Thursday, August 23, 2012

100% Brett Trois IPA Tasting

Unlike just 10 years ago, there are now a lot of American breweries and a lot of desire from us beer nerds to buy beers with unique flavors. Sadly, I think this has resulted in a number of breweries putting marketing before brewing. Releasing gimmicky beers that may convince people to buy them once “just to try it” that aren’t good enough to be purchased a second time.

I’m hoping one of the things Modern Times (shiny new website) will be known for is the sophistication of our flavor choices. You aren’t going to see any beers flavored like carrot cake. We won’t add chai tea to a Sahti just because the last syllable of the style sounds like “tea.” We also won’t be adding ingredients that sound good on the label, but aren’t noticeable in the glass. We’ll have a small pilot system, so we won’t be brewing 30 bbl (930 gallon) batches of beer that haven't been dialed in.

I’m not saying we won’t brew anything unique, weird, or controversial though. For example, I love mixing Brettanomyces and aggressive hopping. One of my biggest complaints about breweries combining sour or funky beers with aromatic hops is that many don’t do a good job. There are only two general methods that I think work. #1 Make a standard, low-hopped, sour/funky beer, let it age until the acid/ester profile is where you want it, then dry hop and serve quickly (New Belgium's Le Terroir is a great example of this method). #2 Brew a hoppy 100% Brett beer that can be packaged quickly (the New York collaborative Super Friends IPA, is my favorite of this breed). For this batch of 100% Brett Trois IPA it was less than five weeks between brewing and drinking a glass of fully carbonated, dry-hopped beer.

What makes a beer like this different than the commercial beers I poked fun at above? Well first of all it actually tastes good. I also selected ingredients with the final flavor in mind. I chose hops (Citra, Centennial, and Chinook) and a Brett strains (Trois/Drie) that have complementary flavor profiles. The resulting beer has a balance that combines characters from the wort and fermentation to give a wonderfully complex, tropical-fruit flavor.

Glowing glass of 100% Brett IPA.100% Brett Trois IPA

Appearance – Deep sunny yellow beer. There is a slight haze that causes the beer to glow in the early evening sun. The moderate white head doesn’t last very long, despite the wheat malt and hops.

Smell – The nose is almost straight tropical fruit juice. Mango and pineapple especially. Not a hint of grassiness. It is really difficult to tell where the hops end and the Brett begins. There is a slight hint of doughy wheat in the background.

Taste – Similar in its fruitiness to the aroma, but rather than the sweetness you’d expect from juice, it has a balanced bitterness of an IPA with a bare hint of tartness. The light bready flavor is there in the finish. Basically no “classic” horse-blanket Brett funk, but I think the fruitiness of the Brett primary fermentation works perfectly with the Citra, Centennial, and Chinook.

Mouthfeel – Dry, and on the thin side, but no more so than many West Coast IPAs. Solid carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – Not the most complex IPA I’ve ever tasted, but certainly one of the most unique. Perfect hoppy beer for summertime drinking: quenching, refreshing, and fruity.


navethechimp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bear Flavored said...

This sounds really awesome. Rebel Brewer still had some Trois for sale the other week, so I was lucky enough to still be able to pick some up.

What temp did you ferment this at?

Bear Flavored said...

Silly me, just realized you posted the recipe separately.

65 seems lower than what most people go for with an All Brett beer, but I imagine that helped keep the esters more balanced for the hops. Do you think it would have had more funk / spice if you had fermented warmer, around 70ish?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

65 F was the ambient, so the actual wort temp was probably closer to 70 F, which is pretty standard.

In the past I've done some hotter 100% Brett ferments (80s F) and it works well for some strains (e.g., lots of peach from White Labs Brett C), but some other strains have gone terribly phenolic (burnt Band-Aids) under the same conditions. Always hard to predict how a strain will react without trying it.

Kyle Hall said...

I have a WLP644 starter going right now that is giving off great fruitiness with a little tiny bit of funk (or maybe my imagination?). I pitched two vials into an 1100mL starter and placed it on a stir plate on 8/15. The temps have been hovering in the mid to low 70's ~74 average temp. This will be pitched into 5 gallons of a 1.056 SMaSH beer using Maris Otter and home grown Cascade hops (the other 5 gallons pitched with WLP 001). I am trying to work out the details on adding some more complex sugars for the Brett version using flaked wheat and some oats. Thinking about doing a sperate mini-mash and then boil with the wheat and oats and then adding that to the carboy for the Bret to chew on. I love the experimentation from The Mad Fermentationist and I use your experiences to help formulate my "mad" batches. Thanks!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

If you are doing a 100% Brett ferment, I don't see a reason to produce a wort high in dextrins/starches. The reason that is done for sour beers is to save some carbohydrates for after the Saccharomyces fermentation is complete. That said, the 100% Brett version will be thinner, and some proteins from wheat/oats aren't a bad idea.

Good luck, I need to harvest my cascades soon as well.

Unknown said...

Hi mike,
bout to take a stab at this and was wondering your thoughts with brett trois pairing with Motueka as an aroma hop and galaxy as the bittering? Also I was recently inspired by dogfish's Palo Santo Marron to age some beer on santo, picked up a hefty portion of the wood but dont really know what style to use it in. Have you ever worked with santo and/or have any recommendations on a style?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The second 100% Brett beer we brewed at Modern Times (Roraima) had lots of Motueka, in addition to Cascade and Triskel. Turned out really nice, very fruity, fun beer. It is not the pineapple bomb that this one (and Neverwhere) were.

Why use Galaxy for bittering over something cheaper (unless you live in the Southern Hemisphere)? I don't think the character of the bittering hop is too important in a hoppy beer.

Never used Palo Santo, but it is probably my favorite of the "weird" DFH beers. Certainly might play well with some piney hops if you want to do something equally weird.

Nick said...


Do you think adding the acid malt added late in the mash really contributes much to the yeast character, or can this just be skipped? What fermentation temperature did you settle on for Neverwhere? Sounds like you estimated about 70 for your pilot batch.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Timing doesn't really matter for something like this. Getting some lactic acid in there provides the substrate for ethyl lactate production. The lower pH is also positive for the fermentation and flavor. High 60s into the low 70s works well for this Brett strain.

Rye guy said...

Sorry for asking on such an old post but if you were to bottle a 100% brett ipa like this, would you choose to use your dedicated sour-equipment or go the standard route and just keep sanitation as good as possible??

Seems like using the sour equipment could run the risk of infecting the brett beer with pedio and (to a lesser degree) lacto.

Thank you as always!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'd rather risk a little tartness in a Brett beer than a funk in a clean beer. Ideally you'd have three sets (as Russian River does) for clean, Brett, and everything!