Category Archives: Sour Beer

100% Brett Saison

100% Brett Beer

I was lucky enough to have Dmitri of BKYeast grow up a culture of his Cantillon Iris 2007 Brettanomyces strains (C1).  Brettanomyces, while generally feared when brewing standard “clean” beers, is quickly becoming the darling of the (adventurous) brewing world.  I thought I would further experiment and see what kind of flavors I could brew up.  I chose to loosely follow an all brett witbier/saison recipe by Chad Yakobson in an article he wrote for Zymurgy recently.  One of his suggestions was to supplement the grain bill with something brett couldn’t chew through (flaked rye, naked oats) in order to leave behind enough body and mouthfeel in the beer.  My goal was to produce this beer in time for the National Homebrew Conference, but this strain had other plans.  Primary fermentation took seven weeks to get down to final gravity and missed being ready for the conference.   I was expecting a lower finishing gravity (1.008) based on my one other 100% brett fermentation (and a bit of research).  With quite a bit of residual fermentables left behind I decided to bottle this batch in thick-walled corkable belgian bottles.

Appearance.  Hazy golden hue with very little head retention.  Looks like a Belgian witbier.

Aroma.  Very pleasant aromas of hay, citrus, peach, mango, and a slight musty funkiness that isn’t off-putting.  Very distinct brett aroma.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Lemon verbena, sweet apple and pear notes with a slight astringency in the mouthfeel.  There is a very cider-like quality to this beer.  The brett has seemingly disassembled the malt profile of this beer leaving behind a thin to medium body.  Carbonation is slightly lower than I think it should be, but I purposely used less priming sugar because of brett’s tendency to chew through everything.  I plan to age a few bottles for a while to see how they hold up.

Overall Impressions.  Very appetizing beer that has grown on me over the few bottles I’ve tried.  To me this beer seems like a hybrid of beer, cider, and wine.  You’re never sure what to expect with brett fermentations and it is surprising that this beer is even drinkable considering this is a somewhat randomly sourced strain of brettanomyces.  I recently read an article in Brew Your Own magazine where David Logsdon of Logsdon Organic Farmhouse Ales mentioned that he doesn’t find the flavor profiles of 100% brett fermentations desirable and so he’ll typically only use them in secondary, after primary saccharomyces fermentation.  I tend to agree with him, but had to try it for myself.  I am interested in brewing a 100% Brett IPA as the mingling of flavorful hops and interesting brett esters seems appealing.   The low finishing gravity and minimal malt profile also seem in line with an IPA as well.

Continue reading

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

100% Brettanomyces Beer

All Brett Beer

Dmitri (of BKYeast) dropped off some Brettanomyces cultures at Brooklyn Homebrew a few months back.  He had isolated three cultures from a bottle of 2008 Cantillion Iris (C1, C2, and C3) and one from a smack pack of Wyeast 3191 PC Berliner Weisse.  I decided to brew an experimental 100% Brett Beer using the C2 and C3 cultures. I pitched both cultures into a singe 2-liter starter on a stir plate for ten days.  I tasted the finished starter wort, and there was a distinct sourness along with some earthy, peach and apricot fruit aromas.  I then brewed a simple recipe of 75% German Pilsner malt, 8% wheat, 8% munich, and per Chad Yakobson’s recommendation, 8% golden naked oats to boost the body and mouthfeel.  Since the beer was experimental by nature, I decided to make it a single-hop beer as well and used all Meridian hops.  I fermented the beer for four weeks and then dry-hopped for two weeks using a big dose (5 oz. in 5 gallons) of Meridian pellets in the fermenter.  I then kegged and cold-crashed the beer for two weeks.

Appearance.  Hazy golden amber with a dense rocky head.  Despite two weeks of cold crashing at near-freezing temperatures, the low-flocculating nature of Brettanomyces left the beer cloudy even until the final pour from the keg.

Smell.  When I first tapped the keg, the massive amount of dry hops gave the beer a huge aroma of grapefruit, citrus, and lemon.  Towards the end of the keg, the citrus notes receded slightly and the telltale aroma of Brettanomyces — barnyard, pineapple, and mango — came strongly to the forefront.  This is the most aromatic beer that I’ve ever brewed, which I think is due to the combination of Brettanomyces and big dry-hopping of the Meridian hops.  The beer definitely had the wow factor upon the first sniffs of members of my homebrew club.

Taste and Mouthfeel.  Because the beer finished at 1.003, the first thing I noticed about this beer is how dry it is.  The citrus aromas carried into the taste, along with some strawberry-like flavors, which I think was the result of the Brettanomyces and naked oats.  The addition of oats was important in this recipe because of the low finishing gravity.  Brettanomyces is known to thin out beers because it is so attenuative, so the oats allowed for a fuller body to counteract the Brett.

