Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Harvesting Sour Beer Bottle Dregs

I've soured beers using many different microbe sources, but I've had the best results from pitching the bottle dregs from good commercial sour beers.  The bottle dregs (yeast sediment) at the bottom of a sour beer contains the microbes responsible for transforming the bland wort into a complex finished beer.  The bugs are often more aggressive/hardy and produce more complex byproducts than their "domesticated" brothers available from Wyeast and White Labs (and for about the same price the bottle dregs come with a beer to drink).

Russian River Bottle CollectionFresh bottles are your best bet for harvesting. They contain the highest viability cells and they will have a more representative selection of the the microbes that went into making the beer (instead of just the cells that could survive a couple years in an alcoholic low pH beer).  This isn't always an option, but if you are buying a bottle specifically for the dregs it is certainly worth seeing if the bottle is dated.  You can certainly use dregs from older bottles, but I would avoid anything older than 2 years unless you are pitching dregs from multiple bottles.

To harvest the bugs, let the bottle sit upright for a couple of weeks to allow most of the cells to collect at the bottom.  Pour off the beer into a glass with a single slow pour, leaving a half inch or so of beer.  If you have a batch ready, swirl the remaining beer and pour the dregs directly into the wort/beer (in general I like to add the dregs along with the primary yeast strain at the start).  If you don't have a beer ready, prepare a cup of starter wort to pitch the dregs into (if you can convince a few friends to bring over a bottle or two of sour beer to share to add more dregs to the starter all the better.)

If you decide to make a starter with the bugs don't worry about how it tastes/smells, unless you get terrible off-flavors, since the various microbes take a long time to reach their potential.  Generally I'm happy skipping a starter, but the one time I would highly suggest making one is when you plan to do a primary fermentation with just bottle dregs (my friend Dan did this to wonderful effect with his Table Sour using the microbes propagated from a bottle of Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek). 

The list below covers both sour beer with a variety of wild yeast and bacteria and those funky beers that contain just yeast (including Brettanomyces).  It is by no means a complete list of usable bottled beers, but a good selection that should include a few bottles that just about everyone can find. There are a number of sours out there that are pasteurized, so be careful, some in this category include most Belgian Flanders Reds (Rodenbach, Duchess etc...) the sweet fruit Lambics (Lindemans, Liefmans etc...) and some American sours (New Glarus). I tried to void listing one-off and special release bottles to reduce clutter, but most small breweries do not sterile filter or pasteurize their beers.

An expanded version of this list is available on a dedicated page!

Beers with both Brett and Bacteria

  • Allagash Brewing Company – Coolship Series, Gargamel, Victor Francenstein, Vagabond
  • Alpine Beer Company – Ned, Ichabod 2007/2009, Chez Monieux, Briscoe
  • Avery Brewing Company – Brabant, Quinquepartite, Sui Generis, Dihos Dactylion, Meretrix, Immitis, Muscat d’ Amour, Récolte Sauvage
  • Bavik – Petrus Oud Bruin, Petrus Aged Pale
  • Birrificio Loverbeer – Anything
  • Brasserie Cantillon Brouwerij – Anything
  • Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM) – Abbaye De Saint Bon Chien
  • Brasserie Fantôme – Anything
  • Brouwerij 3 Fonteinen – Anything except Beersel line
  • Brouwerij Boon – Oude Series
  • Brouwerij De Keersmaeker/Mort Subite – Natural Oude Gueuze, Natural Oude Kriek
  • Brouwerij Girardin – 1882 Gueuze (Black Label)
  • Brouwerij Lindemans – Cuvée René Oude Gueuze, Cuvée René Oude Kriek
  • Brouwerij Oud Beersel – Oude Gueuze, Oude Kriek
  • Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck N.V. – St. Louis Gueuze Fond Tradition
  • Brouwerij Timmermans-John Martin N.V. – Oude Gueuze, Oude Kriek
  • Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. – Monk's Cafe Flemish Sour Red Ale
  • Boulevard Brewing Company – Love Child Series
  • The Bruery – Oude Tart, Hottenroth, Sour in the Rye, Marrón Acidifié, Tart of Darkness
  • Bullfrog Brewery – The Jaspers, Liquid Sunshine Reserva, Frambozen, Magic Beans, El Rojo Diablo, Blue Cheer, Black Cherry Bomb, Beekeeper
  • Captain Lawrence Brewing Company – Cuvee de Castleton, Rosso e Marrone, Flaming Furry, Little Linda's Liquid, Barrel Select Series
  • Cisco Brewers – Woods Series
  • Cigar City Brewing – Sea Bass –they claim it did not have Brett, early batches of Guava Grove used yeast including Brett from St. Somewhere, but newer batches do not
  • Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project – Surette, Pure Guava Petite Sour, L’Brett d’Or
  • De Dolle Brouwers – Pre-1998 bottles were fermented with a mixed culture supplied from Rodenbach
  • De Ranke Brouwerij – Cuvée De Ranke, Kriek De Ranke
  • De Struise Brouwers – Struiselensis, Dirty Horse
  • Brouwerij De Troch – Cuvée Chapeau Oude Gueuze
  • Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales – Festina Lente
  • Freetail Brewing Co. – Fortuna Roja, Ananke, Woodicus, Bandito
  • Gasthaus & Gosebrauerei Bayerischer Bahnhof – Berliner Style Weisse Brettanomyces Lambicus Special Edition
  • Geuzestekerij De Cam – Anything
  • Gueuzerie Tilquin – Oude Gueuze Tilquin à l’Ancienne
  • Hanssens Artisanaal – Anything
  • HaandBryggeriet – Haandbic, Haandbakk
  • Ithaca Beer Company – LeBleu
  • Jackie O's Pub and Brewery – Dynamo Hum, Cab Cherry Man, Brown Recluse, The Grand Wazoo, Quincedence, Chunga's Old Bruin
  • Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales – Anything
  • Mikkeller – Spontanale
  • New Belgium Brewing – Pre-Lips of Faith series corked and caged La Folie
  • New Glarus Brewing – R&D Gueuze, R&D Bourbon Barrel Kriek
  • Odell Brewing Co. – DeConstruction, Friek
  • Panil – Barriquée (North American version)
  • Picobrouwerij Alvinne – Alvino, Kerasus, Morpheus Wild, Cuvée Freddy
  • Port Brewing Co./The Lost Abbey – Red Poppy, Cuvee de Tomme, Duck Duck Gooze, Cable Car, Framboise de Amorosa, Veritas Series, Sinners Blend 08 and 10, Isabelle Proximus
  • Russian River Brewing Co. – Supplication, Temptation, Beatification, Consecration, Sanctification, Framboise for a Cure, Deviation, Toronado 20th Anniversary Ale
  • Southampton Publick House – Berliner Weisse
  • Telegraph Brewing Company – Reserve Wheat Ale, Petit Obscura
  • Trinity Brewhouse – TPS Report, Old Growth, The Flavor, Brain of the Turtle
  • Upland Brewing Company – Fruit Lambics, Dantalion
  • Upright Brewing Company – Four Play
  • Weyerbacher Brewing Co. – Rapture, Riserva

