Core Brewer Spotlight: Wyeast

Core Brewer Spotlight: Wyeast

The Original, Premium Liquid Yeast Pioneer

Jenny Kreft, founder of Wyeast Labs, started at an early age developing a passion for fermentation, food science and laboratories.  After a move to the Hood River Valley in 1986, she started her business with nothing more than hard work, perseverance and several years of experience in Quality Control and R&D.

Wyeast Labs has since pioneered an industry and helped lead the craft beverage revolution with an extensive collection of yeast strains and fermentation products developed over the past 30 years. They take pride in building relationships and working with the world’s most inventive craft brewers to deliver a reliable, consistent flavor and character that the industry has come to expect from Wyeast.

Today, Jenny still leads innovation at Wyeast Labs and in the craft beverage industry.  Joined by her triplet daughters who share the same dedication, commitment and spirit, Wyeast continues to provide the finest fermentation products available with uncompromised results.

Wyeast’s Core Values:

  • FAMILY Family owned, operated, and cherished
  • LEGACY The first premium liquid yeast providers, spurring the craft beer revolution
  • COMMUNITY Inspired by the purity and grandness of our surroundings to support employees, community values, & local organizations
  • QUALITY Driven to raise the caliber of quality in all facets at Wyeast – not just our product, but safety, atmosphere, and our environment too
  • INNOVATION Continue to be pioneers in advancing technology and raising the industry standard
  • SERVICE Deliver comprehensive service to all customers worldwide, no matter how big or small


Q&A with Jenny Kreft, Owner of Wyeast:

Tell us a little about yourself:

  • Roots: 2nd generation Oregonian, growing up in the Willamette Valley, with over 40+ years’ experience in the food processing and fermentation industries.
  • First fermentation project: My first recollection of assisting with a fermentation project was when I got blown over by Typhoon Frieda in 1962, carrying a bushel of wine grapes for my mother.  She kept a couple of 50 gallon barrels of wine fermenting in the dining room each fall.  Other childhood experiences  began with stomping grapes(!), weeding onions, picking strawberries, plucking feathers, butchering and wrapping venison, helping with harvest of family gardens and processing at a local small canning operation – probably the original “farm to table” concept in the 60’s & 70’s.  At sweet 16, I got my worker permit and worked at many canneries and food processors in the Willamette valley during my summers through college.
  • First job: In the early 80’s there were few jobs to be found with a Food Science degree, but I landed a valuable position as a lab tech at Pioneer HI-Bred International.  During my 5 years here, I worked as a QC lab tech and progressed to Process Research and maintained the stock culture program.  I loved my job but the company relocated to its headquarters in Iowa, only taking the Head Scientist.
  • Go-To Drink: Do I have to admit that I drank Schlitz Malt Liquor in college?  I later developed a love for Deschutes Black Butte Porter & Tillamook Vanilla Bean ice cream floats (which one of my daughters also though she invented!).  But eventually I broadened my palate to include Oregon’s hoppy IPAs and Europe’s sour beers – gueuzes and goses in particular.   Having discovered my gluten intolerance later on, I now look forward to breweries experimenting with Kebari barley, for gluten free beer.
  • If not Wyeast, what? When I found out Pioneer was relocating, I had already been maintaining a few brewing strains that are still in our Wyeast Classic Collection.  But, not knowing at the time, I was looking forward to getting back in the art field by attending the Oregon College of Art & Craft, specializing in metals.  (I had 5 year background in silversmithing and a semester of welding in college!)  As opportunities arose to continue in food science, this passion was set aside and maybe I’ll return to it with retirement (eventually).
  • Never loses site of: As the industry grew, we have maintained our belief that our purpose is to serve a craft industry as a craft manufacturer.  Meaning that our goal is to stay in touch with all of our clients big or small; they are all of equal value to us.  As we grow, it is important to us to maintain if not improve the quality of our product and to build relationships with all of our clients.


Wyeast is a family-owned operation. What family members are involved? 

In the beginning, Wyeast Laboratories, Inc., was started to keep me busy while raising my triplet girls.  Who would have thought that after standing on stools cleaning test tubes and marking yeast strains on the original Activator packages as young children that they would return to work summers through college and start their careers as adults.  Thinking that they would discover opportunities of greater interest, one by one, they have all returned.  Alisa – V.P. of Operations and cider enthusiast, Katrina – Production & Cellar operator and wine connoisseur, Tamara – Brand Manager & QC Lab Coordinator and fermentation/sour beer devotee.


Wyeast is known for being the first liquid yeast company in the industry and considered a pioneer in this space. How does this impact your business today? 

We have come a long way from a business starting out in 1986 with a hand full of local clients to 2018, with thousands of clients from around the world.  It has been a challenge with the rapid growth of the industry and maintaining balance, wondering if there will be another drop in craft brewing like in the late ‘90’s, how the consolidation of breweries might impact craft suppliers, or what may come of the explosion of small yeast companies that have recently started up.  But whatever the challenge has been, we’ve managed to stay true to our core values. The key has been to develop long-standing relationships with our clients, no matter what their status, and never falter in delivering a quality, fermentation product.


Some might say Hood River is a small, remote town that can make things tough for a growing business like yours. Would you agree with this statement?

It is our intent, after years of investigating, to remain located in Hood River and expand our facility in multiple phases.  Ground breaking will take place this fall for a new meeting and warehouse facility, and shortly after, an addition to the current facility will take place.  The addition will give us time to finalize details for a new state of the art yeast processing & research facility that will not only improve the quality of our product and efficiency of our processes, and reduce our impact on the environment, but also create a safe and healthy work environment to the highest standards for our employees, the heartbeat of the company.

A Toast From Wyeast:

“As a family-owned business, Wyeast proudly raises a pint to the #corebrewers, for working tirelessly to create new beers, build great families and cultivate a positive brand community—because we know none of it is easy.”

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