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Old 10-29-2008, 02:49 PM   #1
Deofol
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Default Brettanomyces, Pellicles, & Oak Barrels

As noted in this previous thread (Oak Barrel - 20L) I acquired an oak barrel to age half of my Winter Warmer ale this year to give it that Extra Special Reserve kind of a kick.

Well it appears, using the oak barrel, I got more than I bargained for!


Brett Pellicle?

This year I did a 10 gallon batch of my winter warmer. 5 gallons got the normal treatment, bottling, and are currently aging. The other 5 gallons instead of going to the bottle spent an extra week in the oak barrel, and then last Sunday were racked to my secondary.

Well, yesterday (Tuesday night) I took a look and the secondary now has a white milky film across the top (Brettanomyces Pellicle?). I then took a sample of the film and inspected it in the microscope expecting to find bacteria and a lost batch of beer. To my surprise it wasn't bacteria at all. It appeared relatively the same size as yeast cells, only sausage shaped instead of round like a yeast cell. It was much larger than bacteria, and contained a nuclei so I can pretty much be assured it's not bacterial and is indeed a Eukaryote (see budding yeast cells in image).



So, that got me on my search to which I found this in the homebrew wiki.

Quote:
Brettanomyces, often called Brett for short, is a genus of yeast consisting of multiple species found naturally in wood. Brettanomyces contributes distinctive flavors to the beverage it grows in. It gernerally considered an undesirable, spoiling infection by home brewers; however, its extreme, distinctive flavor and aroma is considered desirable in some sour beer styles, and at low levels it is depended on to add complexity to many styles of wine.
Wikipedia adds;

Quote:
The cellular morphology of the yeast can vary from ovoid to long "sausage" shaped cells. The yeast is acidogenic and when grown on glucose rich media produce large amounts of acetic acid. Brettanomyces is important to both the brewing and wine industries due to the sensory compounds it produces.
Since my winter warmer is indeed a sort of spiced up brown ale, I figured I'll roll with it and see how it turns out. I have put a previous batch (another brown ale) through the barrel already, and the same thing happened, though I ignored it as a mild infection and bottled it. The Brown was a little sour, and very complex, and actually pretty good after it aged a few months.

I went ahead, and just sanitized the barrel really well with Potassium Metabisulfite and let that sit for a few months prior to my Winter Warmer figuring that would be enough to pretty much kill anything. Apparently it doesn't kill Brettanomyces in the dosing regiment I used (1/2tsp Potassium Metabisulfite per 5 gallons) like it does normal yeast and bacteria.

So any sour beer experts want to give me a primer on what to do next? Do I rack this into the keg or bottle and hope for the best? Is there a technique for dealing with Brettanomyces and Pellicles? Input and comments are welcomed! Should be an interesting result.
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Old 10-29-2008, 02:56 PM   #2
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Have you tasted a sample yet? How does it smell? I'm no sour beer expert (although I'm brewing my first Brett amber ale now, a DeKonnick clone), but this is a unique beer and I think you should let it roll.

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Old 10-29-2008, 03:03 PM   #3
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It sounds like you have some brett and other various goodies on your hands!!! It likes to reside on porous surfaces like wood. I'd let it go and see what happens.

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Old 10-29-2008, 03:26 PM   #4
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Ya, once a porous wood barrel is infected with yeast or bacteria they'll always be there (in some concentration). Consider it a gift and make some awesome "horsey", "oaky" beers.

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Old 10-29-2008, 03:33 PM   #5
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People will pay big money for a brett infected oak barrel. They are great for long term aging as a secondary - it gives off a less sour taste.

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Old 10-29-2008, 05:07 PM   #6
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OK at lunch I got some better pics (see origional post) and got a 25ml sample to try.

Smell is normal, alcohol (it is near 9% after all), oak, special spices, wintery, a hint of sourish-ness but not harsh. Overall, nothing taste or smells out of whack, pretty much like I expected it to taste.

So cool, well see how it ends up!

Any clues on how to rack this off? Just try and avoid pellicle? How long should I let it age like this?

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Old 10-29-2008, 10:00 PM   #7
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Dont touch it for awhile, unless you were intending to drink it this winter. If you bottle that and leave it till next winter you will thank me...................I am one that would pay for a brett infected oak barrel.

If you do rack it soon just stick the cane through the pellical and stop just before you suck up some of the white crud.


lucky!

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Old 10-29-2008, 10:36 PM   #8
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i was under the impression that the pellicle will reform in the bottles if you bottle before its dropped?

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Old 10-30-2008, 02:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scinerd3000 View Post
i was under the impression that the pellicle will reform in the bottles if you bottle before its dropped?
I'd like to know the answer to this as well, as I am brewing a brett-fermented amber right now. Is there any difference to the racking/bottling/slurry collecting/yeast washing procedures?
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Old 10-30-2008, 02:39 PM   #10
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In my experience a pellicle can/will still form in the bottle with Brett. beers.
There's not much difference in R/B/SC with Brett. I haven't tried washing it though seeing that all you need to infect your next batch is a very small amount. Unless, of course, you are fermenting the entire batch with Brettanomyces. I usually just pitch a whole slurry, and let it go to town. Made some fantastic beers this way. Actually did a beer swap on another HB forum where we all brewed different beers, but they all had to be fermented with only Brett. Out of the 10 beers, only one actually had the stereotypical "horseblanket", "goat scrotum" Brett. flavors. One of the best Belgian Golden Strongs I ever had was from that swap.
Anyway, back to the funked up winter ale. You can still drink it young and not get much Brett. flavor from it, but anymore than a month or two you will start to notice. That's not a bad thing in my opinion..
I do agree that you should let this one age and let the bugs work thier magic. They can do some wonderus things if left alone.
As to the barrel, try a Flander Red, or a good Belgian Farm house and age in your barrel. You'll be the envy of the block with the love that comes out of that barrel.

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