Beers with Brett
  • Allagash Brewing Company – Confluence, Interlude
  • Avery Brewing Company – Fifteen, Dépuceleuse
  • Boulevard Brewing Company – Saison Brett
  • Brasserie d'Orval S.A. – Orval, Petite Orval
  • Brewery Ommegang – Ommegeddon, Bière de Mars
  • The Bruery – Saison de Lente, Saison Rue, Various 100% Brett versions
  • Bullfrog Brewery – Undead Ed
  • Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project – Wild Wild Brett Series
  • De Dolle Brouwers – Stille Nacht Reserva, Oerbier Reserva
  • De Proefbrouwerij – Flemish Primitive Series, Reinaert Flemish Wild, Signature Ale, Le Deux Brewers, Monstre Rouge, Broederlijke Liefde
  • Evolution Craft Brewing Company – Fall Migration 2011
  • Goose Island Beer Co. – Matilda, Juliet, Sofie
  • Hill Farmstead Brewery – Art, Flora
  • Ithaca Beer Company – White Gold, Brute
  • Jackie O's Pub and Brewery – Funky South Paw
  • Mikkeller – It’s Alright!, It’s Alive!, USAlive!, Yeast Series: Brettanomyces
  • New Glarus Brewing – R&D Golden Ale
  • Odell Brewing Co. – Saboteur
  • Southampton Publick House – Trappist IPA
  • Stillwater Artisanal Ales – Barrel Aged Stateside Saison and Barrel Aged Cellar Door (Others?)
  • Saint Somewhere Brewing Company – Anything
  • Surly Brewing Company – Five
  • Victory Brewing Company – Wild Devil, (Helios is now sterile filtered before bottling)

Beers with Bacteria
  • Professor Fritz Briem – 1809 Berliner Style Weisse
  • Raccoon Lodge and Brewpub – Cascade sour beers
  • Yazoo Brewing Company – Fortuitous

100 Gallons of Sour BeerI'll try to update this list from time to time, but please post a comment if you have used the dregs from these or any other sour beers to good or bad effect. You can and should also consider using the dregs from previous batches of homebrew, this can be a good way to start up a "house culture" that will give your sours a signature character.

If you are interested in harvesting the dregs from clean beers the process is a bit more complex since sanitation and cell counts are more important.  Yeasts from Bottle Conditioned Beers has results from culturing many clean beers (and a few sours), but it hasn't been updated in years.

114 comments:

Tim said...

Very useful post! I have a few comments though.

On their website Allagash only describes Interlude as only a primary strain and their Brett. strain. I have a bottle stashed away that I have been eyeing lately. I'll get back when I drink it.

And what is your source on XX Bitter containing Brett?

I keep a ~1 gallon jug that funky dregs go into and feed it fresh wort every few months. Off the top of my head, it contains Cantillon, Girardin, Jolly Pumpkin, and Allagash. It has worked well so far.

kmudrick said...

I thought Ithaca LaBleu was fermented only with a strain of Brett (so no bacteria) and bottled with champagne yeast.. So doesn't that mean the dregs are probably going to have more champagne yeast than Brett?

I emailed them about a month ago to ask, but never got a response.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

In the case of both Lebleu and Interlude the sourness indicates to me that they have other microbes at work than just Brett. A few of my friends sampled a batch of LeBleu that was "sick" (a sure sign of Pedio). Ithaca also has the same, "fermented only with a strain of Brett and bottled with champagne yeast" description for Brute, and that has got to have more bugs as well from what I taste. It may be that they don't add bacteria, it could come from the barrels/fruit. I remember hearing that this is how Captain Lawrence does Cuvee de Castleton.

Here is a quote from the Shelton Brothers website on XX Bitter "In the middle is a “barnyard” Brettanomyces yeast character that is very reminiscent of Orval in its heyday."

A lot of the beers on the list have a wine or ale strain added for carbonation, so the bugs will not be the dominant organisms in the dregs. That said if you are pitching the dregs into the beer the primary strain you add will do most of the primary fermentation because there are so few total viable cells in the bottle dregs. If you want to do a 100% beer you'll need to have to isolate a Brett culture from the dregs (plating etc...) or just buy a pure culture.

