The Great Brettanomyces Experiment

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berebrando

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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.

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tagz

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Looking forward to updates.
 
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berebrando

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Cool experiment. I've got a similar one with a split batch and brett B. and brett L. Please keep us updated on the progress of the beers.
Nice! I've done side-by-sides before; almost every 10 gallon batch I've brewed has compared one yeast against another. It's a great way to both experiment and add some variation to your tastings. This is the first time I've ever done four variations simultaneously. I can't wait to replicate the recipe with some additional Brett strains, too.

We also brewed 15 gallons of saison for our solera wine barrel and 10 gallons of honey cream ale for the Homebrew Fest in the same day, so we were quite busy!
 

OCBrewin

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I am also very interested in this. I just brewed a 10 gallon batch that was loosely based on the Zombie Dust clone floating around here (but with Amarillo and Cascade added to the heavy Citra dose for depth). Half my batch got Brett L, and the other half with Chico. I'm really excited to see how the Brett L plays with the bitter, but very fruity hop bill in this IPA. This is my first 100% Brett primary beer. Looking forward to your results!
 

woknblues

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What in all that is holy is going on with that flask of brett trois? Or is that just trub?
 
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berebrando

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woknblues said:
What in all that is holy is going on with that flask of brett trois? Or is that just trub?
Hahaha! It is slurry... The big spots in there were actually air bubbles. I thought they were hop particles when I first looked at it, but then I looked closer... Bubbles stuck in the slurry.
 
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berebrando

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OCBrewin said:
I am also very interested in this. I just brewed a 10 gallon batch that was loosely based on the Zombie Dust clone floating around here (but with Amarillo and Cascade added to the heavy Citra dose for depth). Half my batch got Brett L, and the other half with Chico. I'm really excited to see how the Brett L plays with the bitter, but very fruity hop bill in this IPA. This is my first 100% Brett primary beer. Looking forward to your results!
Awesome! I love the way all-Brett fermentations pair up with hoppy American style beers! What part of Orange County are you brewing in? I'm in old town Orange near the plaza.
 

OCBrewin

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berebrando said:
Awesome! I love the way all-Brett fermentations pair up with hoppy American style beers! What part of Orange County are you brewing in? I'm in old town Orange near the plaza.
Yeah, I've really wanted to do the zombie dust clone, but couldn't help myself from pairing all that citra with just a little Amarillo and cascade. Ended up with 11 gal of a 1.072 IPA with over a pound of hops int the boil (most in the last 15 minutes) and will be dry hopping with about 10 oz of dry hops. My ratio of Citra:Amarillo:cascade was 4:2:1. It already smells amazing in my fermenter and I can't wait to see what the Brett L does with the fruitiness of those hops.

I'm in Huntington Beach. I will definitely be visiting you new location for the good beer brewery when it opens! If you have sours on rotation my wife may never leave! Keeps me posted on when you're opening.

Also, as a structural engineer by trade I deal a lot with the city for clients doing tenant improvements on spaces and such - if you run into trouble with anything structural in your new space (anchorage of equipment, bracing, etc...) let me know and I might be able to help a fellow brewer out....
 
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berebrando

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A quick update: the temperature in my fermentation chamber (chest freezer) was up to 78 this morning on the free rise. I added a heat pad and set it to heat at 75 degrees to keep these suckers warm and get some good attenuation.

I'm in Huntington Beach. I will definitely be visiting you new location for the good beer brewery when it opens! If you have sours on rotation my wife may never leave! Keeps me posted on when you're opening.
Probably another topic for another time and place... Sour will be in the works but will obviously take a while to reach the consumer. Wild ales, like the golden ale this thread is based on, will most certainly be part of the lineup.
 

OCBrewin

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A quick update: the temperature in my fermentation chamber (chest freezer) was up to 78 this morning on the free rise. I added a heat pad and set it to heat at 75 degrees to keep these suckers warm and get some good attenuation.



