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In general, there are two types of beer yeasts:

Ale Yeast (top fermenting or Saccharomyces cerevisiae)

  • Top fermenting yeasts are used for brewing ales, porters, stouts, Altbier, Kölsch, and wheat beers. 
  • The yeasts rise to the surface of the container during the fermentation causing a rich and thick yeast head.

Lager Yeast (bottom fermenting or Saccharomyces uvarum/cerevisiae)

  • Some of the lager styles made from bottom-fermenting yeasts are Pilsners, Dortmunders, Märzen, Bocks, and American malt liquors. 
  • Lager yeast strains work best at temperatures less than 60 degrees.  Because of the lower temperature the yeasts settle to the bottom as fermentation ends (hence the name bottom fermenting)  

The recipe you select will dictate the type of yeast you should use.  Within each category as numerous other strains available for the homebrewer.  You can brew a beer with the same exact malts and ratio but a different yeast and your beer will be totally different. Experimenting with yeast is a great way to learn more about brewing.   

 

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