Hope that helps, glad you guys enjoyed the post.

Adrie said...

I have had excellent results with Orval. The Brettanomyces will come out more pronounced if you use the dreggs in a starter and pitch that starter as your primary yeast source. If you don't like that, use it only in secondary and use a Belgian yeast for primary.

Jason Lavery said...

I second that about the orval. Pitching it at bottling aslo produces a lovely beer.

Ray Grace said...

Thanks for the post, I'm just beginning to seriously consider brewing sour beers and the post is very helpful. I'm not sure but I suspect some of the Bruery beers would be an excellent source of Brett at least.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Good call on the Bruery, added a few of their beers to the list. I believe they still have live cells.

Seanywonton said...

Mike, I also have my doubts about XX Bitter having any brett whatsoever. I had a 1+ year old bottle recently and I smelled/ tasted no brett. Definitely it does not have the horsey aroma as per the Shelton Bros. description.

I think the deal is they used to get yeast from Rodenbach until Rodenbach was bought out (from the introduction to saison in the Farmhouse Ales book). I would imagine today they are using a single strain of yeast. I have been meaning to try and culture it if I can find a fresh bottle just to see what's in there.

The brett in Ithaca Brute was originally an accident, found in the bottled version of the White Gold. Jeff said later they pitched this into what became the Brute. Not sure if there are any other bugs in there.

Joe Dunleavy said...

I pitched the dreg of two bottles of La Foile in 2 gallon corny of 75% fermented Brown ale and at 6 months I have some sourness.I never checked it so I don't know if I ever got a pellicle.
Now I don’t know if it’s the result of the blending of the dregs to the 2 gallons of wort or whether the La Folie culture took hold.

I emailed New Belgium on the filtering question. Hopefully they will get back to me and I’ll psot up.

Chris Kennedy said...

I am about 95% sure that you can get some good souring bugs from Lindeman's Cuvee Rene. I pitched the dregs into a 250ml starter and it is fermenting and smells tart. I am not 100% sure since the tart smell could be coming from the beer that came with the dregs, but the tartness seems to have intensified over the course of the past few days.

It is smelling really clean too. I am hoping it will be good for a nice berliner pitch.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I read a long thread on (Homebrew Talk IIRC) about someone who made a sour with only Cuvee Rene dregs, but glad to have confirmation. Good luck on the Berliner.

kmudrick said...

@Chris Last year I dumped some Cuvee Renee dregs into a berliner (fermented with lacto + neutral yeast) for extra oomph and it worked well in bringing the tartness up to a more acceptable level. I feel like it provided a little bit of Brett character that I would have preferred was not there, stylewise, though.

Tim said...

After drinking that bottle of Interlude 2008 I seriously question how much or if any lactic acid producing bacteria was in that bottle. It was tart to the level of a well aged brett beer. At least should be up for debate.

Sean's explanation for XX Bitter seems to explain the discrepancy nicely.

I believe the Boon Kriek and Framboise with white background labels are pasteurized. Every time I've had those they have been very sweet, to the point where bottle pressure may become a problem were they to be kept long enough. Neither the Boon or importer website has any explicit info. I would specify the Boon oude beers with colored labels.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the input Tim, added some additional notes to the post.

I also added the Barrel Select series for Captain Lawrence, each batch will change but it sounds like it will also have bugs. Just had a bottle of Batch #1 over the weekend, very tasty.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Thanks for posting this.I appreciated the tips from your email but this post is more than I could have imagined.
I have just started making an extra gallon of all my beers and then I'm adding dregs to them in 1 gal glass jugs. So this post is great to let me know my options.
I'm also interested in some flavors the dregs have given you so I can try to compliment the brewed beer with the dregs.
Also I have read that people have had mixed results with Petrus oud bruin and pale. Also the Monk's Cafe Red is one of the few Flanders Red ales that has usable bugs.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds like a good plan to get a nice variety of bugs on hand.

My problem is that, for the most part, I hedge my bets by adding the dregs from 2-3 bottles per batch, so I don't have much knowledge of what dregs from the individual bottles do.

I think the character of the original commercial beer is probably the best indication. I'd also suspect that there are too many other variables at play (the age of the bottle being one of the most important, but also temperature, oxygen, when they were pitched, base beer, primary strain etc…) to get an accurate picture of how the dregs will perform in your brewery.

Andy said...

Though it is not beer and I have not tried to harvest from it solely, the ciders made by Domaine Dupont have some wild tastes to them. Their website states 'native yeasts' are used for fermentation. I am not sure if that means their products are fermented solely by yeasts occurring on the apples or if they add something from the region as well.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Our first sour beer was made by creating a starter from dregs of about 5 Fantome beers. We pitched that on a gallon of saison wort and pitched commercial saison yeast on four gallons. After making sure there was nothing terrible in the gallon, we combined them. After about a year, the saison tasted identical to a Fantome. Really impressive.

Our first attempt at an all brett beer was using brett from sanctification. We may have bottled a tad too soon as it tasted like chewing on a gym sock for the first year in the bottle, then mellowed into something barnyard-funky, but nice.

Mike Evans said...

Mike, not sure I agree with Jeff Crane. Every Monk's Cafe I've ever had was filtered and back sweetened. I'd put it in the Rodenbach, Duchess category.

Thanks for putting this list together.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

After listening to Frank Boon at the lambic Summit I can confrim that the "regular" beers are flash pasteurized.

Jeffrey Crane said...

