Thursday, December 30, 2010

Brett Stock Ale: 4 Years

Not a great shot of the Brett Stock Ale, but it shows off the ruby highlights.Before moving down to DC I enjoyed a couple months of unemployment between when my previous employer (a purveyor of no-verification loans) went belly up and my new job started.  I'd been thinking about making a beer with Brett since soon after I started brewing, but I had hesitated, not wanting to risk letting the bugs make the jump to my clean beers.  Not knowing when I'd be able to brew after moving I decided to spend my last few days in Massachusetts brewing four sour/funky beers to leave at my parents' house to ferment/age.

One of those beers was a Old Ale with Brett C, something the English traditionally called a stock ale.  This is the sort of beer that is perfect for blending; it has big complex flavors, but not the amount of sweetness you'd expect from a strong English ale.  Historically this blending was done to order by a publican, but there are still a couple of bottled blends available like Olde Suffolk from Greene King (I wish they bottled the funky "5X" portion, 12% ABV, two-year in oak). 

Funky Old Ale

Appearance – Deep brown with a wonderful clear garnet highlight when held to the light. A hard pour produces an inch of head that fights to maintain verticality, but steadily sinks to a light-tan ring over five minutes.

Smell – Vinous, port-like, slightly dusty/musty, just a hint of toasty malt (or is that oak?). Certainly smells like an English strong ale rather than anything from Belgium, despite the Brett (the claussenii strain was originally isolated from a stock ale).  As it warms there is a slight alcoholic sharpness to the nose.

Taste – The dank cellar quality comes through stronger in the flavor than it did in the aroma, but it is still backed up by some of that aged-wine character.  Not much bitterness remains after the years, but it doesn't take much to balance the small amount of residual sweetness.  The finish is short, almost abrupt.  As the beer warms the flavor becomes spicy from a combination of the oak and alcohol.

Mouthfeel – The body is a bit thin.  For a big beer like this a thick creamy body would have been nice, but it isn't unpleasant as is.  The medium-low carbonation is perfect, glad the Brett was finished when I bottled.

Drinkability & Notes – Too easy to drink, the lack of body means that the flavor doesn't linger to reveal all of its complexity. Certainly a beer that is built for blending with a fresh/sweet ale, something I may try out with one of the last few bottles.


Paul! said...

I just happened to have drank a Gales Prize old ale tonight, 2005 vintage. It turned out to be a bit of a disappointment, all the malt was there, only the sour character had turned a bit acetic.

Where you targeting a beer like Gales when you brewed your recipe? and if you did, how do you feel it stands ups

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Gales is a great example of the general sort of beer I was trying to brew. Overall I think they are very similar beers, although Gale's has more dark fruit flavors.

When Gales is "on" my beer can't touch it. That sweetness with a bit of sourness in Gale's really helps to add to the character. That said it is one of the most inconsistent beers I've had, maybe I've had it 10 times and only one of those (a cask at a real ale festival) was great.

Chad Yakobson said...

Nice Blog post Mike. Would you go for a traditional type blend with a younger old ale.. or go for the strange and blend with maybe a spiced beer or a dark robust beer..


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think it could work well with a bigger darker beer. I might blend it with the smoked Baltic porter I bottled a couple weeks back. I may also try it with the slightly too sweet biere de garde I have on tap. I don't have any small English ales around at the moment, so my options are pretty limited as far as traditional choices go.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Did you ever end up blending this beer?

I made a similar Old Ale with Brett C (
My beer became way too thin and dry, down to 1.005. Which is opposite of what I was looking for with the style. In hindsight, I should have mashed way higher, used higher starting gravity and a less attenuative English yeast.

I was thinking of blending with a Dark Mild, but maybe I need something with more body.