Monday, June 23, 2008

Mo' Betta Brett Clone 2 and MBBC2 Cherry Tasting

Seemed like it was time for another tasting of my second attempt at Mo Betta Bretta since it approaching 1 year old. I believe this is also my first written tasting of the Cherry-Pinot Noir-Vanilla version of the beer.

Mo' Betta Bretta Clone

Appearance – Deep amber, very hazy despite the 60 degree serving temperature. Tremendous, moussey, white head, great retention and lacing.

Smell – Candy sweetness, starting to have some sherry oxidation. Minimal fruity esters, old brown apples most prominently.

Taste – Oxidation has really taken its toll on this one, muted flavors and mustiness. The funkiness is very subdued, earthy, more classic “Orval” than the tropical flavor it had when it was fresh.

Mouthfeel – Medium light, and nicely spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – Tastes over the hill, not objectionable, just not fresh (it was brewed almost exactly a year ago). This will be the last tasting on this one unless one of my last few bottles tastes substantially better.

Mo' Betta Bretta Clone Cherry-Pino Noir-Vanilla

Appearance – Deep garnet, light haze. Light pink head which leaves sheets of lacing as it slowly falls. The red color has held up well since last summer, still beautiful.

Smell – Cherry Jolly Ranchers, slight tropical funk, still smells very fresh. The vanilla is integrated into the other flavors, but it seems to enhance the flavor of oak from the wine.

Taste – Good fruity tartness, decent cherry flavor, but it has blended with the wine losing its fresh edge making them seem richer and darker (like macerated berries).. Almost no funkiness, just a complex fruitiness in the aftertaste. The malt and hops are completely absent, they are just foundation for the other ingredients.

Mouthfeel – A bit of tannic astringency, not sure if it from the wine or the cherries. The body is medium with moderate carbonation. There is a bit of a coating after taste, a wine drinker might call it flabby, it may have needed a bit more acidity.

Drinkability & Notes – Terrific compared to the plain version, after seeing how oxidized it was I wanted to drink one of these in case it was fading as well. Not sure what acted as an antioxidant in this one (wine, cherries, vanilla) or if it was just the added acidity, but whatever it was this one tastes like it could have gone longer (sadly I believe this is the last bottle).

Friday, June 20, 2008

How many fermentations (beer or otherwise) do you have going on right now?

Zero 13 (6%)
1-3 128 (66%)
4-6 37 (19%)
7-9 10 (5%)
10 or More 5 (2%)

Glad to see so many people have something fermenting, and amazed at the five people who had 10+.

At the moment I have seven going.
High Gravity Oud Bruin
Flanders Red
Sourdough Kvass
Sourdough Bread
Flanders Pale
Cable Car Clone

I’m running low on poll ideas, so if anyone has some good ones let me know.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Funky Old Ale: 2nd Tasting

Recipe and 1st Tasting

I thought it was time for an update on this one since it had beer more than a year since it was bottled.

Appearance – Clear, dark brown, with red/orange highlights when held to the light. Only a minimal brown head forms, very poor retention. Not sure if the drop in retention is from the Brett eating the last of the dextrins, or if I just have a dirty glass.

Smell – Wet oak, cherries, and distant coffee grounds. The alcohol is almost like perfume, very interesting. Very smooth, no harshness funkiness like when it was bottled.

Taste – Rich bread crust maltiness, big dark fruit (cherries, plums), almonds, and lightly roasted coffee. Really stunning complexity, one of the better tasting beers I have made. The bitterness has mellowed out to match the dryness, very balanced. Will probably develop more dried fruit (raisin, prunes) as time goes on, but I like it the way it is now.

Mouthfeel – Medium-thin body, with medium carbonation. The finish has just a hint of alcohol warmth, but it is very subdued.

Drinkability & Notes – Wow, at a year since bottling this beer is really hitting its stride. It is disturbing how quickly I polished off my glass of this 10% abv beer, so smooth, dry, and drinkable. Looking forward to really breaking these out next winter once the weather cools down again.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Imperial Sourdough Neo Kvass

My first attempt at Kvass came out so well that I decided to give it another go. However, being an ADD brewer I couldn't brew the exact same recipe again, so I made a few changes.