So recently I tried using the dregs from Bavik Petrus Aged Pale Ale and Oud Bruin and they worked very well. Not sure about taste or flavor yet but fermentation was obvious in 4 days. I posted my results here: http://jeffreycrane.blogspot.com/2010/07/dreg-series-sour-pale-common.html

MarshMan said...

I used the dregs from a Boulevard Saison Brett to great success as a "secondary" ferment in a Belgian Wit.

I racked the mostly fermented Wit onto a 2 week old quart starter made with the Saison Brett dregs. It picked up where the WLP400 left off and produced a very dry but extremely flavorful beer.

The beer is > 1 yr old now and gets tastier each time I try it. The funk is very well balanced.

I would highly recommend Boulevard's Saison Brett for harvesting.

Garrett said...

Great list! One thing to check on, though: in a recent tour of New Glarus, they said they flash pasteurize ALL their beers - even the "unplugged" (soon to be named "thumbprint") R&D series. This includes the Golden Ale, which has made it to your Brett list.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Interesting on R&D. This comment from an interview with Dan Carey http://www.brew-monkey.com/articles/interview.php?id=3 might explain it (granted it was a couple years before R&D):

"Do you pasteurize or add preservatives?
All of our beers are Flash Pasteurized as is common in Europe. Some of our beers are then repitched and bottle fermented. Remember that we make fruit beers with souring fermentations."

Here is the description for R&D Golden: "Bold floral bouquet sweeps forward, encouraged by the Maris Otter Malt. Ale and Brettanomyces promote complex Brett characters. Dry finish. Alive and still fermenting, this bottle will continue to build carbonation. Pour with care."

Sounds liek there is still Brett in there to me. Maybe they pasteurize and then dose with Brett/Sacch for bottle conditioning?

Jeffrey Crane said...

I just saw a bottle of some Bruery Hottenroth and was wondering if anyone knew what was in the dregs. Is there any lacto left? And anyone know what type of Brett was used?
Another question, do you know of what dregs would have lacto in them?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It certainly sounds like there should still be some live lacto in there "We used lactobacillus and a hint of brettanomyces to sour this very unusual, low gravity wheat beer." Not sure what sort of Brett they used, but I didn't find it assertive.

Not many other sours use Lacto without Pedio for sourness, Berliners (although most of the imported ones are pasteurized), Sanctification (if you can find it), that’s all I can come up with off the top of my head.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to note that I have harvested brett from the New Glarus Golden. I don't know if they flash pasteurize and then add brett, or if they treat that one differently because it is a brewery only release. There's definitely live brett in those bottles.

Michael said...

ODell Brewing Company's Saboteur has Brettanomyces bruxellensis that you can harvest.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks, I also added their DeCOnstruction.

I also updated the list of Lambics based on the info in LambicLand.

Jim Lemire said...

Just wanted to update some info on Ithaca's Brute (and Le Bleu I presume) - the head brewer, Jeff O'Neill indicated on the BN that the sourness is from a large amount (14%) of acidulated malt - not bacteria.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the reminder. I’d meant to update the list after hearing the interview. What a weird method.

Chris George said...

Great article. Quick question. I live in Canada, and we have a dismal selection of sours, i.e. (NONE). I do have 2 bottles of Orval, and I'd like to maximise their potential for future use. Should I just pitch them into a wort starter, and let them go at room temp? Do I need to keep feeding them?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Feed teh starter every month or two to keep them going. Brett is pretty happy to work slowly, so it isn't too hard to take care of. You'll have some Saccharomyces in there as well, but the Brett will probably win out in the long run.

Good luck.

Chris George said...

Thanks! Just to clarify, I can just leave it at room temp?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yes, room temp is fine. Colder is better for some other strains with quicker life cycles, but Brett is fine at room temp because it grows slowly. Just think about how long that bottle of Orval was sitting around on a boat etc... and the cells were fine. Good luck culturing.

Chris George said...

Thanks Mike, love the blog.
I'm thinking of also doing some oak chips with starter in a mason jar, and tossing some dregs in as well.

Dionysus Brewing said...

have you (or anybody) successfully used the dregs from an Allagash beer.I was listening to a brewing network interview with Rob Tod, in which he said that their proprietary strain appeared in a saison type beer they were brewing in a new kettle. Sadly, in the same interview he said that with confluence they filter out the primary ale strain and the brettanomyces strain and add a different ale yeast for bottling conditioning. has anyone been able to culture brett out of an Allagash bottle?

Jeffrey Crane said...

I have had good luck with the Allagash Confluence 2009. I'm pretty sure it had the mixed culture, I know for sure it has Brett in it. The beer is coming along nicely and the look of the pellicle has changed considerably over the last 6 months.
The Brett strain they used is pretty mild and reminds me of the Orval strain.
http://jeffreycrane.blogspot.com/2010/08/dreg-series-belgian-single-sour.html

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

In case anyone is wondering about Victory Helios Andrew passed on an email he got from Victory that confirmed currently while Brett is used to ferment it, the cells are filtered out before bottling.

"Yes, we are putting Brettanomyces into Helios. We did, however, have to change the process in-house due to the yeast over-carbonating the bottles! This over-carbonation also resulted in the bottles having much more Brettanomyces character than we originally intended for the beer. Now, Helios receives an incubation time with Brettanomyces in the fermentor. After the beer passes our tasting panel for the brand, the Brett is filtered out of Helios and then we bottle condition. We use our traditional bottle conditioning strain to carbonate the bottle. You should find subtle characteristics of Brett present in the Helios aroma in flavor, but it will not be as intense as you may have experienced in the past."

ryanb said...

