Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Belgian Dubbel with Brett

A full glass of Brett Belgian BrownIt is nice to have starters of various microbes on hand if you like brewing funky beers.  When I have a bit of extra wort or beer from one batch or another that isn't headed the right direction or maybe just seems like a good candidate for some funk then I have the microbes to take advantage of the situation.  I feed the Brett/Lacto starters every month or two, either with extra starter wort, or boiled down final runnings from a batch of beer.  The Lacto in particular should probably be fed more often, but it seems to be doing fine after 6 months.

Last spring Audrey wanted to brew a Belgian Amber for her May 16th birthday.  We came up with a recipe and brewed it, but it turned out more brown than amber.  I decided it would be fun to steal a couple quarts and add some Brett Brux starter to see what sort of character we would end up with. It is fun to see how the beer changed with the addition of some funk compared to the clean portion.

Brett 516

That didn't last long, nice lacing though.Appearance – Brown at the top of the tapered glass, but amber towards the bottom. Clear when held to the light, with small bubbles rising slowly though it. The head is off-white, with fine bubbles, and good retention (beautiful lacing). Nice looking beer.

Smell – Nice combination of fruit (red grapes), spicy/dusty Brett, and a bit of bready malt. Complex and funky without being too aggressive.

Taste – Dry, with more earthy funk than I got in the nose. The finish is long and slow, with leather, hints of toasty chocolate malt, and prunes. Minimal bitterness, and only a suggestion of its alcoholic strength.

Mouthfeel – Feels a bit fuller than a beer this dry should be up front, but the finish is thin. Medium carbonation, any more and it would get in the way. Just slightly astringent from the dryness.

Drinkability & Notes – At almost a year old this beer is doing well. The White Labs Brett Brux in secondary did much better in this beer than when I used it in primary for the Brett Pale Ale.


Greg Finch said...

Do you have an article that describes the steps and your approach to starting and maintaining your funky starters?

Great info. Love following all your posts and brewing adventures

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Just like any other starter: some DME, water, and a bit of nutrient boiled/chilled and placed in a growler. I shake the Brett to get some oxygen in when I feed it, the Lacto I just leave alone.

Anonymous said...

Any additional info how you maintain and keep these starters over long periods of time? And how do you feed them?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

No real tricks. When I make a starter for a primary fermentation I just make some extra wort to pour into them. I also sometime boil down the final runnings from a beer to feed to them.

Colder temperatures will buy you a bit more time between feedings, which is an especially good idea if you are dealing with a mixed culture.

Dave Brush said...

+1 my curiosity is peaked about your maintenance of bug starters. Write up please? How long do you maintain them for? Do you pitch just a portion each time? Is it sort of like maintaining a sourdough bread culture? I am guessing this is a simpler way to keep such things on hand since regular "yeast ranching" techniques (slants/plates etc.) require more specialized media for wild yeasts and bugs storage?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

At this point I've had Lacto and Brett B going for about a year (so indefinitely hopefully). I just pitch as much as I need and replenish when I have a chance. Exactly, plates would be more reliable, but it is nice not having to step up the cultures from there each time I want to use them.

Biology isn’t my area of expertise, so I’m going to reach out to a couple microbiologist friends to see if one of them wants to write something up a bit more technical (I’d be interested as well).

what we’re drinking said...

Not to belabor the previous questions, but are you using airlocks or aluminum foil or something else altogether? And are there any issues with the lacto or the brett mutating over time (as would happen with yeast over time)? I'm guessing that you may not know in practice since you said it has only been about a year, but I am hoping that you know in theory, since I don't if either of these act like yeast in potentially mutating.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I use airlocks, if you let oxygen in long term then you will eventually end up with acetobacter (and/or other microbes).

The cultures certainly will mutate as they age, but I suspect that it is less of an issue than with Saccharomyces. If you wanted to make sure you had the same culture it would probably be worth replacing it from a yeast lab or a frozen/plated culture.