How to Brew Beer with Wild Yeast: Exploring the World of Sour and Funky Brews

How to Brew Beer with Wild Yeast: Exploring the World of Sour and Funky Brews

Beer brewing has been around for thousands of years, and with the rise of craft beer culture, there has been an increasing interest in exploring new and unique flavor profiles. One such flavor profile is sour and funky beer, which is brewed using wild yeast and bacteria instead of traditional brewer’s yeast. This style of beer has gained a cult following among beer enthusiasts, and many breweries have started experimenting with wild yeast to create their own signature sour and funky brews.

But what exactly is wild yeast, and how is it used in beer brewing? Wild yeast is a type of yeast that is naturally present in the environment, such as on fruit skins or in the air. It is different from brewer’s yeast, which is a specific strain of yeast that is used in traditional beer brewing. When wild yeast is used in beer brewing, it can create unique and complex flavors that are not possible with brewer’s yeast.

The Process of Brewing Beer with Wild Yeast

Brewing beer with wild yeast involves a different process than traditional beer brewing. Instead of using a controlled environment with specific strains of yeast, the brewer allows the wild yeast to naturally ferment the beer. This can take longer than traditional brewing, and requires careful monitoring to ensure that the beer does not become contaminated with harmful bacteria.

There are several different methods for brewing beer with wild yeast, including spontaneous fermentation, barrel aging, and mixed fermentation. Each method produces a different flavor profile, and brewers often experiment with different techniques to create unique and interesting beers.

The Benefits of Brewing with Wild Yeast

Brewing beer with wild yeast offers several benefits for brewers and beer enthusiasts. It allows for greater creativity and experimentation in beer brewing, and can produce unique and complex flavors that are not possible with traditional brewer’s yeast. It also offers a connection to the history of beer brewing, as wild yeast was likely used in early beer making before the discovery of brewer’s yeast.

In the following sections, we will explore the different methods for brewing beer with wild yeast, as well as the benefits and challenges of each method. We will also provide tips for homebrewers who want to experiment with wild yeast and create their own sour and funky brews.

What is Wild Yeast?

Wild yeast, also known as spontaneous yeast or natural yeast, is a type of yeast that is found in the environment, such as on fruits, plants, and in the air. Unlike commercial yeast, which is carefully cultivated and controlled in a laboratory setting, wild yeast strains are unpredictable and can vary from location to location. They are also known for their sour and funky flavors, which make them a popular choice for brewing sour beers.

Benefits of Using Wild Yeast in Beer Brewing

Using wild yeast in beer brewing can provide a range of benefits, including:

  • Unique flavors: Wild yeast strains can produce a range of complex and interesting flavors that cannot be replicated with commercial yeast. These flavors can include sour, funky, and fruity notes.
  • Local terroir: Because wild yeast strains are specific to a location, using them in beer brewing can help create a sense of place or terroir. This can be especially important for brewers who want to showcase the unique flavors and characteristics of their local environment.
  • Lower costs: Using wild yeast can be a cost-effective alternative to purchasing commercial yeast strains. Since wild yeast is found in the environment, brewers can often collect it for free or at a low cost.
  • Natural fermentation: Wild yeast strains are naturally occurring and do not require the addition of chemicals or preservatives. This can be appealing to brewers who want to create beer using natural and organic methods.

Overall, using wild yeast in beer brewing can be a great way to experiment with new flavors and techniques. While it can be a more unpredictable and challenging process than using commercial yeast, the unique and complex flavors that wild yeast can produce make it a worthwhile endeavor for adventurous brewers.

Sour Beers vs Funky Beers

While both sour beers and funky beers are brewed with wild yeast, they have distinct differences in flavor and aroma.

What is a Sour Beer?

Sour beers are brewed with bacteria such as lactobacillus or pediococcus, which produce lactic acid during fermentation. This gives sour beers their tart and acidic flavor. Some popular styles of sour beers include Berliner Weisse, Gose, and Flanders Red.

What is a Funky Beer?

Funky beers are brewed with wild yeast strains such as Brettanomyces or Saccharomyces, which produce unique flavors and aromas such as barnyard, earthy, or fruity notes. These flavors are often described as “funky” or “wild”. Some popular styles of funky beers include Saison, Farmhouse Ale, and Lambic.

Different Styles of Sour and Funky Beers

There are many different styles of sour and funky beers, each with their own unique characteristics.

  • Berliner Weisse – a light and refreshing sour beer with a tart finish
  • Gose – a sour and salty beer with coriander and citrus notes
  • Flanders Red – a complex sour beer with fruity and malty flavors
  • Saison – a funky beer with spicy and fruity notes
  • Farmhouse Ale – a rustic and earthy beer with a dry finish
  • Lambic – a sour beer brewed with wild yeast and aged in oak barrels for a complex flavor profile

Whether you prefer the tartness of a sour beer or the funkiness of a wild ale, there is a wide range of styles to explore in the world of wild yeast brewing.

