Before I headed off to Modern Times for the summer, I bottled two batches that I had split three ways each. One batch featured three “new” species of Brett as the primary/sole fermentor. The other batch was the second iteration of Lomaland, which I split three ways during packaging to showcase the same three species for bottle conditioning.
All of the strains of Brett available to brewers until recently have fallen into only two species. Brettanomyces bruxellensis (including B. lambicus) and Brettanomyces anomalus (including B. claussenii). Just like ale or lager yeast, Brettanomyces species can have considerable intraspecies variation. These are simply three individual isolates of three additional Brett species (i.e., B. nanus, B. naardenensis, and B. custersianus) sent to me by Al Buck of East Coast Yeast. There is most likely strong variation within each of these species, so take them as single data points.
This mega-tasting will span three posts each covering the two beers fermented with a species. Tonight’s featured player is B. custersianus. It was originally isolated from South African bantu beer, which made from malted millet.
100% Brett custersianus (Winner)
Appearance – Golden yellow, ever so faintly foggy. Nice dense white head, good retention and lacing.
Smell – The nose has a lot of fruit, ripe or even over-ripe mango especially. There are some white grapes too. The sort of fruits that don’t quite smell bright and vibrant, bordering on being slightly weird solvent-perfume-ish.
Taste – Minimal acidity, as you’d expect in a 100% Brett beer. The flavor starts mildly fruity, but slowly fades to a more traditional Brett funk. Pretty dry beer. Not much hop character remains, and the malt adds a faint graininess, but mostly stays out of the way. Luckily no weird off-flavors.
Mouthfeel – Medium-high carbonation, causing it to slowly fizz up when I opened the bottle. Tastes about right to me for a beer like this. Medium-thin body, lightly tannic.
Drinkability & Notes – Young this beer was remarkably clean and lager-like. It reminded me of Pilsner Urquell in a weird way, even had a touch of diacetyl. Glad to report that time in the bottle really brought out some pleasant and unique flavors. Like Brett bruxellensis var. Trois/Drie, I’d expect this one to pair nicely with some fruity hops.
Saison w/ B. custersianus
Smell – Smells like an even-fruitier version of Wyeast 3711 French Saison (the primary yeast strain). Hints of pepper, and a little musty farmyard in the nose. The fruitiness is almost artificial, candied pear I’ll call it. Nice blend of aromatics.
Taste – Where the flavor balanced the Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces characters, in the flavor they clash. The earthy Brett muddling up the bright fruitiness. The peppery spice from the nose comes across more clove-like. Not offensive by any measure, but not particularly pleasant either.
Mouthfeel – Thin, lively, and crisp. No complaints here as far as a Brett’d saison goes.
Drinkability & Notes – I think this is a strain that works better (at least in this case) alone than it does in tandem. Its character as a secondary yeast, at least after 7 months, doesn’t take over the way more traditional Brett strains do. There are so many new Brett strains becoming available, I'm looking forward to seeing what brewers figure out works best for each one!
Updated Tasting Notes 11/18/15