How do I determine which of these yeasts to use for what application? Will I produce the same quality/flavor as a smack-pack/vial of yeast?
A $6.00 a smack-pack or vial can get costly, but these dried yeast seem like an inexpensive alternative. But, when I compare them to the long lists of specialty flavor yeasts I’m thinking “the dried yeast wont produce quality results”. Am I wrong here?
You’re not going to go wrong with either kind.
The liquid strains are pure cultures, raised in a beer medium and ready to go. They do tend to start slower than dry, but properly oxygenated they ferment more cleanly and present a better beer.
You’ll also want to consider cell count which will have a significant impact as well. A typical 11.5 g pack of dry yeast will have about 20 billion cells per gram, or 230 billion cells total, more than a white labs (70 – 120 billion) or a wyeast smackpack (100 billion). US-56 dry can also be sprinkled directly into the wort per the manufacturer’s instructions or re-hydrated in water. So it’s very easy to use and no starter is necessary.
As you get better and master your techniques, you may find it easier to justify the expense, in order to get the predictability of liquid yeasts. You’ll also have a foundation of knowledge to know when you are all-right choosing dry and ultimately you may find your best flavor comes from a dry yeast.