Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Brettanomyces custerianus - 100% and Bottle Conditioned Beers

Before I headed off to Modern Times for the summer, I bottled two batches that I had split three ways each. One batch featured three “new” species of Brett as the primary/sole fermentor. The other batch was the second iteration of Lomaland, which I split three ways during packaging to showcase the same three species for bottle conditioning.

All of the strains of Brett available to brewers until recently have fallen into only two species. Brettanomyces bruxellensis (including B. lambicus) and Brettanomyces anomalus (including B. claussenii). Just like ale or lager yeast, Brettanomyces species can have considerable intraspecies variation. These are simply three individual isolates of three additional Brett species (i.e., B. nanus, B. naardenensis, and B. custersianus) sent to me by Al Buck of East Coast Yeast. There is most likely strong variation within each of these species, so take them as single data points.

This mega-tasting will span three posts each covering the two beers fermented with a species. Tonight’s featured player is B. custersianus. It was originally isolated from South African bantu beer, which made from malted millet.

100% Brett custersianus (Winner)

100% Brettanomyces custerianus fermented golden ale.Appearance – Golden yellow, ever so faintly foggy. Nice dense white head, good retention and lacing.

Smell – The nose has a lot of fruit, ripe or even over-ripe mango especially. There are some white grapes too. The sort of fruits that don’t quite smell bright and vibrant, bordering on being slightly weird solvent-perfume-ish.

Taste – Minimal acidity, as you’d expect in a 100% Brett beer. The flavor starts mildly fruity, but slowly fades to a more traditional Brett funk. Pretty dry beer. Not much hop character remains, and the malt adds a faint graininess, but mostly stays out of the way. Luckily no weird off-flavors.

Mouthfeel – Medium-high carbonation, causing it to slowly fizz up when I opened the bottle. Tastes about right to me for a beer like this. Medium-thin body, lightly tannic.

Drinkability & Notes – Young this beer was remarkably clean and lager-like. It reminded me of Pilsner Urquell in a weird way, even had a touch of diacetyl. Glad to report that time in the bottle really brought out some pleasant and unique flavors. Like Brett bruxellensis var. Trois/Drie, I’d expect this one to pair nicely with some fruity hops.

Saison w/ B. custersianus

Saison bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces custerianus.Appearance – Despite being two different batches, many of the ingredients were the same. As a result this beer looks similar, maybe a touch more yellow, and a hair clearer. Head retention isn’t quite as good though.

Smell – Smells like an even-fruitier version of Wyeast 3711 French Saison (the primary yeast strain). Hints of pepper, and a little musty farmyard in the nose. The fruitiness is almost artificial, candied pear I’ll call it. Nice blend of aromatics.

Taste – Where the flavor balanced the Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces characters, in the flavor they clash. The earthy Brett muddling up the bright fruitiness. The peppery spice from the nose comes across more clove-like. Not offensive by any measure, but not particularly pleasant either.

Mouthfeel – Thin, lively, and crisp. No complaints here as far as a Brett’d saison goes.

Drinkability & Notes – I think this is a strain that works better (at least in this case) alone than it does in tandem. Its character as a secondary yeast, at least after 7 months, doesn’t take over the way more traditional Brett strains do. There are so many new Brett strains becoming available, I'm looking forward to seeing what brewers figure out works best for each one!

Updated Tasting Notes 11/18/15 


Unknown said...

I have a 1005 Brett Trois ale going atm.. With Saaz, Orange peel and coriander, dry hopped with Saphir,
Smells like tropical punch.
Looking forward to see how it ages.

what we’re drinking said...

I've been experimenting with 100% custersianus beers (and breet-only beers in general) as well--I love what custersianus does by itself--the complex fruitiness and citric tartness is fresh and bright on the palate. It tastes closer to clausenii than bruxellensis, but is still distinctly its own thing--it is by far my favorite brett thus far. I also have a batch of custersianus-only beer on local sour cherries that I'm looking forward to trying.

Paul said...

I have some Brett custersianus on the way and am trying to formulate a good recipe for it. All I've found online are suggestions to pair it with fruity hops. However, I want something where I cannot confuse what I'm tasting. I could see myself pairing it with citra and not know if mango that I'm tasting is from the Brett or hops. I was thinking something along the lines of a non spiced Belgian wit grainbill, with a single bittering hop addition. Having used this strain before, do you think something like this could work well, or should I stick to pairing with fruity hops?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'm often torn between the desire to learn from a batch, and the desire to brew the "best" beer. B. custerianus is pretty tasty on its own, but I think it would really benefit from a more interesting hop bill. You can always keep the batch simple to start, bottle half, and then dry hop the rest.

Pete said...

Hi Mike, I'm a brewer in South Africa trying to get into sour beers but the availability of decent sour yeast blends is pretty much zero. You mention above that the B. custersianus was isolated from umqombothi. Do you think it would be possible to either recovery some from a commercial bottle or potentially from the local brewers yeast that is used by the brewers?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Certainly possible, however it didn't sound like there were any more details on specifically which brewery the sample was isolated from. You might look into starting a spontaneous culture from the air. Another option would be using bottle dregs if you could get your hands on any commercial sour beers (long shot?).

Good luck!

Unknown said...


I took my first stab at sour beers last winter. I brewed 6 gallons of a base saison and split it after primary. 3 gallons got half a vial of Brett B and the other 3 got the remaining half of Brett, bottle dregs from a Crooked Stave Surette, some local honey and some strawberries. (I now realize I should have added the strawberries at the end of souring, not the beginning but you live and learn I guess.)

All the fruit and bugs went in around December and I got notice from my job that I'd have to move in July. I bottled the beer prematurely in late June (only 6months with the bugs) since I really had no option. I tried a bottle of each after only 2 weeks of conditioning and each half has strong diacetyl notes. (I'm a little surprised at that too. I would expect the diacetyl from the half with the bottle dregs as I'm sure Crooked Stave Surette has some pedio in it but the Brett only half kind of surprised me.) I know from reading this blog and your book that more time in the fermenter would allow the brett to reduce that diacetyl flavor/aroma over time however, I didn't have that time.

Bottom Line Question: Will these diacetyl flavors age out in the bottles as they would in the carboy over time or should I expect to have a few cases of strawberry honey pop corn saison and a good lesson learned for future sour beers?

I plan on letting them sit at least another 3-4 months before trying again, I just wanted to see if you could tell me what to expect.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Did you taste diacetyl at bottling? I'd guess you just caught the yeast (which also produces diacetyl) at an inopportune moment. Keep them warm and the Brett will clean up. Best of luck!

Unknown said...

Yep it was there at bottling AND it was in both batches which makes me pretty confident it's not an infection/sanitation issue. Thanks for the advice and encouragement! It sounds like most issues with sour beer can be solved with time and brett.