Mike - I took dregs from a few RR bottles, added them to a 200g LME/1500ml starter 2 days ago..What should I expect as far as appearance? I've never tried a Brett/Lacto starter before, I'm assuming It isn't going to look like its working in the same way as say, 1056. I am constantly swirling it to add oxygen...and have seen no activity thus far. Any insight is appreciated! Thanks

ryanb said...

***LME = Light Malt Extract, not Liquid! sorry!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That starter is probably too big for you to see any activity quickly. Most of what is alive in there will be wine yeast anyway (since they add it for priming), so when it gets going it should look exactly like a standard fermentation. Even a 100% Brett fermentation looks remarkably like a standard brewer's yeast fermentation.

Next time start with a very small starter, say 100-200 ml then step it up if you want. You want to provide the yeast a small enough amount that they can grow and start fermenting before something else does.

The problem with adding oxygen to a mixed culture is that you will be generating acetic acid in addition to alcohol (so don't worry if it smells vinegary).

Hope that helps, good luck!

ryanb said...

thanks for the input! So, do think I should take the tinfoil off and plug it up?

ryanb said...

(erlenmeyer)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

If you want to push yeast growth you should go foil, if you want to favor bacteria go with an airlock. I'd probably leave the foil until you see activity, then switch.

mc said...

I had a bottle of XX Bitter last week and not only did it have a pellicle in the bottle it was also fairly funky. Unfortunately there was no date on the label, but it seemed like they were on the shelf for a while given there were ~3 bottles left of it.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the note, sounds delicious (I'd go back and grab the other three...).

THE MERKIN MAN said...

I picked up a bottle of Oud Beersel Kriek instead of Oud Kriek. Am I to believe this version is pasteurized?

Thanks as always.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yeah, I made that mistake as well. It's pretty sweet, I'd assume it is pasteurized and back-sweetened.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to you I'm going into brewing sours. Will visit an area where I can try a number of beers on the list you provided. If I test them with a friend there, I will have to keep the bottles with dregs there for at least a week before returning home. So, do you suggest:
1. Add CO2 to bottle of dregs and cap?
2. Add CO2 and put in airlocks?
3. Cap bottles with dregs as is with oxygen?
4. Cover bottles with dregs with foil?
Thanks. Would hate to buy these and kill whatever I'm trying to harvest.
Mark

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I would bring some starter wort with you, and pitch the dregs into it. Then keep it in the fridge with an airlock. Keeping it cold will prevent the bacteria from out-competing the yeasts. Shouldn't be an issue to recap for the trip home. No need to flush with CO2, none of the microbes are that oxygen sensitive.

MindPhlux said...

Any more thoughts on the Monk's Cafe and its usability for sour bugs? I was inspired to brew a sour by drinking this beer, and would love to use it for my bugs - I have a bottle on hand. But, if it's unusable... ?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Does it look like there is any sediment in the bottle? If there is it is certainly worth trying. If you do let us know if you get anything to grow.

MindPhlux said...

Well, I should have thought to look, duh. If there is sediment, it's nothing like the layer I see in most bottle conditioned beers. It's kind of hard to see as the bottle is quite dark, I think I see some flakes floating around near the bottom, but for sure not a thick layer of sludge.

Snobby Beer said...

This sounds fun, I am definitely going to have to try this. I got a Cantillon that I would love to use for a home brewed sour beer.

Excellent article

Beeradise said...

Are you sure Petrus Aged Pale has bugs in the corked and caged bottles? I just opened one up and the bottle and the beer are clean as a whistle...no sediment whatsoever. Your list has been updated by the addition of beers (I notice Boulevard Brewing's Love Child in the list which has not even been released yet), however if Bavik has started pasteurizing and filtering their brews since you put them on the list would this have then been noted?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Certainly have not tried all of these myself. I have read several comments from people saying they have used Petrus dregs to good effect though (including one of the comments to this post). Other beers are simple those that I could confirm were both sour and unpasteurized/unfiltered. Interesting to hear that you didn't find any sediment what-so-ever, maybe they are unpasteurized, but force carbonated?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Certainly have not tried all of these myself. I have read several comments from people saying they have used Petrus dregs to good effect though (including one of the comments to this post). Other beers are simple those that I could confirm were both sour and unpasteurized/unfiltered. Interesting to hear that you didn't find any sediment what-so-ever, maybe they are unpasteurized, but force carbonated?

Anonymous said...

Ahhhh damn. I did this about 3 weeks ago and just pitched a bunch of dregs in some wort that I put into a mason jar. I poked a few holes in the mason jar and the covered it with foil. It's just been sitting at room temp. Sounds like I shouldn't use them, should I?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Give it a smell, if you sense vinegar or nail polish remover I would probably start over.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Not sure how hard this would be, but it would make your list extremely helpful to know what strains of Brett are used in each Brett beer (and the other sour beers for that matter).Even if you could just add the ones you know off hand.

For Example,
Brasserie d'Orval S.A. – Orval (Brett B), Petite Orval (Brett B)

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Too much work! And I actually don't think it would help that much. I think it is easier to just assume you will get a somewhat similar Brett character to the beer. I think strain selection should be more about sensory than name.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Yeah, I realize it is a bunch of work, but I figured you knew at least a handful off the top of your head.

So you think that there is little point to know the strain to be able to predict the flavors it will produce? Meaning you think there is as much variation between Wyeast Brett C and WL Brett C as there is with WL Brett C and WL Brett B?