Overall Impressions.  One of the most refreshing, aromatic, and easy-drinking beers that I’ve brewed.  About halfway through the glass every time, I would get the distinct impression that I was drinking a wit beer.  Because of the risk of contaminating my other beers and long turnaround time, this 100% Brett beer probably will not make it into my regular rotation.  But when I’m ready for more experimenting, I’d like to try this again with some of Dmitri’s other cultures and some of the commercial Brett cultures that are available.

Tagged , , , ,

Inaugural Thanksgiving Lambic.

Thanksgiving Lambic Brew Day 1

Homecooked Lambic Style Brewday

Sour beer is currently trending commercially and in the homebrewing world.  I will readily admit that I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to tasting and brewing these styles.  I’ve had a few of the classic examples like Rodenbach and Cantillon, but not often enough to have a strong understanding of these beers.  In fact, in honor of Zwanze day (which I skipped to brew a split batch of Kolsch/Munich Helles) I tasted my first Cantillon Geuze ever.  I’ll be saving some wort from my brew day to get a starter going from the dregs of this bottle (and a few others) for my next Lambic batch.

One of the main hesitations in brewing sour beers for commercial and homebrewers is the amount of time it takes to “sour” a beer.  Most sour beers use a combination of saccharomyces, brettanomyces, pediococcus, and lactobacillus over the course of one to three years to achieve the correct balance of flavors.  For a homebrewer living in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn, a carboy taking up real estate for one to three years in order to sour doesn’t make much sense.  For this reason, I decided to start brewing sour batches at my parents’ house in rural Pennsylvania.  I go home every Thanksgiving and Christmas so why not brew a lambic or other sour beer while I’m there and let it age in a relatively stable environment.  The ultimate goal is to have several batches of young and old lambic to blend together into a gueuze.  I also noticed that every “clean” beer I brewed there (outside at least) turned out to not be “clean”, most likely infected by the microflora wafting over from the barn across the street.

I started the tradition this Thanksgiving.  Since the holidays can get kind of hectic, I decided to keep things simple and use only extract (4# wheat DME and 3# Pilsen Light DME) with a small dose (3.5 oz.) of maltodextrin to make sure the brettanomyces had some sugars to chew on for the long haul.  I used ~1.5 oz. French Strisselspalt hops (2.3% AA) to get to roughly 10 IBUs (there is quite a lot to talk about concerning aged hops in lambics, but that will be the subject of a future post).

 Mom's Lambic Pic

Hide your lambics away from your parents! Its fun! (photo credit: Mom)

Fermentation is the critical part of sour beers.  In a traditional spontaneously fermented lambic, the microflora (saccharomyces, brett, pedio, and lacto, etc.) floating in the air drop into the cooling wort.  The yeast companies sell proprietary blends of yeast and bacteria for attempting to replicate well known sour beer styles like lambic and Gueuze. Inoculating the wort with a pre-made blend of souring organisms is in no way the same as allowing spontaneous fermentation, but we’re not brewing in Belgium.  I have my first sour Flanders Red going as a split batch with Ray Girard using the Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend and the Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Ale Blend, so I wanted to try out another sour ale mix.  White Labs recently released WLP665 Flemish Ale Blend which seemed like a great choice for a lambic.

Several prominent homebrewers suggest first pitching a neutral primary yeast strain and then the sour mix.   With this method, the primary ale strain does the bulk of the fermentation and then the brett and bugs come in later and finish off the longer chain dextrins to give the beer that signature funk.  The results are much more consistent and controllable this way, but others contend that the beer never quite gets sour or funky enough.  I chose to skip the neutral primary strain and pitch just a single vial of the WLP665.  Lambic producers don’t pitch a neutral strain and I wanted to follow their process as closely as possible.  The beer may not be as consistent (too funky, too sour, too nasty) but that’s where the art of blending gueuze from different batches of lambic comes in.

I brewed the day after Thanksgiving this year, and when I left two days later, there was no visible fermentation activity. Pitching such a small amount of yeast (~7 billion cells in one vial) had me worried that the primary fermentation would be really ugly, but it can’t be any uglier than spontaneous fermentation.  The brett should clean up any off flavors and nasty byproducts from an underpitching the yeast.  Fermentation eventually took off (even in the cool 60F closet) and after bugging my Mom for days to tell me what was going on with it, she finally sent the above pic.  The krausen nearly knocked the breathable silicone stopper out of the carboy!  We’ll have to wait at least a year to taste the results, but I’m already looking forward to my upcoming Christmas lambic brew day.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,
Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: