We all suffer from brewer’s block once in awhile. After more than a decade intermittently standing next to a mash tun, I’ve come up with seven tricks for coming up with something to brew:
1. Tweak a favorite recipe
2. Highlight a new ingredient
3. Research a style you’ve never brewed
4. Brew a proven recipe that strays from your standard approach
5. Mash-up two styles to create something unique
6. Approach a style as brewers from another country would
7. Imagine a collaboration brew from two favorite breweries
This recipe was a combination of techniques #4 and #7, a what-if Trappist collaboration between Westvleteren and Orval! Both abbeys brew fantastic Belgian pale ales. Westy Blond/Green is clean, with a blend of banana, pear, fresh maltiness, and firm noble hops. Orval’s eponymous beer is similar when fresh (a bit more hop aroma, a bit less yeast character), but slowly becomes funky as the Brett works in the bottle (I’ve heard unconfirmed rumors that they are beginning to age with Brett and then pasteurize... anyone have confirmation of this sad development?).
I split the 10-gallon batch, with half served fresh on tap and the rest split at bottling between WLP648 Brett Trois Vrai and my house saison culture (just shipped a vial of it to Jeff at Bootleg Biology for analysis and possible propagation…). I knew I was onto something with the repeatedly repitched microbe blend when I got a series of texts and emails from my friends Jacob and Andrew at Modern Times wondering what delicious "tart" saison I had left in the cold box... it was a bottle of Alsatian Saison filled directly from the tap before I visited a year ago!
I actually preferred this beer just a couple months after bottling, when the Brett was apparent, but before it went feral. This batch is closing in on six-months in the bottle, but a little splash of the clean version from the tap brings back the 4-vinylguiacol and isoamyl acetate that the Brett so ruthlessly removed!
Westy (Orval'd) Blond
Appearance – Fraternal twins, pale golden with some chill haze. The heads pour up above the rim, but settle down to wispy sheets in a couple minutes. The House Saison's being slightly more durable, likely owing to more carbon dioxide nucleation.
Trois Vrai – Combo of leather, bruised red apple, and aspirin. Not much malt or hop character gets through the Brett. The primary yeast still adds a touch of light banana.
House Saison – Less fruity, more funky. Less distinct: hay, faint pineapple, pepper, and garden soil. Occasional notes of a rougher Brett character that is tough to pin down, the price for noticeable Brett character after a month!
Trois Vrai – Similar blend of fruit and funk to the nose, with the addition of a faint Belgian pale malt toast. The finish has just a hint of banana bread. Pleasant, but not captivating, until the second pour with a bit of yeast stirred up (which added more depth).
House Saison – Slightly acidic in comparison to its brother, not sour, but brighter and snappier. Finishes with some toastiness as well. A touch of melon, really lively and bright!
Trois Vrai – Thin, dry, and moderately carbonated. A Belgian single with Brett... not much body expcted, but it isn't obnoxiously thin.
House Saison – I enjoy the slightly higher carbonation, hopefully it is about done at six months at cellar temps (only a six-pack left anyway). Otherwise similar.
Drinkability & Notes – I enjoy both of them... but the House Saison blend is the winner for my palate! I liked it even more before the Brett completely took over (I was briefly thinking best batch ever), but it is still delicious as is. The Trois performed well, but I enjoyed it more as a primary strain!
Changes – As with the clean-version, I would swap out some pale for more Pils to soften the maltiness. A small dose of CaraPils or wheat to enhance the head retention might be nice as well. This would have been nice to have in a keg, so I could have chilled it down after 6-8 weeks when it still had a mélange of Belgian yeast, hoppiness, and Brett. Interested to take advantage of the bottles to see how it continue to evolve!