I'm currently trying to get a better grasp on the flavors produced by different Brett strains. So I appreciate you sharing your knowledge.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

To me it’s like noting whether a beer is brewed with ale or lager yeast, without knowing the specific strain it isn’t that valuable. Sure ales tend to be more like other ale strains, but that isn’t always the case (Kolsch is closer to lager than it is to Saison). It would be cool to have a list of exactly what strain was used (e.g., White Labs WLP650) but in most cases, especially Belgian beers, that information isn’t available. As I said, I think drinking the beer will give you a better idea of what character it will produce than knowing if it is B. bruxellensis or B. anomalus.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Thanks for clarifying.

I may try to find out more specifics that the breweries use and if I'm successful, I'll email you my results.

platypotamus said...

anyone know if Ommegang pasteurizes any of their beers? Zuur is a favorite, and I would love to toss some dregs into my Flanders Red.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Zuur is actually brewed/bottled/blended at Liefmans, and as far as I am aware all of their sour beers are pasteurized to preserve some sweetness. Sadly most of the dark/red sours of Belgium are "dead."

Brewitt said...

Mike, I have been enjoying reading this blog on an off for a while. Really informative and helpful. I was recently in belgium and became enthralled with sour beers, krieks and guezes. I am starting to build up the courage to try making some of my own. Along those lines, I have just obtained the dregs of two bottles of kriek, a Oud Beersel Oude Kriek and a Hannsens Kriek. Both have a fair about of grunge at the bottom and they have been cold since coming to the US as far as I know. I can just keep the dregs cold but, since I'm not going to get to using them and would like to have a good starter, I'm wondering what the best way to go is. I have some basic LME wort with yeast nutrient ready to go but I don't want to screw this up . I'm thinking, based upon what I have read, I should pitch them warm and let them go with just a foil cap until they start fermenting and then put on an air lock and let them sit at room temp for a couple months or so. Sound OK?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I’m not a big advocate of making mixed culture starters. The different microbes each have different ideal conditions, in terms of oxygen, pH, etc. I would mix the dregs with the wort and hold them cold until you are ready to use them. I’d pitch a healthy culture of brewer’s yeast together with them in primary to ensure a healthy fermentation. Especially for your first sour beer, I think just pitching dregs is needlessly risky. Here is a post about growing microbes that might help as well.

Good luck!

Brewitt said...

Thanks for the response, Mike. I wasn't intending to just use dregs. But I was thinking it might be a good idea to expand these populations. Instead I took your advice on the majority of the dregs and just added a little wort and put it in the cold in a sterile container. The rest I plated to petri dishes with a couple different nutrient conditions or added to some wort to see what grows up. I have microbiological media and tools at my disposal.

platypotamus said...

thanks for the info about the Zuur! I currently have a small starter going that I made with Cuvee Rene dregs. It smells fantastic and has a nice pellicle forming already, after several days. One question, though - is it generally ok to leave these starters with just foil covering them, or would you recommend always using a stopper and airlock?

platypotamus said...

Sorry to ask the same foil question that I now see several others have already asked. Should have searched the page first. This starter still smells great though, so I will probably just go ahead and toss it in the fermenter soon.

Brewitt said...

Mike, I took part of the dregs of the Oud Beersel Oude Kriek and plated it for bacteria and for yeast. I found what I believe to be lactobacillus and pediococcus (don't know which species) and also Saccharomyces. I could see Brett in the microscope but never seemed to get pure colonies of them. I also took part of the dregs and grew it in wort for a week or so and there I seem to get a good expansion of the brett population. My plan for my first sour is to siphon off a couple gallons of wort from a dark strong ale I am making this weekend, dilute it back by about 40% to 1.055 or so, and then pitch about .25 liter of WLP530 and .25 liter of the wort starter made from the dregs. I figure 3-4 weeks in the primary and then secondary for an indeterminate but loooong time. I should mention that this wort will have 2row and specialty grains with 12% homemade dark candi syrup. Do you (or anyone) see any problem with this?

John said...

Mike -

Thanks so much for your website. It's an incredible resource. Some friends and I have brewed a base beer (brown-ish ale fermented with 1056) that we will be consolidating into a used Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Bramble Rye barrel. I was planning on doing a combination of bottle dregs and an offering from Wyeast. We are going for more of a Flanders-style tartness than funkiness.

My big question is, since we have about 50 gallons of wort, whether we need to be pitching more Wyeast packets and bottle dregs than we would were we souring in a carboy. I am uncertain whether pitching quantities matter terribly, or if we can simply pitch a few bottles of dregs and one Wyeast pack and then let time do its thing. Any guidance you would have on this front would be greatly appreciated.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Higher pitching rates will certainly cut some time off of the acidification process, but probably isn't necessary. Most of the breweries I’ve talked to don’t add more than a few cups of loose culture to each barrel.

What we have tended to do is either add 5 gallons of already established sour beer to the mix of fermented clean beer, or start with a yeast cake from another sour beer for primary fermentation in the barrel. For our bourbon barrel that started to go sour unintentionally, we did add just a few bottles worth of dregs and had great results just 9 months later.

Good luck, sounds delicious!

Don said...

Mike do you have any idea which bugs are in cascades beers? Their descriptions all say lactic fermentation. Is this straight lacto/pedio? is there noticeable brett? I am still learning to pick out the flavors in commercial beers.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

As far as I'm aware Raccoon Lodge (Cascade)only pitches Lacto after a clean primary, which is why their sours tend to be softer and less funky than most sour beers.

Anonymous said...

How about the dregs from Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge? There seems to be quite a bit of sediment, plus it tastes great!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'm a fan as well, but I haven't found anything definitive either whether it has live microbes. So many of the Belgian sour reds are filtered or pasteurized that I woudn't count on it though. The sediment could just be a clean bottling strain.

If you give it a shot, let me know how it goes!

sweetcell said...

