Category Archives: Wild 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.

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Saison Nine Ways.

Saison Brett Bottles

Do try this at home?

In my preparation for Homebrew Alley 7, I brewed a ten gallon batch of saison and split the wort into two fermentors.  One would be a traditional Belgian saison and one, with the addition of a can of cherry puree, would be a cherry saison.  I started with the Brooklyn Homebrew recipe kits for the Belgian Saison and Cherry Bomb Saison. The two recipes were not exactly the same, but I combined both grain bills since they were very similar and the kits included hops for bittering and aroma that were very close substitutes for each other.  I mashed lowed for attenuation (as is normally done for saisons) at 148F and proceeded to the boil.  I added one pound of Domino cane sugar and one pound of Belgian Simplicity Candi Syrup because it was included in the kit.  Both batches would test out the new Belle Saison dry yeast, although the recipe kits call for different yeast strains.

I chilled down to 63F, a little lower than I planned, but I also didn’t want to start fermentation too high like brewers tend to do with Wyeast 3724 Belgian Saison.  (Fermenting warm, sometimes into the 90F range, is used to get the characteristic earthy and spicy flavors out of the yeast.)  I allowed fermentation temperatures to free rise to 75F where they stabilized for a day or so, and then I dropped them down to the ambient temperature of 72F.  I added the cherry puree after high krausen began to fall and fermentation picked back up again.  After about a week I checked the final gravity of each batch.  The plain saison was 1.003 and the cherry version was at 0.998 (!!).  The plain saison exhibited some cidery flavor I equate with using too much sugar and fermenting warm.  It seems other people have experienced similar results, so it may mean this yeast benefits from a slightly higher mash temp (150F+) or possibly an all malt grain bill (meaning no additional sugar added to the boil or fermentor).

I kegged and carbonated the cherry saison.  My first impression was that the beer had dried out too much, tasting a bit like wine, and the cherry flavor was almost undetectable.  I decided to bump up the body so I boiled 4 oz. maltodextrin with 400mL of water and added it to the keg to bring the gravity up to 1.003.  I also dosed it with some cherry extract (~1 oz.) and some lactic acid to give it a bit of bite.  So far these efforts haven’t increased its drinkability so I’m going to stash this one in the cellar for a few months and revisit it later on.

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Different Brettanomyces Strains (Not shown: Wyeast Brett Bruxellensis)

I made the experiment even more elaborate by using Mad Fermentationist’s idea and dosing the plain saison with seven different Brett strains at bottling.  I used all of the commercially available strains from White Labs and Wyeast as well as some bottle-isolated strains from BKYeast.  Choosing so many different strains may not have been the best idea because it only allowed me to have six bottles per strain (I bottled a few extra plain saisons for consumption/tasting).  This means I’ll have to schedule when to taste them and stick to that schedule.  My plan is to do 3, 6, 9, and 12 month tastings to allow the Brett character to evolve.  I will post tasting notes for all nine variations.

Here is the Brettanomyces strain breakdown:

WLT= White Labs Brett Trois (Slurry from Matt Chan)
WLC= White Labs Brett Clausenii
WLL= White Labs Brett Lambicus
WYB= Wyeast Brett Bruxellensis
BK2= BK Yeast Brett C2 (Cantillion Iris Isolate)
BK3= BK Yeast Brett C3 (Cantillion Iris Isolate)
BKBW= BK Yeast Berliner Weisse Brett (Wyeast PC 3191 Isolate)
 
The Help.

Got a little help corking and caging.

 
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