Monday, September 5, 2011

What is your favorite Brettanomyces?

Nice looking pellicle on my Dark Saison III.
White Labs Brett B - 16%
Wyeast Brett B - 16%
Other - 14%
Wyeast Brett L - 13%
White Labs Brett C - 10%
Wyeast Brett C - 7%
Wyeast Brett A - 4%
East Coast Yeast Brett Blend #9 - 4%
White Labs Brett L - 3%
Brett Drie - 3%
East Coast Yeast Brett Blend #1 - 2%
Allagash Brett - 2%

It's great to live in a time and place where there are so many strains of Brettanomyces readily available (both from yeast labs and bottle dregs).  Just like the Saccharomyces used by brewers, all of the available strains of Brett fall into two closely related species, but instead of ale (cervisea) and lager (pastorianous) they are funky (anomalous, which includes claussenii) and funkier (bruxellensis, which includes lambicus).  Ale yeast is comprised of a huge range of different strains (think that Saison Dupont and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale are both fermented with it) in the same way within these two Brettanomyces species there are a wonderful variety of characters (so for example the strains that two labs market as Brett lambicus can be completely different from one another).  There are also a few other species of Brettanomyces that are just starting to be used intentionally in brewing (there is B. custersianus in our Strong Golden Solera as part of the East Coast Yeast Bugfarm IV).

The way in which "new" Brett strains are developed is different from brewer's yeast.  Most ale and lager strains are the result of slow mutation starting from another strain, usually at a brewery where long-term repitching under certain conditions and harvesting methods cause a mutated version of the strain to become dominant.  With Brett, in most cases new strains are either discovered accidentally (as Allagash's Brett was in a batch of saison) or isolated from a wild fermented beer (Avery's Brett drie was cultured from a bottle of Drie Fonteinen J & J Oude Geuze Blauw).  Now it is true that some Brett strains go through the same process as brewers yeast in the cases of breweries like Jolly Pumpkin and St. Somewhere who do not start over from a cultured strain (Lambic brewers fall into this category as well since cells live in the barrels waiting to work in the next batch along with whatever microbes happen to fall into the wort as it cools).

For the commercial strains, I tend to like the Wyeast more than White Labs in general (especially the WY Brett L cherry funk compared to the WL's full on funk assault), but my favorite is White Labs Brett C (which has just the right balance of fruit and funk for my tastes in most applications).  It works well in both English and Belgian styles, and I've even had good luck using it in 100% fermentations.  The Brett B strains are pretty similar with the Wyeast being slightly less aggressive in my experience.  I had a chance to use the WY Brett A strain for a few beers before it was discontinued, but it was pretty similar to the WL Brett C with a bit more funk.

I'm looking forward to seeing how my first beer, a rye saison, with ECY Brett Blend #1 is when I bottle it next week. I also love dregs from sour beers, but they are harder to judge because you don't know exactly what cells are alive (I also like to use a few bottles in combination to ensure a variety of microbes).

I'm interested to hear what all of the people who picked "Other" wanted to vote for, I assume you weren't all going for the Brett strain Wyeast includes in their Berliner Blend.  I didn't include other commercial breweries' cultures because for the most part they either have a house culture that is one of the ones mentioned, or that has mutated, but isn't controlled/banked/available  I'd also like to hear any comments on what it is about your favorite strain that does it for you.


Top Beer Brands said...

Really enjoyed this post! Quite informative and I like the way you write!

Adam Kielich said...

In addition to the prepackaged Wyeast lambic blend, I have cultured out of Orval with good success. I believe I have read it is a brux strain. It is fairly mild with funk but not a lot of fruity flavors. I've used it for primary fermentation. I also have a saison culture out of a bottle of Foret that either had brett or my culture became infected with brett while harvesting from the bottle. I think it is a brux strain as well given the flavors and pellicle appearance. I produced a delicious dark winter saison with it this year.

SNB Brewing said...

I've enjoyed using the American Farmhouse Blend from White Labs WLP670. It's said to be around 25% brett and used at Lost Abbey

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

As far as I know the Wyeast Lambic blend is just a blend of their B and L (with other microbes as well). Orval is the most likely source for the strains sold as Brett B, but who knows if it is a single strain or something more interesting. The Belgian brewers tend to be much less open with their exact methods (always trying to retain a bit of mystery).

I'm sorry I missed the 670, I've heard good things about it from several people. Hopefully White Labs will bring it back next year.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone which is brett is part of the WY old ale blend?

mc said...

@Anon — Based on the description I'd guess it's Brett L.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

A cording to a few places online it is Brett B:;wap2 (for example)

That is sort of an odd choice I think, Brett C/A makes more sense for the style as they were isolated from English beers and are milder in my experience.

Andrew said...

Great post. I am a fan of blends, the WY Lambic Blend, WL Belgian Sour, blends of Brett, or even Brett and Lacto together.

Have you done any experiments in comparing WhiteLabs with Wyeast? I'm curious if you have noticed a big difference between the two labs. I used to use primarily WL, but now I am trying out some WY Brett.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

You know, I don't think I've ever combined strains of Brett from the two labs. Although that is mostly because I tend to use bottle dregs when I'm looking to add complexity.

Bullied Pulpit said...

We recently took the second runnings from a russian imperial stout and fermented it with just Wyeast Brett L. After a couple months it tasted amazing, tart and fruity with just the right amount of brett funk. So we added 4.5# of blackberries and bottled it a week ago. I think it's safe to say I have become a fan of WY Brett L.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds delicious, glad it turned out so well!

Anonymous said...

i don't think you've missed WLP670. i know it started out as a limited release, but i'm pretty sure it's year-round now. my LHBS still has some in stock with a fresh date.

Anonymous said...

.....and i just realized this is from september of two years ago.....