1056 American Ale yeast strain. The beer came out great, my only change would be to perhaps swap out some of my old school hops for some Citra to brighten the hop profile a bit.
To celebrate the beer, I had created a tap handle inspired by it’s Norwegian heritage.
The runes on the tap handle read “IPA” or at least that is what the Google tells me.
I already have another Kviek fermented beer in the works. For this batch I am using the Omega Kviek Hornidal strain. It is going to be a Coconut Milkshake Hazy IPA. I am hoping that some of the tropical not from them Hornindal Kviek strain take hold in the beer. The hop profile of this beer is far more subtle than my Battle Hammer Viking IPA, so the yeast should have a greater impact on the flavor of this beer. Here is some information on the Kviek yeast stains put out by Omega.
HotHead is Norwegian in origin from the Stranda Kveik. The famous Lars of Larsblog collected it in Norway and then sent it away for isolation. This isolate has a uniquely pleasant fruitiness and an absurdly wide fermentation range, and ferments clean across the entire range. This is great for brewers who want to be energy efficient with temperature control, or who lack temp control in warm climates. It maintains a stable ester profile, and we advocate it’s be used for hoppy American ales.
Attributes: Med-High Flocculation, 75-85% Attenuation, : 72-98° F Temp Range, 11% ABV Alcohol Tolerance
Voss Kveik is also a Norwegian farmhouse strain from the Gjernes farmhouse which is new to US brewers. It maintains character over a broad temperature range with subtle orange citrus notes that match fruity hops well.
Attributes: Medium Flocculation, 75-82% Attenuation, 62-98° F Temp Range, 12% ABV Alcohol Tolerance
A wonderfully unique Norwegian farmstead Kveik. Hornindal presents a tropical flavor and aroma of fresh pineapple, mango and tangerine, which complement fruit-forward hops. Add even more dimension to C hops with a high fermentation temperature, intensifying aroma and fermentation speed. Ferments well at 90+° F.
Attributes: High Flocculation, 75-82% Attenuation, 72-98° F Temp Range, 16% ABV Alcohol Tolerance