Preface: I started writing this post this morning before I pitched yeast and over the course of the day, I filled it out with my thoughts and results of pitching yeast. I plan to update it with the results of this fermentation and ensuing tasting, and perhaps future fermentations with additional strains. This post has also sort of become a listing of all of my favorite resources on Brettanomyces and wild fermentation.
The Great Brettanomyces Experiment: I started playing with Brettanomyces fermentations last summer and now I'm ready to really figure this yeast out. I listened to a Brewing Network show (probably Sunday Session) a few months ago that spawned this idea - an experiment in exploration of the flavors that the various commercially available Brett strains kick off during an all-Brett fermentation.
Let me say, first, that I think it is interesting how many Saccharomyces strains we have available commercially compared to the number of Brettanomyces strains available. There is most certainly a world of yeast that brewers have yet to experience. The range of flavors from Sacc covers a huge range - including spicy, peppery, fruity, malt-enhancing, hop-enhancing, clean, the list goes on and on. What if Brett opens a new realm of flavors. There are countless strains of Brett that we have yet to discover that will throw off amazing flavors.
I'm starting this journey with four commercial Brett strains widely available:
WLP 644 - Brettanomyces bruxellensis 'Trois'
WLP 645 - Brettanomyces claussenii
WLP 650 - Brettanomyces bruxellensis
WLP 653 - Brettanomyces lambicus
Thanks to BKYeast I will be adding C1 - Brettanomyces 'Iris' to this experiment in due time. Also, thanks to some beeradvocate trading, I'll be building cultures from Crooked Stave bottles to plate/slant and ferment with. (Chad Yakobson is a wealth of knowledge and quantitative data on fermenting with the "wild" Brett. I highly recommend this
filmed by ETF and visiting Chad's website - The Brettanomyces Project
.) The objective is to gain some information on how these different strains behave, smell and taste in all-Brett fermentations.
The recipe I've built is intended to highlight the yeast flavors more than anything, but also be an enjoyable beer. I very loosely based the recipe on Vinny's Sanctification recipe, as blogged about by Embrace the Funk
. I say very loosely, because I omitted the vienna and replaced the base malt with Maris Otter. I kept the wheat and acidulated malt at 5% of the grist. I also omitted the late-kettle addition and opted for a 25 ibu addition at 60 minutes with Columbus. For yeast, instead of a blend, I'm using pure cultures of the aforementioned White Labs Brett strains. I brewed 20 gallons of this recipe yesterday and split it into four carboys.
I put the carboys into my fermentation chamber and set the temperature to 72 and allowed the chamber to stabilize at that temperature overnight. I pitched the yeast this morning. I'm going to allow it to free rise to 78 F.
The starters allowed me to take some preliminary notes on the following. The Brettanomyces bruxellensis 'Trois' was a slurry from a previously brewed all-Brett pale ale (that turned out fantastic, by the way). Here are my notes:
Brett bruxellensis: Barnyard, hay, and fruit aromas. Lemon and melon flavors. Starter finishing gravity: 1.015. Pretty good/clear flocculation
Brett classenii: Melon, pineapple, and sweet nose. Mango, earth and melon flavors. Starter finishing gravity: 1.010. Best attenuation and hazy/low flocculation
Brett lambicus: Wet hay and a tiny bit of fruit aromas. Wet hay and crackery flavors. Starter finishing gravity: 1.011. Hazy/low flocculation
With these initial data points, I was a little surprised to find Brett bruxellensis exhibit such poor attenuation - that is, after a 10 day starter, so who knows what the full-scale batch will end up at.
I have a few more names to drop - I should say that I've been reading The Mad Fermentationist
for a while and if this sort of experiment even slightly interests you, I'd encourage you to read his blog.
So, here we go - The Great Brettanomyces Experiment. I am very excited to see what happens and what this homebrew-scale research results in. At the very least, it'll result in some interesting beers. At very best, I will have some real quantitative and qualitative data to work with when I start brewing on a commercial scale
within the next year. If you've read this far, you'll be interested in knowing that this beer will be served (pending the results of fermentation) at the Southern California Homebrew Festival
in Ojai on the Cinco de Mayo weekend.