Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Nanus, Naardenensis, and Custersianus (Three New Brett Species)

East Coast Yeast ECY19 B. custersianus, ECY24 B. naardensis, and ECY30 B. nanusThe nomenclature used to sell Brettanomyces can be confusing and can sometimes a bit misleading. Currently essentially all of the Brettanomyces strains used in brewing belong to just two species, B. anomalus and B. bruxellensis. Like Saccharomyces cerevisiae (brewer's yeast) there is a large amount of variability between different members of the same species.

Rather than using some other naming convention (e.g., origin, brewery, sensory etc.), in the case of Brett, two older species names (B. lambicus, and B. claussenii) have stuck around as strain names even though they aren’t used scientifically anymore. When you see a strain marketed as B. lambicus it is B. bruxellensis, while B. claussenii is B. anomalus. However, I think it is more helpful to talk about the individual strains. For example, Wyeast and White Labs both sell “Brettanomyces lambicus” but these two strains produce very different flavor profiles.

Notice earlier that I didn’t say that bruxellensis and anomalus are the only species of Brettanomyces? Bug guru Al Buck of East Coast Yeast has been feeding me information for my book about three other species he has obtained samples of. A few weeks ago vials of B. nanus, B. naardenensis, and B. custersianus arrived in the mail. Al’s given me a wide range of flavor descriptors for each (some more positive than others), but I wanted to try brewing with them for myself.

Saison finished with a variety of Brett species.A few weeks ago I pitched a few drops from each vial respectively into a quarter of the bottles of Lomaland #2 saison to see how each performs as a secondary fermenter. The technique was similar to what I have done in the past to trial a variety of Brett strains. I’ve opened a few of these bottles already, and so far the Brett character has been unsurprisingly too subtle to describe.

This past Sunday I brewed 7.5 gallons of wort that I split three ways to try these strains out for primary fermentation. The recipe was very simple, sharing many similarities with both the first 100% Brett beer I brewed, and the Russian River Redemption inspired single our barrel crew soured in a red wine barrel. The small amount of acid malt was to reduce the mash pH, and to provide the Brett with lactic acid for the production of the fruit ester ethyl lactate.

The results of these two experiments should give me a decent understanding of the characteristics of these three strains. However, regardless of the results, I won’t be able to make any blanket statements about the suitability of these species for brewing. Even knowing everything about a single isolate isn’t enough to know how other isolates of the same species will behave. Hopefully I'll have the results from both trials in about two months.

Three fermentors of 100% Brett beer.
100% Brett Test

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 7.50 
Total Grain (Lbs): 14.00
Anticipated OG: 1.051   
Anticipated SRM: 3.3
Anticipated IBU: 21.8
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

87.5% - 12.25 lbs. German Pilsener Malt
5.4% - 0.75 lbs. German Vienna Malt
3.6% - 0.50 lbs. Acid Malt
3.6% - 0.50 lbs. German Wheat Malt

1.00 oz. Palisade (Pellet, 7.40% AA) @  80 min.

0.75 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 10 min.
0.75 Whirlfloc @ 10 min.

ECY19 B. custersianus
ECY24 B. naardenensis
ECY30 B. nanus

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 75 min @ 146 F  

Brewed 4/14/13 by myself

Collected 9 gallons of 1.044 runnings. Very clean wort, left most of the trub behind. Chilled to 70 F.

Split into three 3 gallon fermentors. Shook to aerate. Pitched ~80% of the ~2 month old ECY Bretts. Left at 60 F to ferment. Decent activity by 24 hours on Nanus and Naardenensis, Custersianus took an additional 12 hours or so.

6/5/13 Bottled all three individually. 1 5/8 oz of table sugar for Custersianus (1.008) and Nanus (1.016) with 2.25 gallons, and 1.5 oz of table sugar for Naardenensis (1.011) with 2 gallons remaining.

9/25/13 Tasting notes for the B. custersianus portion. Nicely fruity, won out over a saison finished with the same strain.

9/30/13  Tasting notes for the B. naardenensis portion. Surprising amount of acidity, but the overall flavor wasn't great. Al suggests that it gets fruitier around six months, so I'll update if things change.

