Thursday, June 28, 2007

2 Brett Tales

I recently had two infinitely different experiences (one good, one bad) with other people trying my 100% Brett fermented beers that I think illustrates the state of Brett beers in the American beer culture.

I'll start with the negative experience: I entered a bottle of my first Brett beer in my homebrew club's Saison competition just to see how it would fair and to get some basic feedback on how to improve it. While the beer was not brewed to be a saison its recipe and specs (aside from the use of just Brett) were just within the low end for all of the BJCP guidelines (gravity/color/bitterness/abv etc…) and I thought the flavor and aroma were not far off particularly because Fantome's line of saisons often have a mildly funky Brett note to them (and occasionally a strong funk).

Well I was dead wrong according to the judges, my beer was panned by all of them as either infected or having a strong acetylaldehyde problem (which I think was just the appley ester that Brett C seems to put out). All four of the judges gave me 21s and 22s. I wasn't expecting to win, but I also thought that my beer was a reasonable entry into the category and that it would at least produce more meaningful comments than "Needs more malt" and "Watch your sanitation" "Would be more appropriate as a Lambic". I am generally not a big fan of competitions for precisely this reason, I think more competitions need to focus on the tastiest beers not the ones that are closest to some Socratic stylistic ideal form.


Now for the positive story: I was recently involved with a swap over at the BBB for people who brewed a beer with no Saccromyces (Primarily Brett, but a few people added lacto as well). I got to try beers brewed by 7 fantastic brewers who coaxed amazing flavors out of the four major Brett strains. Fresh apples, cherries, spices, tropical fruit and many other unique flavors were on exhibition with almost none of the maligned stereotypical Brett aromas of "goat" "sweat" or barnyard. My Cherry/Wine Mo' Betta Bretta was received quite well, with the common analysis boiling down to cinnamon, cherries, mulled wine etc… There was one comment of fecal… but even that wasn't entirely negative.

Tomme Arthur (of Pizza Port and The Lost Abbey) also receive a bottle from everyone. I got to have a brief chat with him about my beer after going to a tasting/presentation (so many tasty and inspiring beers, and he only brought one of their barrel-aged offerings) he gave at the Brickskeller, he thought that my beer was one of the most interesting of the tasting and seemed to be genuinely intrigued with exactly how I got the flavors I did. It was very rewarding to hear the man who essentially co-created this genera of beer say that my beer had positive characteristics that he had never gotten.

An older gentleman in the crowd during Tomme's speech had some negative words for the use of Brett, however the guy didn't seem to mind the mild Brett character in The Lost Abbey's phenomenal 10 Commandments (originally SPF 8, a big black saison with fresh rosemary, orange peel and port caramelized raisins), Tomme said that it would have more Brett kick in future batches.

I think the point of these two stories is that not every beer-geek has gotten the Brettanomyces education that they need, but that the ones that have are starting to spread the gospel (with the help of a couple fantastic professional brewers). Brewing with Brettanomyces isn't for everyone, but it allows you to create flavors that are impossible to get with traditional brewer's yeast. If you have never made a batch with Brett before I implore you to do so, you might want to avoid entering it in a contest anytime soon though.

Friday, June 1, 2007

1st 100% Brettanomyces anomalus brew

Finally built up a starter from my pack of Wyeast 5110 Brettanomyces anomolus a few weeks ago in preparation for a series of brews. Brett A is similar to Brett C (mild), it was originally cultured from bottles on a bottle of English Stout and made its way to Wyeast by way of San Diego (Pizza Port I assume as it is the strain that was actually used in Mo' Betta Bretta). The owner of my local homebrew store says he thinks it is smoother and rounder as a primary fermenter than the Brett C from White Labs.

Last weekend I brewed a recipe (below) that is nearly identical to the first brew I did with Brett C. The only major change is that I replaced half of the wheat malt with rye malt because I was low on wheat. Ambient temperatures have been holding steadily in the mid 80s this week and I added the same nutrient and held back on the oxygen so it should be an even comparison.

This weekend I plan on brewing up a American Pale Ale wort to pitch onto the yeast cake from this one. Some of this yeast will also find its way into a Courage Russian Imperial Stout that my buddy James and I have been dreaming about for a few months.

1st 100% Brett A Beer
Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 3.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 6.00
Anticipated OG: 1.047
Anticipated SRM: 3.8
Anticipated IBU: 24.2
Brewhouse Efficiency: 62 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

5.00 lbs. French Pilsen
0.50 lbs. Rye Malt
0.50 lbs. Wheat Malt

0.50 oz. Sterling @ 60 min.
0.25 oz. Mt. Hood @ 10 min.
0.25 oz. Mt. Hood @ 5 min.
0.25 oz. Sterling @ 5 min.
0.25 oz. Mt. Hood @ 0 min.
0.25 oz. Sterling @ 0 min.

1.00 Unit(s)Servomyces @ 10 Min.(boil)
0.50 Unit(s)Wirlfloc @ 10 Min.(boil)

WYeast 5110 Brettanomyces anomalus

Water Profile
Profile: Pale, Medium Hop
Profile known for:

Calcium(Ca): 69.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 7.5 ppm
Sodium(Na): 15.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 61.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 96.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 23.0 ppm

pH: 8.25

Mash Schedule
90 minutes @ 151 degrees

Brewed 5/26/07 By myself

Starter made a few weeks previous and stepped up to around 1/2 gallon, crash cooled in the fridge for a few days before the brew.

Bach sparged and collected 5 gallons of 1.030 runoff, boiled down to about 3 gallons of 1.047

Decanted and pitched starter, no extra O2 added aside from some splashing during straining.

Pitched around 80 degrees (tap water just wasn't cool enough to get much lower). Ambient temp in the high 80's caused the yeast to start fermenting fast and hard. Hopefully the beer will be alright.

Fermentation only lasted about 48 hours. The krausen never got more than a couple inches thick and fell to a pellicle like covering that took several days to fall out.

Tasting notes.