Mid-Week Mini-Mash: Fake Flanders Red (Sour)


Last night, and probably much against my better judgement, I decided to get another mid-week mini-mash on.

I find the mini-mash style of brewing (see here: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/10/30/first-steps-in-all-grain-brewing-the-mini-mash/) particularly satisfying as it means I can try things out without sacrificing 23L of wort and several hours of work; plus of course, it’s a doddle to clear up.

The mini mash also helps me to prove to myself that I’ve still got the moves and can hit my targets as an all-grain brewer, especially as my bigger brews are mostly done in the partially automated Braumeister…

So, a Flanders red, eh?  It’s a style that I dearly love: you know, solid and malty with a good sour tang and a delightful acetic acid/vinegar edge.  If it helps at all, try to think of balsamic vinegar…that sort of theme.  Is that better?

The malt bill for this recipe was (very loosely) based on recipes for Rodenbach/Duchesse de Borgogne clones that I’d seen on the web – albeit with substitutions based on what I had kicking about in the grain box:


The mashing happened at between 66 and 67C as I was busy with other things whilst it did it’s bit on the stove-top.  I’m not a stickler for maintaining temperature too closely when it’s such a small batch, and north of 66C and south of 70C was my mash temperature window.  That range should also provide a slightly less fermentable wort for any Brettanomyces present to get chewing on.

All went off OK, but I did taste the wort towards the end – and that one gram of Magnum in the recipe seems to have imparted a little more bitterness than I cared for, so let’s hope that it doesn’t upset the Lactobacillus too much (Lacto doesn’t generally flourish when there’s too much hop bitterness, hence only 8IBUs in this recipe…I’m hopeful that L. Plantarum is a bit more hop tolerant than others I’ve heard about)

And yes, a 45 minute boil!  Whatever next!  And with Pilsenser malt too!  Aren’t you worried about a DMS bomb and lack of hop isomerization, Jon?!

Umm, no.  Bitterness, is bitterness as far as I’m concerned, and in all my brews so far I’ve never come across DMS yet; Although, If I get it this time I’m prepared to eat my words…but, to be on the safe side, I did boil the wort rather violently…

Yeast-wise, as this was a tiny 1 gallon batch, I wasn’t going to jizz away seven or so quid on the traditional Flanders “Rosealare” yeast ‘n’ bacteria culture – instead relying on the yeast and Lactobacillus and god-knows-what that came out of the fermenter that had my (puzzlingly, well-fermented) Berliner Weisse in.

I just did a standard yeast wash procedure (https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/06/01/washing-and-re-using-yeast-for-fun-and-profit/) on the gunk left after bottling the Berliner – and stuffed the washings in the fridge; oh yeah, and I also threw in some bottle dregs from a Lindemans Cuvee Rene that I polished off last week, too.

This delightul yeasty soup should contain Lactobacillus Plantarum, an unknown but plucky brewers/wild yeast of some sort and assorted other yeasts, Lacto cultures and Brettanomyces strains from the Cuvee Rene sediment.

The fun thing about all this is that I’ve no clue how long this will take to get going, ferment right out, drop in acidity and then eventually drop bright and clear.

What larks…

I’ll post updates.

PS: 8am yesterday morning and the airlock was starting to bubble, so that’s a good sign.

Menage a Trois (100% Brett/Sacch. Trois) Pale Ale – Tasting Notes

20150715_191948Well, here’s a new one on me: a tasting in two halves:

Part One: Two weeks in the bottle

Slightly hazy orange-amber, with a lovely running bead and a great snow-white head that lasts to the bottom of the glass.

Gorgeously sweetly tropical, not resinous or dank, just good solid juicy tropical – which was precisely what I was after.  Thanks, Enigma hops!

(Juicy tropical is very much a la mode in pales and IPAs at the moment.  Christ, I’m sooooo “now“)

The mouth-feel is good and solid, and the taste is complex fruit and malt-sweetness – all accentuated by the spot-on carbonation.  The bitterness is exceptionally smooth, thanks to a lot of the bittering coming from the late hop additions.   At the end there’s a slightly dry note before the fruits and tropical notes come stampeding back in again.

Not as extreme and fruity as other beers that I’ve had but very good nonetheless.  I really couldn’t say how much fruitiness the Brett/Sacch Trois delivered, I’d challenge anyone to pick it out in a line-up based on the yeast alone.

All in all, I’m happy.  It’s a jolly drop and goes down just a bit too easily.

Part Two: Four weeks or so in the bottle

Well, it’s gin-clear now and still that lovely orange-amber colour with that same fantastic head.  The carbonation seems that touch stronger – but it’s well within style for a pale.

BUT.  Where’s all the fruit gone?  Has all that tropical fruitiness really disappeared in a couple of weeks?  There’s still remnants of it there, but it’s a shadow of it’s former self.  A lot of the sweetness has gone too, and we’re into a much drier sort of beast.

Don’t get me wrong it’s still a great beer, but it’s nothing like it was two weeks ago.  It’s more like a very gluggable Saison now…

Good job I’ve got a lot of bottles left…I think there’ll be plenty of updates as this beer ages.

Two take-aways:

1) I need to test Enigma hops again – I’ve yet to be convinced of their flavour and aroma durability/stability in a beer.

2) Brett/Sacch Trois definitely ain’t a Brett (see recipe post) but it’s also definitely not your run of the mill Sacch either.  This could be a yeast variety to specialize in…I’m sure it’s capable of great things…

Menage a Trois: a 100% Brett (ahem) Sacchromyces Trois Pale Ale

20150608_142609Again, my ability to choose good names for my beer has failed me…but this beer is being fermented with Brettanomyces/Sacchromyces Bruxellensis Trois, so it’s relevant at least.

(And, no, I can’t be bothered to go into the whole Sacch/Brett thing, so please read here: http://www.whitelabs.com/sites/default/files/644_Explanation.pdf) needless to say WLP644 is still an extraordinary yeast and seems to behave at least half-way like Brett, so for the sake of argument let’s just pretend it is Brett and I’ll carry on in my own little fool’s paradise…

I’ve based most of the recipe and technique on this post here: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/06/04/designing-a-100-brett-beer-well-sort-of/

Here’s the recipe:

Menage a trois

As you can see I somehow managed to get a finished volume of 26L at 1054 – so filled up a tiny demijohn with 4L of wort (which I pitched half-a-pack of ordinary ale yeast into, just for comparison…waste not, want not…)

I mashed in at 38C, did a single infusion rest at 65C (80 minutes) and then mashed out at 76C (10 minutes)

Notice that in-line with my own advice, I also moved a lot of the bittering charge (at least 14IBUs of it) to the last ten minutes of the boil…this should help with taste and aroma as well as providing those necessary bittering units…  Enigma is ideal for this as it’s gloriously tropical and also offers a hefty 15.2% alpha acid.

I intend to do a double dry hop again with Enigma while the whole thing is in the fermenter for a month: a two week ferment, then dry-hop, wait a week and then dry-hop again, wait another week, then bottle.

I tasted the starter before pitching and it is very dry and very “fruity” – more strong fruit than tropical, but we’ll see what this yeast does to a whole 22L over the course of the month and of course there’s the ale yeast pitched version to compare against, too.


UPDATE: I got a very strong weirdly lumpy-looking ferment by 3am (don’t ask, why I was up at that time) and by 8am was going like a steam train – and quite excitingly: there’s quite a noticeably fruity pineapple/tropical aroma coming from the air lock (are there any other air luck sniffers out there? or is it just me?)

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..