Designing a 100% Brett beer…well, sort of.

20150519_144236Why is nothing in life ever simple, eh?

Prompted by a tweet from Rob the Malt Miller, I invested in a vial of White Labs WLP644 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois – thinking that I could just put togther a 100% Brett fermentation and enjoy a crazily fruity APA/IPA…and that’s where the trouble started…

Firstly: I find that WLP644 has now been judged to be a Sacchromyces strain and not a Brett strain: http://www.whitelabs.com/blog/wlp644-research-results so that’s a lot of fun, isn’t it?

Secondly: I’ve never come across such a pile of controversy, assumptions and “I reckon” statements about how to do a 100% Brett fermentation.

I started ploughing through tons of forums, blogs and the like – each with their own take on what should be done.  Luckily, every now and then, sensible posts referred to Chad Yakobson’s research on Brettanomyces at The Brettanomyces Project.

So I decided to take a look.  it’s an astonishing piece of work in it’s breadth and is quite fascinating, but it’s also quite in-depth; fortunately though, there’s some great Youtube videos of his presentations to the US homebrewing crowd and these are a lot more accessible.

I’ve watched a few of them and have taken the following advice to heart – remember that this information pertains to producing a 100% primary fermented Brett beer.  Sours, lambics and secondary pitching of Brett are a whole other kettle of fish…

  • Propagate your Brett for at least 7 days prior to pitching, there’s simply not the cell count for a primary fermentation in those vials or smack-packs
  • Aim for 6% ABV or thereabouts – it’s the sweet spot for taste, so I’m lead to believe.  Remember to account for the extreme attenuative nature of the beast yeast in your recipe formulations
  • Improve the body of the finished beer by adding oats (or rye or spelt) to the mash. Brett doesn’t produce Glycerole like Sacchromyces yeast does, so without something a little bit “gloopy” you’ll end up with a thin old finished brew
  • Don’t include crystal malt as Brett tends to enhance sweetness, and crystal in the mash will only make this worse – which is fine with me, I don’t ever use crystal malt if I can get away with it
  • Don’t use black “roasted” malts, if you must darken your wort use de-husked/de-bittered malts – something like Carafa or whatever, which Brett loves and brings out deep chocolate and dark stone fruit notes in the aroma and taste
  • To enable the beer to finish fermenting quickly mash a little lower; from what I can gather you can still mash high, but it’ll probably just attenuate to the same level (i.e. below 1010) – only it’ll take longer to ferment as the Brett will have to chop up the dextrins first and then ferment them, making for a longer fermentation
  • Mash out at a maximum of 76C, any higher than that and you run the risk of leaching tannins from the grain husks – and Brett will enhance that nasty theme for you, if you let it
  • Don’t bitter at the start of the boil.  Whaaaat? It’s true, Chad says to get your IBUs later on – at flameout or whirlpool; Brett apparently enhances the sensation of bitterness, so there’s no need to get isomerizing the hop oils too early on in the boil
  • When bittering don’t exceed 30IBUs for that same reason, plus these beers are about taste and not chest-beating bitterness
  • Use low co-humulone “aroma” type hops for bittering – again for the same reason; it’ll cost more, but it’ll be hop-tastic with all those late additions, plus they’ll have to stand-up to all that Brett fruitiness
  • Let the lot ferment as high as you dare (e.g. Saison temperatures: 20C+) for two whole weeks before dry-hopping; wait another week, then dry-hop again.  Finally after another week has passed you can think about bottling…but only if you’ve got a relatively stable gravity.  I don’t care if you’ve got Champagne bottles – yes they’re stronger, but they also make for much better fragmentation grenades when they explode.  Brett will just keep fermenting anything it comes across.
  • Use the following suggested hop ratios: Bittering at 25-30 IBUs using a third of the hops (as late additions), and then use the other two-thirds for dry-hopping.  Yum.

So those are my new 100% Brett Beer recipe and brewing rules.

Happily, I have a WLP644 starter up to strength that I’ll be splitting and pitching half of soon.  Keep an eye out for the recipe..

One thought on “Designing a 100% Brett beer…well, sort of.

  1. Pingback: Menage a Trois: a 100% Brett (ahem) Sacchromyces Trois Pale Ale | yeastismybitch

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