Probably another topic for another time and place... Sour will be in the works but will obviously take a while to reach the consumer. Wild ales, like the golden ale this thread is based on, will most certainly be part of the lineup.
Sounds good. On the fermentation temp for brett L - what do you recommend? I have both batches in my chest freezer that is set at 65 (Sacc Beer Temp), with a 12" wide heat tape strip wrapped around the Brett carboy that is set to 72 degrees for that one. Is that enough? They are both fermenting madly now (pitched Sunday night - 3 days in), but the Brett did lag for about 36 hours... I pitched a 2L starter that was stepped up from a 1.2L starter with both being allowed to ferment our on the stirplate for 7-10 days each. Am I doing everything right for Brett? :confused:
 
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berebrando

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OCBrewin said:
Sounds good. On the fermentation temp for brett L - what do you recommend? I have both batches in my chest freezer that is set at 65 (Sacc Beer Temp), with a 12" wide heat tape strip wrapped around the Brett carboy that is set to 72 degrees for that one. Is that enough? They are both fermenting madly now (pitched Sunday night - 3 days in), but the Brett did lag for about 36 hours... I pitched a 2L starter that was stepped up from a 1.2L starter with both being allowed to ferment our on the stirplate for 7-10 days each. Am I doing everything right for Brett? :confused:
It's probably different under every set of conditions, but I can tell you my experience with fermentation temperatures and Brett: over the past several months, I have used Brett Trois in everything from blonde ales to IPAs at varying temperatures. I've fermented at 60, 65, 70 and 72 (with free rise to max of 78) and had the best results with 72, so far. Very fruity and good attenuation. Nothing off that I can discern.

What these beers evolve into over time is an interesting exercise, I think. I'd guess that at different temperatures you have a different chemical profile and how Brett reacts with and reconfigures that profile over time remains to be seen. But that's way beyond me.
 

OCBrewin

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Awesome! Good info. I feel good about my temps now, both Brett and Sacc, and can't wait to compare. I know that Brett develops with time, but what so you think a schedule looks like for a Brett IPA to be ready? My normal Sacc IPAs are usually about 4 weeks grain to glass, depending on the dryhopping and keg carbing time. Is Brett similar for primary strains?
 
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berebrando

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My Brett IPA (Brett b. 'Trois') went grain to glass in 4 weeks, too. I'm not sure what kind of schedule lambicus works on... yet.

Here are a couple photos I took this morning. The krausen on the Brett b. and Brett b. 'Trois' has subsided. Meanwhile, the Brett l. and Brett c. are still visibly fermenting away. I haven't checked gravity, yet, so I can't say how much attenuation has occurred.

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berebrando

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Today, after two weeks in the fermenter, I took samples to check the gravity and get some initial thoughts on how these beasts taste.

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Here are my tasting notes and current SG for each yeast:

B. bruxellensis - 1.014, lots of malt flavor, some moderate/light bread crust flavors. Good flocculation but not great attenuation so far.

B. bruxellensis 'Trois' - 1.008, less malt forward and more pronounced bitterness. Light alcohol derived heat and moderate fruitiness. Best flocculation and attenuation. This beer is nearly crystal clear.

B. claussenii - 1.010, overripe pineapple aromas and some lemon flavors. Little mat presence and moderate bitterness.

B. lambicus - 1.010, overripe (general) fruit nose, some interesting acidity developing here. Light hay flavors and generally malt-forward taste.

I think the most interesting point here is the light acidity that the B. lambicus developed. It's interesting to compare these beers side by side and I look forward to the final product.

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Austin_

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Great info. I've flirted with some Brett in the WLP670 American Farmhouse a few times, but I watched that Chad Yakobson lecture a few weeks ago and really got pumped up about using 100% Brett. I'm following your progress and wishing you the best.
 
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berebrando

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Great info. I've flirted with some Brett in the WLP670 American Farmhouse a few times, but I watched that Chad Yakobson lecture a few weeks ago and really got pumped up about using 100% Brett. I'm following your progress and wishing you the best.
Really cool. I can't say I've used 670, but it has tempted me a couple times.

I think that what Chad says about the flavor profile he's looking for is the most important and misunderstood part of fermenting with pure Brett cultures. When developing a recipe, you should start by identifying what you want the finished beer to taste like. To paraphrase CY, the purpose of a 100% Brett fermentation is often not to obtain a super "bretty" beer. The objective is merely to obtain a flavor profile that you can't obtain with any other yeast. Some Brett strains are going to be super clean, some super fruity, and others downright funky - you can say the same about Saccharomyces strains. I think that's an interesting point that he makes in his lecture.
 

Austin_

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I'm a big fan of that 670 strain and have had my best comments on my beers using that strain. I recommend it.