First I decided that instead of letting the bread stale, I'd toast it instead. I never found a great explanation for why the bread needed to be stale anyway, seems like it is just a part of the tradition for using up stale bread. The only thing I could think of was that the staling leads to a retrogradation of the starch which helps the bread retain some structure when it is cooked (the same reason day old bread and rice are best for French toast and fried rice respectively). The toasting will accomplish this same task without the hassle of waiting around, and the melanoidins from the toasting will give some added flavor to the beer.

My second change was the yeast. The first time I used American ale yeast for half, and bread yeast for half, this time I swapped out the 1056 for San Francisco sourdough starter from Fermented Treasures. This starter contains Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, a relative of the bacteria that makes Berliner Weisse sour, and yogurt tangy. It also usually contains strains of Saccharomyces (brewer's yeast) and Candida (found in lambics).

My final change was to add the "bread juice" to the grain bed at the end of the sparge. This had the unintended consequence of bumping my gravity up .010. I decided to just roll with the sugar increase and call it an Imperial Kvass.

The picture shows the liquid starter I made from the fresh culture of sourdough, and the flour I started at the same time. I have since made several tasty breads with the flour starter, but it has yet to develop a significant sourness.

Imperial Sourdough Neo Kvass

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 2.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 3.69
Anticipated OG: 1.044
Anticipated SRM: 10.3
Anticipated IBU: 7.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68 %
Wort Boil Time: 35 Minutes

2.50 lbs. Maris Otter
0.94 lbs. Rye Malt
0.25 lbs. Brown Malt

0.25 oz. Crystal @ 30 min.

0.25 Tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 20 Min.

Split between San Fransisco Sourdough and Red Star Bread Yeast

Mash Schedule
60 min @ 154

Brewed 5/18/08 by myself

Toasted 90% of a loaf of Whole Foods Organic Jewish Rye for 30 minutes @ 300 degrees. mixed with 1 gallon of distilled water w/ 1 g CaCl @ 170 Degrees. Strained the solids from the liquid next morning at the start of the brew day.

3 gallons water prepared for the brew, 1 g each CaCl, Salt, Chalk, Epsom.

Added the bread juice to the end of the sparge.

Added 1/4 g of Red Star Bread yeast to the green jug and ~1/4 cup of San Fransisco sourdough starter to the clear jug. The sourdough was cultured from a dough starter from fermented treasures, stepped up once.

Placed in the freezer at 64 degrees. Sourdough one started within 12 hours, bread yeast in 18.

5/30/08 Fermentation seems to be complete for both, took out of the freezer for 24 hours to make sure, then returned to the freezer. Both are at 1.012 (73% AA)

6/15/08 Took out of freezer to make room for Big Funky to go in, gravity on both is ~1.012. Ambient temp in 70s.

6/23/08 Bottled with .5 tsp of turbinado per bottle.

7/02/08 Decent carbonation already, the sourdough bottle I tried was surprisingly mild.

8/05/08 First tasting

8/23/08 I sent a bottle of each to Scott (the Brewer at East End) here are his comments: "Compared to mine (which is the only comparison I have to work with) I found it to be similar in many ways... mouth feel, aroma. Took me right back. I did get a bit more sweetness in the flavor that really just shifted me into tasting a "different" bread - like the way whole wheat bread varies in sweetness. Color was a little darker too, almost like a weizenbock is a darker version of a hefe, but to a lesser degree if that makes any sense. Sourdough version was enjoyable too with a nice crisp tang." I'm glad he liked them.

Friday, June 6, 2008

All about Brettanomyces

Greg Doss from Wyeast is putting together a presentation on brewing with Brett and asked if I could answer a few practical questions on my experience brewing with Brettanomyces. I thought this would be a good post to combine many of the bits of info that are scattered all over my blog into one spot. Most of these topics are fleshed out in more detail on other posts, but I'm too lazy to put in all the links at the moment.

