Monday, April 22, 2024

Brew Talk: Capturing wild yeast from the ocean air at Red Hare Brewing Co.

The ‘coolship’ on the second floor of the brewhouse receives wort from the kettle downstairs and collects wild yeast from the ocean air overnight. (Port City Daily photo/Courtesy Red Hare Brewing Co.)

SHALLOTTE — At Red Hare Brewing Company’s satellite brewery in Shallotte, known as the Experiment Station, brewers use a traditional Belgian brewing vessel called a coolship (or ‘koelschip’ in Dutch) to capture wild yeast and bacteria in the air for their beer to ferment and create alcohol.

Rather than transferring the wort straight from the kettle to fermenter tanks, it goes to the open-aired coolship on the second floor of the brewhouse where it cools overnight, with the windows opened to allow natural bacteria and yeast to grow in the beer.

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Taproom Manager Byron McSweeney said the coolship process can only be used in January and February, when temperatures outside fall within 20 to 40 degrees. The goal is to capture wild Brettanomyces yeast that grows well in the coastal air, and is used in the traditional lambic style of beer that originated near Brussels — the traditional coolship beer.

“Then we come in the next day with our fingers crossed and hope we caught something,” McSweeney said.

Watch Taproom Manager Byron McSweeney discuss the open-aired fermentation process below. If you are having issues watching the video, use the link here.

Mark Darrough can be reached at

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