USA: Left Hand Brewing takes White Labs to court over contaminated yeast

Left Hand Brewing Company from Longmont, Colorado has filed a law-suit against White Labs, an international company that provides pure liquid yeast, fermentation products, services, analysis and education to professionals and enthusiasts alike. The yeast company, which operates two tasting rooms - one in San Diego, California and another in Boulder, Colorado, is accused of supplying contaminated yeast that “caused secondary fermentation in beers brewed using that yeast, including Milk Stout Nitro, resulting in over-pressurized bottles, broken bottles, off flavors, and disruption of the distinctive nitrogen cascade.”

Left Hand Brewing, which is listed by US Brewers Association on rank 44 of the largest craft breweries in the United States, said the company received numerous customer complaints over “abnormally high pressure and gushing beer” and found an increase in alcoholic content and “phenolic characteristics” in some of their beers. This caused the brewery “ceasing production of all beer, disassembling all production equipment and rebuilding all valves and pipe pathways in an effort to discover and correct the cause of the contamination” for two weeks in September and October 2016.

Finally the brewery found via DNA test on its Milk Stout Nitro that the beer was contaminated with a wild strain of yeast known as Saccharomyces diastaticus. This yeast uses the remaining nutrients after fermentation with normal brewing yeast which causes overfermentation with higher alcohol, carbon dioxide supersaturation and a different aroma profile.

“It is unfortunate we had to file a lawsuit, but we didn’t have a choice. As an employee-owned brewery, the fate of our brand and employee livelihood was compromised and we are asking White Labs to take responsibility for the quality of their product and stand behind their guarantee,” said Eric Wallace, Left Hand’s co-founder and CEO.

Left Hand Brewing was incorporated in 1993 and opened its doors for business on January 22, 1994 The brewery got its name in honor of Chief Niwot (the Arapahoe word for "left hand") whose tribe wintered in the local area. In 1998 Left Hand Brewing merged with Tabernash Brewing, and doubled the size of the brewery. In recent years, the Left Hand Brewing has steadily increased its production and holds numerous accolades including 28 Great American Beer Festival medals, 11 World Beer Cup awards and 9 European Beer Star awards.

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