I went to the store today and picked up some ingredients for a citra pale ale. I was hoping they had some Brett Trois as my reading had shown that would produce the finished product I'm hoping for, but they were out. Ended up getting some claussenii. Got the starter going a few minutes ago. I also ran to the liquor store and picked an assortment of Brett beers to use as yeast sources if I drink one I really like. Got some Mikkeller Farmhouse IPA, Anchorage Saison, and Anchorage Bitter Monk. Unfortunately my commercial brett beer choices in Louisiana are limited. I need to get over to Houston and load up.

Cheers.
 

flyingfinbar

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I did what was supposed to be a 100% Brett saison with trois, but there's pretty much nothing that identifies it as a saison, flavor wise. Due to a heavy late hopping with citra and Nelson sauvin, I'm now calling it a Brett pale:D

Those that have been working with 670: how are you guys handling the starters? I don't want to mess up the "balance" with an uneven growth rate between sacch and Brett. Is that even a concern? How long are you fermenting with this strain?

Awesome thread, I've been following very closely!
 

Austin_

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Sorry berebrando, I have temporarily hijacked your thread with WLP670.

Those that have been working with 670: how are you guys handling the starters? I don't want to mess up the "balance" with an uneven growth rate between sacch and Brett. Is that even a concern?
Of the four beers I've brewed, three have been saison base recipes right around 1.065 and one was a biere de garde recipe at 1.060, but we'll ignore that beire de garde one as I wasn't happy with it and didn't feel the yeast was appropriate for it.

I have been treating 670 starters like I treat regular ale starters, for better or worse. I'm not the best at timing my brews to pitch the starters at peak activity. On average I'd say they are 1.5L starters that have been going for 4-5 days by the time I get around to pitching them with occasional swirling when I remember to do it. Primary fermentation takes a little longer than a plain Sacch fermentation. Gets down to the low teens in a few days, stalls, then creeps down to about 1.007 or so when it's all said and done. Maybe a total of two weeks. I have fermented anywhere from 68-72. Haven't been able to discern any difference.

How long are you fermenting with this strain?
I've done it as short as 2 months and as long as 6 months, all in the primary fermenter. After a month it still tastes fairly saisony, but there is ever so slight funk in the nose, sort of foreshadowing what's ahead. Between month one and two the brett modestly starts to make itself known. Funk flavor starts to catch up with aroma. By month 6 the brett has taken over the flavor and aroma with some moderate residual spice from the Sacch strain left over as well as some decent bitterness still there. Clarity stays cloudy for about a month, then it becomes crystal clear overnight without any sort of fining agents. I'd love to take it longer, but I get so thirsty.

I wish I knew what Brett strain was in the mix, but White Labs has been tight-lipped about that. Looking at berebrando's initial impressions above, if I had to make a guess, I'd say it would be the Trois, but I know nothing and that's purely a guess based on minimal experience.
 
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berebrando

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Austin_ said:
I wish I knew what Brett strain was in the mix, but White Labs has been tight-lipped about that. Looking at berebrando's initial impressions above, if I had to make a guess, I'd say it would be the Trois, but I know nothing and that's purely a guess based on minimal experience.
I think you're probably right. I know that the 670 is supposed to be the Lost Abbey blend. For some reason I thought I read that Lost Abbey used Brett Drie in the Mo Betta Bretta beer... Can't find the reference right now. I could be wrong.

I recall Mo Betta Bretta being heavy on the pineapple, leading me to think it might be claussenii... Not sure though.
 
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berebrando

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I kegged the four beers on Friday night and took samples for terminal gravity and tasting notes, as I have for the last several weeks. Here's what I wrote down:

B. bruxellensis - 1.013 FG. Green apple up front with bread crust and slight fruit aroma. Taste is clean at first, but with Belgian yeast and fruity ester flavors taking over and a light maltiness.

B. bruxellensis 'Trois' - 1.006 FG. Again with the green apple aromas, also slightly smokey or woody up front, with tropical fruit in the background/late palate. Clean taste with a light alcohol bite (or is it acidity?), and fruity with a light maltiness.

B. claussenii - 1.007 FG. Big overripe pineapple aromas, plus melon and other general ripe fruit. Odd chalky mouthfeel compared to the others. Flavors are overripe pineapple with a slightly toasted malt finish.

B. lambicus - 1.009 FG. Green apple flavors again, plus the distinct Belgian yeast character and some light hay. Flavor says "Belgian yeast" with very faint acidity. Finishes with bread crust, overripe fruit, and hay flavors.

