After brewing five 100% Brettanomyces fermented beers I finally found a recipe I feel works for me. Previously I had been using WLP648 Brett Trois Vrai exclusively and whilst the beers tasted fine apart from some carbonic bite I just felt that there was something missing from them. WLP644 Saccharomyces Bruxellensis Trois formerly named Brettanomyces Trois will not be considered under the Brett banner for any of my beers due to the discovery of it being a saccharomyces strain. Some people consider it fine to brand their beers brewed with this strain as Brett beers, I however, do not. Who wants to see the science part? https://suigenerisbrewing.blogspot.ie/2014/12/brett-trois-riddle-wrapped-in-mystery.html
What I am writing about Brettanomyces has already factually been covered elsewhere from valuable resources such as Milk The Funk, Sui Generis, The Brettanomyces Project and The Mad Fermentationist website and his book American Sours so this is merely my outlet to portray my experiences with the types of Brett I use. I am not a scientist.
First of all I think it would be good to put to bed some misconceptions surrounding Brettanomyces and its effects on beer. The last time I brewed a 100% Brett beer more than one person made the remark that it wasn’t sour. Here’s the thing, 100% Brett beers are not sour. They can produce a barely perceptible acidity given time but do not expect sour from a 100% Brett beer. The next misconception is that the beer should be full of funk from the get-go but those elements of barnyard that people search for when they hear of Brett do not manifest themselves for many months, if at all, in a 100% Brett beer and that depends on the strain of Brett/Bretts used.
So what exactly are you looking for when you are handed a fresh 100% Brett beer? Within the context of an IPA I find that Brettanomyces takes your Citra hop (or any hop) and multiplies it by ten and prolongs it for months and years. It imparts a highly fruity and slight tanginess that can seem to end up with a very light texture in the mouth that makes it very different to a typical IPA fermented with saccharomyces yeast. All The Bretts from Omega yeast labs which has the following description “Use in secondary and expect high attenuation and a fruity and funky complexity that continues to develop over time”. Secondary refers to an additional fermentation once the initial saccharomyces or Brett fermentation has completed its course. My intention was to ferment it in primary.
The variety of Brett strains available in Ireland are limited so I abandoned the trusty WLP648 and after reading a lot of good things about All The Bretts I decided to have some of it shipped in from the UK on ice for a slightly elevated price tag.
My initial interaction with a 100% Brett beer was Allagash Little Brett which a friend of mine was kind enough to bring home from Maine. Allagash have their own house Brett strain and that combined with a simple malt bill and mosaic hops made for a really sessionable pineapple thirst quencher that just had a certain something extra I couldn’t explain. I was lucky enough to meet the brewer that came up with the recipe as they passed through Ireland during the year so I got a proper chance to understand his mindset in the recipe creation. And I wanted to know more so I decided the only beers I would be brewing from then on would have Brett in them be it saison or an Orval-like Belgian beer refermented with Brett and the IPA itself.
All of which leads me to the recipe and thought process behind it.
Homemade stir plate from a Cuban cigar box.
Crooked Stave are probably the largest producers of 100% Brett beers so I roll with some advice imparted from them and add some oats to increase mouthfeel as Brett does not produce glycerol which is in essence mouthfeel. I’m also popping in some Crystal malt for similar reasons but also for head retention. I’ve overdone it in the past with up to 25% adjuncts and a mixture of four or five different types but I was keeping it simple this time. The acid malt helps me hit my desired pH point of 5.2.
My outdoor brewing rig on a bed of pallets.
Also in the past I’ve kept the IBU as close to 0 as possible due to perceived clash between bitterness and acidity but experiencing very little acidity from the Brett, this time I’m aiming for pale ale style IBU’s rocking in at 45. The lack of bitterness in the past seemed unusual to some people so this time I’m releasing it back in there to see how it played out. The name East To West is a representation of the soft fruity, hazy New England style with some old school west coast IPA bitterness punch delivered on a plate of Brett.
This is a pellicle, which you should not strive to obtain as it means you have introduced oxygen to your beer. I was pellicle-free until I dry hopped.
This was the first brew since recently moving house so the water profile is unknown but all brewing water was pre-treated with a campden tab the night before and I used 3g of calcium sulphate this time around as I’m trying to accentuate the bitterness. Previously I used calcium chloride to try and improve the body of the beer but found no real effect.
Designated beer fridge from when I used to bother with temp controlled lagers.
My hose and connector for the wort chiller were left in the previous house so my chilling method was to get the fermenter into my little brew fridge to cool slowly over night. Not ideal and my first time doing it. I ramped up the temp to 25c the next day and pitched my starter. No activity for two days but I was on a plane to Amsterdam for 2 weeks so I let it do its thing. When I returned it was in the middle of a vigorous fermentation so it must have lay dormant for a week and a half! I caught it at 1.030 and it dropped about.003 on average per day after that. A lot slower than when I used WLP648 which had 90% attenuation in about four day in my experience. Anyway….
21L into fermenter.
45 IBU. ABV 6.6%. Efficiency lower than usual 67.7%. OG=1.056 FG=1.006(stable for a week)
86.7% Pale Malt
6.4% Crystal 10L
2.6% Acid Malt
20 IBU Citra @ 60min
200g Dried Apricot @ 10min
14 IBU Citra @ 5min
5 IBU Centennial @ 5min
5 IBU Mosaic @ 5min
50g Citra @ Flameout
25g Centennial @ Flameout
25g Mosaic @ Flameout
Dry-Hop 50g Citra and 50g El Dorado for 3 days
1 litre starter of All The Bretts prepared one week in advance.
Because brewing is 99% cleaning.
Tasting notes: Apricot. I feared the brett would eat it for breakfast but it really carried through to the final product. The aroma is all fruit juice. All stone fruits on taste in here with a refreshing bitterness that lingers until the next sip and the mouthfeel is not thin but soft although I will add more oats next time. Initial tasting when the beer was a week old I thought I had overdone it on the bitterness front but 3 weeks in I find it just plays beautifully with the stonefruit characteristics. This beer tastes like a session beer and the 6.6% abv is missing in the taste. I didn’t slightly overcarbonate this time around to try and compensate for lack of mouthfeel and I’m glad I didn’t. No funk, no barnyard, no cheese and no acidity whatsoever. Just plain old flat out juicebox, aromatic IPA. Will it evolve? Yes. Will it stay fresh whilst it evolves? All previous history with Brett beers points to yes. I really like the fact that every time I open one of these beers I’m finding something new I missed before, possibly because it wasn’t there before.
Brett evolves and creates a new experience for the drinker every time they try it and this is why I brew with Brett.
Alternative yeast calls for an alternative drinking vessel.
If you’re on the fence about brewing with Brett then I say just go for it. My cleaning regime is no more extensive than it was for saccharomyces, there’s no need for anything extra on top of cleaning, sanitising and sterilising. Just be rigid as you should be no matter what yeast strain you use. For me it used to be all about what fruits, hops and other weird ingredients could bring to a beer but these days it’s all about the yeast. You don’t have beer without the yeast and the type of yeast you use defines the end product no matter what else you put into it.
If you plan on coming to the Ballymahon beer festival on Sat 26th of August I can give you a bottle for yourself to take away. It will be a small and intimate festival with a local vibe to it but that’s what makes a festival for me.
Thanks for getting to the end of this post as it’s a different read to my previous craic-having-antics around Europe!
Next blog post will detail how I go about harvesting my own yeast from the wild.