Interview – Michael Tonsmeire – Mad Fermentationist

How do/have you use(d) Brett?
What beers?
Old Ale (Brett C in secondary),
Belgian Strong Dark with Cherries (Brett C and Orval dregs-Brett B in secondary),
Courage Russian Imperial Stout Clone (Brett A in secondary),
2 Flanders Reds (Roeselare Blend in secondary for one, US-05 plus a starter grown from the dregs of a bottle of Lost Abbey's Red Poppy in the primary for the other),
Flanders Pale (wood from first Flanders Red plus Russian River Depuration dregs in secondary),
Lambic (Wyeast Lambic Blend in primary),
Temptation Clone (Russian River inoculated chips in secondary, ~4 strains of Brett plus all sorts of other microbes),
Berliner Weisse (3191 Berliner Blend in primary)

I have also played with sourdough cultures and kombucha to ferment wort, both of which probably contain some Brett, but I can’t be sure.

Brett only?
2 Low-Gravity Saisons (one Brett C and one Brett A),
2 Mo’ Betta Bretta Clones (one Brett C and one Brett A, each batch was split with half getting sour cherries and pinot noir),
Brett Pale Ale (Brett A)

Co-inoculum? What other strains? Multiple strain antagonism or cooperation?
I have not used multiple Brett strains in a primary fermentation, but in secondary they seem to cooperate between strains and with other microbes as far as I can tell. Russian River Sanctification is the only commercial beer I know of that uses two strains (L and B plus some lacto) and it is delicious.

Inoculation rate?
For 100% Brett beers I inoculate at about the rate I would use for a lager, which is a pretty healthy pitching rate. It can take awhile to build up a culture to this volume, but it an be done is a stepped up starter like a standard ale yeast. If growth seems to slow down some chalk can be added to buffer against any acidity created by the Brett.
For secondary fermentation a small amount of Brett is fine, but the more you pitch the faster you’ll get results because growth is very slow in such a stressful environment (alcoholic, low pH, no simple sugars, etc…)

Inoculation Timing (When)? Pre-primary, Co-inocualte, Post-primary, @Bottling
I generally pitch the Brett into secondary after the Saccharomyces fermentation is finished, this gives me more control over the end results because I give the Brett a set amount of carbohydrates to eat. I have played around with pitching in primary along with Saccharomyces and bacteria, in general these beers are funkier/sourer because the Brett and bacteria has more time to grow in a low-stress environment.

I have started to play around with killing the Brett with potassium metabisulfite (campden tablets) to stop fermentation before the gravity gets too low, this is a good idea for high gravity beers that would otherwise get too thin. Heat pasteurization and sterile filtration are two other options, but ones I haven’t tried.

I have not risked adding Brett at bottling, both thick bottles and a very low FG would be required to ensure that you did not end up with explosive carbonation, and even then carbonation would be unpredictable.

Temperature?For primary Brett C fermentations I have gotten good results going very light on the pre-pitch aeration and ramping up the temperature into the high 70s, but Brett A seemed to do better with more oxygen and a lower fermentation temp (~68).

For secondary fermentation I tend to keep the temperature in the mid-low 60s for as high temps seem to encourage more aggressive acid formation and more oxidation over the long aging period.

Wort considerations? Grist?
Just about any grist can play well with Brett. In addition to the base beers I have used (Belgian Strong Dark, Belgian Single, Saison, Imperial Stout, Old Ale, Belgian Blond etc…) On the commercial side I have had a Mild, a Belgian Pale, and a Strong Scotch that were barrel aged with wild yeast and bacteria with delicious results.

I would not go too heavy on the dark malt or other assertive malts as they can become harsh as the beer heads towards its low FG.

Brett and hops play well together, particularly Brett B (for example in Orval, Ommegeddon, and Deification), but bitterness and sourness do not go well so watch the bittering hops if you are adding bacteria. Aroma hops will generally fade before the Brett is really assertive, so a dry hop addition right before bottling is often a good idea.

Mashing schedule?
A higher mash temperature will ensure plenty of residual dextrins for the Brett to eat in secondary, so it’s a good idea to raise it up particularly if you do not have much in the way of cara/crystal malts in your grist. A lower mash and simpler grain bill can be used if you would prefer just a hint of Brett in an otherwise clean beer.

I would go about the rest of my mash in the same way I would for any other beer, based on the malt bill. I generally do single infusion mashes and get good results.

I haven't done enough 100% Brett beers to have much to say about how mashing effects them, but it doesn't seem like the mash temp has as much of an impact on the FG as it does in a Saccharomyces beer.

pH?Brett is tolerant of a wide pH range. It can produce some acids to lower the pH, but I have tasted only one Brett beer, which did not also have lactic/acetic acid bacteria, that I would call sour. That one beer was a low gravity beer that was fermented with Brett C in the upper 50s, certainly an area for experimentation.
Time (length) of fermentation? Determination of completion.
In the secondary generally a minimum of 6-9 months is needed to reach a stable FG, sometimes it takes longer.