General thoughts: all four beers had good mouthfeel - not too thin, which was something I wasn't expecting with just 10% wheat in the grist. All four beers, as you will see in the picture had excellent clarity and flocculation. I will note, however, that B. bruxellensis 'Trois' had by far the most compact yeast cake at the bottom of the carboy.

The biggest surprise so far has been B. claussenii with a really impressive flavor profile and very good attenuation. The biggest disappointment has been the B. bruxellensis 'Trois' flavor profile compared to B. claussenii - I expected 'Trois' to just blow the others out of the water with flavor. One possible explanation is that my 'Trois' culture has experienced some genetic drift - or it is just tuckered out from being reused for several beers. That said, it aint over yet - I still need to carbonate and try the finished product. Stay tuned.

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I've been reading what i can find about brett L fermentations. A lot of people seem to report over the top horseblanket, smokey/spicey with it. Its interesting that even though you didnt get those characteristics, you also are not reporting the pie cherry notes that the yeast descriptions emphasize so much.
 
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berebrando

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Ah, the elusive cherry pie. Either my 26-year old tastebuds cannot pick up the cherry pie flavors or I've never come face-to-face with them. It's a flavor descriptor that I'd love to find in a beer - maybe I'll find it in the carbonated beer.

Are the horseblanket, smokey, spicey and cherry pie flavors characteristic of a mixed fermentation with Saccharomyces? or All-brett fermentation?
 

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I've consistently read that the Wyeast strain of Brett L is more reliable for the cherry pie character, whereas the White Labs is funkier, and that massive pitching rates are important, if not crucial, for the cherry pie.

I'm not entirely sure what the recipe specifics are for most of the beers. A lot of the results I'm reading about are in the comments of blog posts, which tend to not contain all the pertinent info about the recipe.
 

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Brett L definately has cherry notes. I'm doing my own side-by-side experiment. The brett B was much more attenuative though, which is odd.
Glad to hear about the cherry notes. Are you using White Labs or Wyeast, and what temp do you ferment at?
 
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berebrando

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This is long overdue.

As planned, I brewed, fermented, kegged, carbonated, and served the blonde ale outlined in post number one at the Southern California Homebrew Festival in Ojai earlier this month - Cinco de Mayo, no less. Prior to the Fest, I tasted the finished carbonated product of these fermentations and recorded aroma and flavor notes.

Some general notes to consider: These were four week old beers - which is my normal ale fermentation time. I am stoked about this blonde recipe - it offered enough mouthfeel and malt background to really complement these yeast strains. Tasting notes dated 4/29/2013:

B. bruxellensis - aroma is distinctly Belgian, also hay and green apple. Flavor includes hay, sawdust, apple, lemon and malt.

B. bruxellensis 'Trois' - aroma of smoke, honeydew and green apple. Flavor features overripe fruit, lemon and a big tropical fruit finish.

B. claussenii - aroma of bright pineapple, tropical fruit salad. Flavor was pineapple. The aroma on this sucker was amazing. It came across as the most bitter of the four at this point.

B. lambicus - aroma includes bread crust and lemon. Flavor straight up citrusy, dark fruit finish - perhaps leaning towards the cherry everyone raves about.

It would be super amazing to do this recipe with the Wyeast Brett strains... I also plan on doing the same recipe with BKYeast's Cantillon isolates.

Sidebar, I have since blended some of the remaining beer. The combinations are (a) B. 'Trois and B. claussenii, (b) B. bruxellensis and B. lambicus, and (c) B. 'Trois' and B. lambicus. I'm currently drinking Blend C and totally stoked about it. After drinking my house Pale Wheat, Blend C is distinctly tart. The flavors remind me of a hoppy pale ale, which is interesting...

I will update this thread with future findings. Thanks for following.
 

levifunk

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The White Labs and Wyeast Brett L strains are completely different. Wyeast = pie cherry, White Labs = horseblanket/spicey
 

tagz

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Did you age any of these? I know you're probably buddy with the brewery but any further notes?
 
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berebrando

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Did you age any of these? I know you're probably buddy with the brewery but any further notes?
Hey Tagz - No I didn't really age any of these, directly.

I actually blended the blond 50/50 with my saison that is aging in a wine barrel with Brett and bacteria. The wine barrel character in the saison had become a little too strong for my liking, and this blond was a great way to cut it back. I still have some bottles of the blend.

I have actually brewed this recipe with several other Brett combinations in the last several months. I just haven't had time to post the findings...
 
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