Sour Beers Funky Beers
Berliner Weisse Saison
Gose Farmhouse Ale
Flanders Red Lambic

How to Brew Beer with Wild Yeast: Exploring the World of Sour and Funky Brews

Ingredients and Equipment

To brew beer with wild yeast, you will need a few special ingredients and equipment. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 5-gallon brewing kettle
  • Malt extract
  • Hops
  • Wild yeast culture (such as Brettanomyces or Lactobacillus)
  • Sanitizer
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer
  • Airlock and stopper
  • Bottling bucket and bottles

Preparing the Yeast Starter

Before you start brewing, you’ll need to prepare a yeast starter. This will help ensure that your wild yeast culture is active and healthy before you add it to your beer. Here’s how to make a yeast starter:

  1. Sanitize a glass jar and lid.
  2. Add 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of malt extract to the jar.
  3. Stir the mixture until the malt extract is dissolved.
  4. Add your wild yeast culture to the jar.
  5. Seal the jar with the lid and shake it to mix the yeast into the wort.
  6. Let the yeast starter sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours, or until it becomes foamy and bubbly.

Mashing and Boiling

Once your yeast starter is ready, it’s time to start brewing. Here’s how to mash and boil your beer:

  1. Bring 2.5 gallons of water to a boil in your brewing kettle.
  2. Add your malt extract and hops to the kettle.
  3. Stir the mixture to dissolve the malt extract and distribute the hops.
  4. Boil the mixture for 60-90 minutes, adding hops as needed.
  5. After the boil is complete, cool the wort to room temperature.


Once your wort is cooled, it’s time to add your wild yeast culture and let the beer ferment. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sanitize your fermenting vessel (a glass carboy or plastic bucket will work).
  2. Add your wort to the fermenter.
  3. Add your yeast starter to the fermenter.
  4. Seal the fermenter with an airlock and stopper.
  5. Let the beer ferment for 1-6 months, depending on the style of beer you’re making and the strength of your wild yeast culture.

Bottling and Conditioning

Once your beer has finished fermenting, it’s time to bottle and condition it. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sanitize your bottling bucket and bottles.
  2. Add priming sugar to the bottling bucket.
  3. Rack your beer from the fermenter to the bottling bucket, being careful not to disturb the sediment.
  4. Bottle your beer and cap the bottles.
  5. Store your bottled beer at room temperature for 1-2 weeks to allow it to carbonate and condition.
  6. Chill your beer and enjoy!

Tips for Brewing with Wild Yeast


One of the most important things to keep in mind when brewing with wild yeast is sanitation. Wild yeast can be found everywhere, and if your equipment isn’t properly sanitized, you risk introducing unwanted bacteria and other microorganisms into your beer. Make sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize all of your equipment, including fermenters, hoses, and airlocks, before and after each use.

Temperature Control

Wild yeast can be unpredictable, and one way to help control the fermentation process is by controlling the temperature. Keep your fermentation vessel in a cool, dark place, ideally between 65-75°F (18-24°C). Avoid drastic temperature changes, as this can stress the yeast and affect the final flavor of the beer.


When brewing with wild yeast, it’s important to be patient. Unlike commercial yeast strains, wild yeast can take longer to ferment and may require more time for the flavors to develop. Be prepared to wait several weeks or even months for your beer to fully mature. It’s also important to resist the urge to open the fermenter too often, as this can introduce oxygen and potentially spoil the batch.

Additional Tips

  • Consider using a starter culture to help ensure a healthy fermentation.
  • Use a blow-off tube instead of an airlock to prevent overflow during vigorous fermentation.
  • Experiment with different types of wild yeast to discover unique and complex flavor profiles.
  • Keep detailed notes on each batch to track the fermentation process and make adjustments for future batches.
Sanitation Temperature Control Patience
Thoroughly clean and sanitize all equipment before and after use. Keep fermentation vessel between 65-75°F (18-24°C). Be patient and wait several weeks or even months for beer to fully mature.


Brewing beer with wild yeast is a unique and exciting way to explore the world of sour and funky brews. While traditional brewing methods rely on cultivated yeast strains, wild yeast opens up a whole new world of flavor possibilities.

However, brewing with wild yeast requires some additional knowledge and preparation. It’s important to understand the different types of wild yeast and how they can impact the flavor of your beer. Additionally, proper sanitation and fermentation techniques are crucial to ensuring a successful brew.

One of the most important things to remember when brewing with wild yeast is to be patient. It can take longer for wild yeast to ferment and develop than it would with cultivated yeast. But the end result is often well worth the wait.

Overall, brewing with wild yeast is a fun and rewarding way to experiment with new flavors and techniques. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article, you can create unique and delicious sour and funky brews that will impress your friends and family.

  • Remember to properly sanitize all equipment and materials before brewing
  • Experiment with different types of wild yeast to find the flavor profile that suits your tastes
  • Be patient during the fermentation process and allow the wild yeast to work its magic

So go ahead, get adventurous, and start brewing with wild yeast today!

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