10/9/13 Tasting notes for the B. nanus portion. Poor attenuation led to excessive sweetness, but the strain provided a big white grape juice nose. Interesting, but not great.


jen said...

Exciting. Looking forward to hear the results.
Pretty interested to hear the results of the Custersianus.
I remember reading that Chad mentioned Nanus and Naardensis are collected from lemonades or soda pops.

Jason said...

Very interesting Mike and looking forward to reading about the results.

Some questions.

Did ECY tell you how they went about differentiating those strains? Or was it direct from another supplier?

Unlike brewers yeast, Brettanomyces have more genetic variability. The flavor differences that strike a difference between a hefeweizen yeast and an american ale yeast come from just a few genes, while the genetic variability in Brett is much larger. This variability could be used to differentiate strains, or species, and I was curious if this was done here.



The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Al got these isolates from cell banks. I imagine species identification would be difficult to do in a small lab. Not my specialty!

Custersianus ended up being the most active fermentation. Chad seemed to be the most positive about it, so I'm excited too!

Joe said...

I see the mention of ethyl lactate and I read the research about initial lactic acid correlating to increased amounts of ethyl lactate. I could not however find what this ethyl lactate actually tastes like and why we want more of it. Thoughts?

Thanks so much.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Ethyl lactate is one of the signature aromas of mixed fermentation sour beers. Wild Brews describes it as "Soft, Tart, Fruity, Buttery, Butterscotch."

Anonymous said...

Are the three fermenters in the above picture literally sitting and fermenting with just foil wrap and no airlock? Would that allow too much oxygen into the beers during fermentation or do you want more oxygen into 100% brett beers? Never seen that so I was curious! Thanks!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That's how I do primary fermentation for many of my beers. There is enough carbon dioxide produced that during the first week or so you don't really need to worry about oxidation. It also reduces the risk of a clogged airlock leading you to mop the ceiling!

Unknown said...

Have you tasted these yet?

BMan1113VR said...

We did a few experiments with Nanus late last year. Very interesting aromas and flavors...also dropped the beer down to 3.50 pH

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'd done some informal tasting already, but finally posted the notes for B. custerianus (the others will be coming shortly).

Eddie said...

Can you see the Nanus being used in a very low gravity session-type beer and having its attenuation improve any?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The attenuation is determined by which carbohydrates a strain can ferment, a lower starting gravity is only a solution if you are running into alcohol tolerance issues (which wasn't the case beer). That said, lower attenuation is less of an issue in smaller beers because they start with less sweetness. Certainly worth a try!

Eddie said...

I probably didnt frame the question quite right. I was thinking if the ideal fermentable wort were created at a low starting gravity, say 1.036-1.040, single infusion mash at say 146. Would the Nanus be like any other yeast strain and ferment it cleanly down to 1.004-1.006 or would it still show those lacking characteristics from your tests. I dont have the resources to get my hands on all three species to be able to test this myself. These strains sell out faster than I could ever hope to get them.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It would have a better shot at drying out a beer like that, however a less attenuative strain will pretty much always leave a slightly higher gravity than a more attenuative strain. I haven't used this strain enough to hazard a guess at where a beer with those parameters would finish, but I doubt it would be overly-sweet!

Eddie said...

Then it would seem that this particular strain might be better left to a mixed culture or some other use. It seems that the last thing, as a brewer, you would want is a yeast that cant push the gravity down and leaves too many fermentables behind to bottle with any security. Even so, I'd love to experiment with it, if it ever makes it to the main production line.

Maybe we can do a bottle swap when my dark ale with 3724 and Brett B comes into its own!

Ryan said...

Update on the B. naardenensis portion? :)

Les said...

Hi Mike. I'm getting ready to brew my first 100% Brett beer (and 3rd sour) with the ECY04 Brett anomala that I just picked up. From your experience, what would be an appropriate sized starter for 5 gallons of a 1.056 batch with ECY brett? Thanks! Looking forward to the book.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Those ECY Brett cultures usually have a lot of cells. 2L on a stirplate should be plenty. Best of luck!

Unknown said...

I know this was a long time ago but did the brett Naardenensis end up getting frutier like the description on the ECY website suggests?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the kick, just posted updated tasting notes on all of them.