Goose Island Sofie (formerly Sophie) contains Brett B, so the dregs are pitchable. http://www.babblebelt.com/newboard/thread.html?tid=1108752780%20&th=1265672348&pg=5&tpg=1&add=1

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I remember reading that post, but I'd forgotten about it. Thanks for the heads-up!

Daniel LeLievre said...

Is it advisable to keep all the dregs separate, or can I just add a bunch of different ones to one flask with a little wort? Over the last week or two I've collected a lot of random dregs with brett and bacteria and don't have time to make separate worts for each.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Keeping dregs from several bottles in a small mason jar in the fridge is fine in my experience. Growing mixed dregs is riskier as one set of dregs could add some acetobacter and ruin the bunch (which happened to me with a combo of Russian River Deviation and Lost Abbey Cable Car).

David said...

Thanks a lot for the information and blog. Great resource that myself and my friends constantly turn to. I have a few questions in regards to dregs:

First, in a brew that we're about to bottle, we were planning of splitting the batch. For half, we'd like to pitch some dregs from a Crooked Stave bottle to condition. Is just pitching the dregs from the bottle enough, or should we build a small starter to do so?

Also, say I have a bottle and I want to use the dregs from, but cannot do so in the immediate future. Is there a best practice for saving/maintaining for about a month? Is making a small starter, stepping it up, and letting it do its thing in a foil covered flask sufficient?

Thanks again!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Either pitching the dregs or building them up can work, pitching more cells will speed up the process. Be careeful pitching dregs at bottling, Brett can ferment carbohydrates that brewer's yeast is not able to, resulting in excess carbonation. Monitor the carbonation by opening bottles frequently, I would also avoid trying it on any beer that wasn't dry to start.

As for saving dregs, I'd suggest reading this post on Maintaining Brett and Lacto cultures. If that doesn't answer the question, feel free to ask for clarification.

Beer Geek said...

Do any of the Funkwerks beers have dregs worthwhile?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Despite their name, most (all?) of the Funkwerks beers are clean. I'm not aware of any bottled sour/funky beers from them, although there certainly could be.

Beer Geek said...

Thanks! I have a couple of bottles (saison, tropic king) sitting in my basement and was just curious. I have only tasted the beers before and don't recall with specificity the flavor profiles (halfway through the great nebraska beerfest).

Ryan Hope said...

I just wanted to confirm that harvesting bugs from Monks Cafe is possible. I poured the last 1/2" of two 12oz bottles into a 500ml flask with ~150ml of 1.030 wort. It sat on a stir plate for a few days. When I finally cold crashed it there was a nice layer on the bottom. I contacted the brewers and they confirmed its a blend of saccharomyces, brettanomyces and other bugs. I will be using them shortly.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Very cool, thanks for the confirmation!

Alex Fields said...

For beers like Allagash that use wine yeast at bottling, is it still okay to pitch the dregs at the start of primary? Will the wine yeast not kill the other sacch because it's present in such low quantities?

Also, could you use dregs with wine yeast for 100% fermentation on the assumption that brett and bugs would clean up maltotriose missed by wine yeast and probably also any off flavors produced by wine yeast, or is it important to make sure beer sacch does most of the primary fermentation?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've never had a problem pitching dregs with a killer wine strain (like Russian River) directly into primary along with brewer's yeast. Not sure which wine strain Allagash pitches for conditioning, but I wouldn't worry unless you are building the dregs up prior to pitching. I tend to shy away from making a starter with dregs or pitching nothing but dregs. If you want to do a wine yeast primary I'd pick your strain carefully to get a positive flavor. It would probably work in terms of fermentation, but might not be ideal flavor-wise.

Anonymous said...

Do you have any specific hints on culturing dregs from very old bottles.

Have a case of around 30 year old Rodenbach, Rodenbach Grand Cru and Rodenbach Alexander sitting here and thought it might be worth a try.
Guess best possible surrounding condition will be necessary to bring up whats still left alive.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I don't know when they started pasteurizing. If they weren't back then, then there is a chance there are a few viable cells of Brett left, but probably not much else. You'd need to be extremely careful about sanitation to avoid growing something from the lip of the bottle, or the air. Plating, isolating, and going from there would probably be smart. If you get something fun, let me know!

Anonymous said...

Just had a bottle of Evil Twin "Femme Fatale Brett". It has so much yeast it seems rude not to save it and pitch some into a beer I have ready to bottle. I was thinking maybe chucking 4 litres into a small demijohn and tipping the brett dregs into it, then bottling after a week or so. Mind you, the beer wasn't designed with that in mind, so it might be a bit peculiar - it's a basic pale ale. I'll give it a shot unless someone tells me not to waste my time and beer.

diceclay said...

How about Green Flash, Rayon Vert? I read an article where a guy had a successful starter with dregs from several bottles.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I've read that Rayon Vert has live Brett dregs too. I've got an updated list in the book, but as a result of the fluid nature of this info it'll probably be cut, and posted here.

sweetcell said...

greetings, oh mad fermentationist,

dunno if you're still updating this, but:

a) "Evolution Craft Brewing Company – Fall Migration 2011" can be updates to include the fall 2012 edition. just had one recently, delicious and very brett'y.

b) "Brasserie Fantôme – Anything", are you sure about that? their Extra Sour Special Original Creation has bugs, but i believe all their stuff is made with just their proprietary/traditional saison yeast - no bugs.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Intentional or not, most if not all Fantome beers have something going on besides Saccharomyces from the taste of things.

The updated version of this list is being dropped from my book (just too plastic) so they'll be a big update to this post sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

I tried plating out some dregs of Cuvee Des Jacobins Rouge and nothing grew on either of the two plates that I made. Looks like it must be pasturized before bottling...