Brett primary fermentations are relatively quick. Generally a stable FG is reached within 2 weeks, fermentation looks normal, and the Brett flocculates reasonably well. I have 100% beers that are 18 months old which still have stable carbonation, so it is certainly a faster way to turn out funky beers.

In both cases having consistent FG measurements over time is the only way to be certain fermentation is completed. Flavor is also a good general indicator as is appearance (when the pellicle drops it is probably safe to bottle).

Attenuation levels?
In 100% Brett beers my attenuation tend to get into the low 80s, in secondary 90%+ is pretty common. Some strains are more aggressive than others and the wort composition will have an effect, but as a general rule most beers with Brett will eventually end up between 1.004 and 1.010.

Flavor development?
For 100% Brett the flavors are pretty steady, although sometimes a beer can go from fruity when young slowly towards the more “classic” leather, barnyard, horse blanket etc… as it ages.

For Brett in the secondary the primary strain is really only important in that it will dictate how much sugar is left over for the Brett (the higher the gravity left the bigger impact the Brett will have). Any esters/phenols from the primary strain will be broken down or covered up by the Brett. The Brett character will continue to get more aggressive as it continues to ferment and then seems to mellow as time passes after fermentation is complete and it ages in the bottle.
I have never had an issue with an over-carbonated Brett beer, but that is probably because I always make sure the fermentation is finished (indicated by steady gravity readings) before bottling.

Many people add an acid/alcohol tolerant strain or Saccharomyces (American ale yeast, or even a wine yeast) at bottling to ensure carbonation, but I have never had an issue when I have failed to re-yeast. Pitching fresh Brettanomyces is also an option that may increase complexity over time.

One pitfall to watch for is the level of dissolved CO2 in the beer at bottling. After a long period of time in secondary, particularly when oak is involved because it provides nucleation sites, the beer can be completely flat. Normal priming sugar calculations assume a certain amount of residual carbonation based on the temperature of the beer, without this carbonation the beer will seem flat even after the yeast consume all the priming sugar. To remedy this you can give the beer a small feeding (2-3 oz) with table/corn sugar a week or so before bottling or additional priming sugar at bottling.

Sanitation Issues?
To be completely safe you would need to have a separate set of equipment for everything after pitching (fermenters, tubing, bottling bucket, bottling wand, stoppers, airlocks etc…). I have separate tubing and bottling wands, but everything else is cleaned with hot water and OxiClean Free and sanitized with cold water and Star-San before and after every use. I have been told 30 seconds is all Star-San needs, but I normally soak things in it for most of brew day to be sure.

Despite all of those funky beers and shared equipment I have had only one “clean” batch go funky. It was a mild that was transferred into a fermenter on the same day I transferred a 100% Brett beer out. It still took several months for the infection to show up, and it was actually pretty tasty to me, but it wasn’t what I was going for.

Other Info?
Oak and Brett play very well together as Brett can eat the wood sugars over a long term secondary fermentation. The oak also provided an easy method to transfer the yeast from one secondary to another, or to save microbes for a future batch by drying the oak and then saving it.

Brett also likes a bit of oxygen as it slowly ferments. There is a large amount of debate over how much is good and how to get it into the beer. Traditionally in a brewery this is done by aging the beer in large wooden barrels, but this isn’t practical for most homebrewers (although I know some who have wine barrels). As a result people have developed a variety of strategies, from sticking an oak peg through the neck of a carboy (Raj Apte), to aging in plastic, to aging in small barrels, to venting the headspace periodically. None of these methods is perfect, but I have been leaning towards aging in Better Bottles recently as they are more permeable that glass, but considerably less so than the standard homebrew buckets.

Experimentation and realistic expectations are two keys to success. There is still so much to learn about brewing with Brett so pushing the boundaries is a necessity. There is no way around an occasional off batch that is just the nature of brewing with wild yeast. Most commercial breweries that use Brett or bacteria blend their beers, this is certainly a fun and interesting way to play with homebrews particularly blending funky and clean beers.