Book Review |
First Steps in Yeast Culture, Part One
Pierre Rajotte (Alliage editeur, Montreal, 1994),
170 pp., $23.95.
Republished from BrewingTechniques' September/October 1994.
Yeast culturing is one of the last frontiers of brewing. For many home brewers, it is the most intimidating aspect of brewing and the last to be tackled. Although significant developments in yeast packaging a few years ago opened the door to pure yeast cultures to thousands of home brewers, isolating and maintaining those cultures is only slowly becoming more common. Pierre Rajotte's self-published First Steps in Yeast Culture, Part One, offers a useful resource for brewers taking this worthwhile step.
Rajotte has succeeded in covering all the essentials of basic culturing, from the creation of media to the isolation of single-cell cultures and the propagation of yeast for brewing. The emphasis is not only correct lab procedures but on adapting them to the home brewery. At times, the adaptation seems unnecessary - Rajotte's insistence that used food containers are equal in quality to true labware is, I think, untrue - but it does help to make such an intimidating process more approachable.
The book is extremely thorough, and the lab procedures are very well defined with step-by-step line drawings (a significant improvement over photographs as illustrations). My greatest problem with the book, in fact, is that it is frequently too thorough; Rajotte fills space with procedures that are either outdated, cumbersome, or simply unnecessary. He outlines the use of gelatin as a solid medium, for example, which has an historical interest but, as even Rajotte concedes, very little utility at home. Agar is by far the superior medium and is readily available.
The book is strung out (I hesitate to call it "organized") in a confusing manner, and all readers would do well to follow Rajotte's introductory advice: read the entire book first, and then go back and practice the procedures. The book has us read through descriptions of equipment and the production of slants and plates before we have any idea what they are for; a general overview of the process would, I think, have been particularly helpful to beginners.
Rajotte has also committed the worst sin of the nonfiction book: there is no index. And will someone please tell me why so many people cannot distinguish between a "foreword" (preface) and "forward" (a direction)?
I doubt First Steps in Yeast Culture will convince the intimidated that the world of microbiology is at their fingertips, but Rajotte has done an admirable job of gathering all the essential procedures together in one place. Many of the sections include a series of likely questions and their answers and useful, concise hints. As mentioned before, the drawings are top-notch and characteristically thorough. For those brewers who are determined to improving their brewing by controlling this vital ingredient, the book provides an excellent resource.
-Jeff Frane Portland, Oregon
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