Paul Stellato said...

Just wanted to throw this out there...
Having a Hitachino HX right now and im getting lots of brett aromas/flavor and its super dry. Ive had this a few times before, but this one is about 6 months old I think. Its ages in sake casks so I bet there are some bugs in there...Anyone know for sure?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I had a really wonderful funky (over-carbed) XH a few years ago. Doubt it's intentional, but according to some brewers most clean barrel-aged beers have some bugs in them.

Jason McKibben said...

Terrific blog, thanks so much!
I've got a 5-gallon batch of extract-based saison that's ready to bottle now. OG was 1.056, and with Wyeast 3711 it went down to 1.002.
It's in a secondary fermenter.
I was thinking of siphoning off about a gallon, then pitching the dregs from 2 bottles of Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza (bottled 6 months ago) into that to see what happens.
Now, I'm very new to brewing, as my questions may reflect, but I'm wondering, since the terminal gravity is so low, is anything left for the bugs to eat? Also, when it comes time to bottle, how do you suggest priming?
Cheers

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Brett will do its thing even without much carbohydrate remaining, but you probably won't get much acidity from the bacteria. You could add a few points of maltodextrin if you wanted to feed them.

Assuming the gravity is stable,you can prime just as you normally would without adjustment. If the beer is long-aged, you might add a tiny amount of rehydrated wine yeast to speed up carbonation.

Good luck!

Nicholas Bernard said...

Hi Mike, love the blog and can't wait for the book. Have a question for you - I just brewed an Orval-esque Belgian Pale Ale a few days ago and pitched 2 vials (w/ a 2 L starter) of WLP510 Bastogne Belgian ale yeast. I was intending on racking it and then pitching a vial of WL Brett Brux along with some Orval dregs (possibly). I'm entering the beer into a homebrew competition in 6 weeks and am hoping for some quick and possibly complex funk in the beer. I also have the dregs from a Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze at my disposal (though I have no experience in previously using dregs). Long story short, what is your advice in yielding some complex flavors in this situation given the short amount of time, and what method/dregs would you use that I mentioned in order to yield the best and most complex results?

Thanks for the help,
Nick

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My best advice is that these are beers you shouldn't hurry! If the gravity gets down to 1.004 or lower you'll be pretty safe bottling, but otherwise I'd wait until the gravity stabilizes before bottling. Getting it under pressure seems to speed up the appearance of Brett character, but bottle with too much gravity remaining and the bottles may burst.

The more stains you pitch, the better the chances something will get rolling in time. Best of luck!

Alex briggs said...

In need of some help...first sour attempt. Trying to harvest dregs from Hansen artisional Oude kriek. Bottle says it's aged for three years and it was bottled in May 2013. It's been sitting with no activity for 3 days. Attempted adding Fermax Twice with no success. Any other ideas to rally the troops or are they two old to be rallied. The kriek is sitting in primary with wyeast lambic blend and was planning on adding dregs to secondary with cherries. Any advice?

Alex

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

How much wort did you pitch the dregs into? A couple ounces is all I'd start with, and I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't see any activity for a few days. Even though that beer is relatively fresh, there probably aren't many cells left.

I usually do not grow the dregs before pitching. It is much easier and safer to simply swirl and then dump directly into either primary or secondary.

For the fruit, I'd wait. No need to rack to secondary anytime soon; lambics are traditionally aged in primary. Fruit for 2-4 months, right before bottling to preserve the fresh aromatics.

Unknown said...

Apparently Petrus is now filtered & pasteurized. Some guys over at HomebrewTalk heard it directly from Bavik.
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f127/does-petrus-have-viable-dregs-441470/

Anon said...

Terrific site, gobs of good info, thank you. I recently brewed a saison with wy belgian saison anticipating the 1.035 stall as the perfect time to add some dregs. It stalled as advertised at which point I added two CS Surette dregs. Checked gravity again two weeks later, still stalled. Added another Surette dregs and heated w/ brewbelt. In all it took nearly 2.5 mos for it to finish. Wasnt at higher temps that long but maybe 2 weeks. Sampled at bottling, awful medicinal/band aid flavors in the finish. Spoke w/ the bar mgr at CS who said Chad Y's goodies dont care for heat, I thought ok, lesson learned. During the same time I did a belgian wit, w/ a couple additions of CS St. Bretta, although never warmer than ~72. Bottled and again, those same flavors in the finish, not nearly as bad, but clearly evident. Crooked Stave is by far the best beer in Denver, and maybe further but I'm wondering why the issues with CS dregs??

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Not sure what caused the issues you expereinced. Dregs really aren't about speed, you're relying on the Brett to slowly work and reduce the gravity, if you want a Sacch strain that works at a warmer temperature to finish out the fermentation, better to grow up a known strain. I had a bottle of St. Bretta I didn't care for, really sulfury, not sure what strains are used in it.

If you'd like to email me your complete recipe process I might be able to dig something else out.

ReformedBrewer said...

could you do this on bottling day instead? Would you just add it to the bottling bucket and use champagne bottles or us the same bottle and bottle right on top of the dreg?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

A drop of .003 is all you need for full carbonation, so adding Brett at bottling is dangerous for all but the driest beers.

Andrei said...

for posterity: Liefmans has confirmed that their Goudenband is filtered and pasteurized so nothing viable in it ("... the production process of Liefmans Goudenband entails indeed a centrifugation and pasteurization step. Consequently, our Liefmans Goudenband does not contain yeast nor bacteria which were inoculated spontaneously during fermenting."). it was my hope that because Goudenband isn't sweetened, it somehow wasn't dead. alas.

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