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.

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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..

Making a yeast (Brettanomyces in this case) starter

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Honestly, officer, this is NOT a meth lab…

I’d always lived in fear of making a starter, thinking that it would all end up as a stinking mess.

Well, in planning for my next beer, I’ve been rather forced into doing it…

I’m planning to use Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (White Labs WLP644) as the primary yeast, because it apparently produces excellent tropical fruit aromatics that age gracefully into a gentle background funk.

…trouble is, because Brett (hark at me!) is normally only used as a secondary yeast in sour fermentations, there simply isn’t the cell count in the supplied vial to carry out a primary fermentation*

(*I’ve had this confirmed by a nice lady from White Labs)

So it looks like I’m stuck with trying to step the cell count up.

I took the white labs vial of yeast and pitched it into a sterlized conical flask – containing 500ml of boiled and cooled 1035 wort and, rather than putting it straight onto the stir plate, I’ve simply left it in a darkened cupboard at 20-odd degrees C and am regularly swirling it (for that read: when I remember to swirl it)

20150526_150247-aThe result of just a little bit of manual swirling

As Brett is always a little slower than brewer’s yeast – I’m going to give this one 5 days and then add another 500ml of boiled and cooled 1035 wort – meaning that after 5 days I should have a full-sized 1L Brett starter to really kick this fermentation off

20150530_140055-aSetting controls for the heart of the sun.

If this was normal brewers’ yeast I’d do exactly the same but only put it on the stir plate for 24 hours prior to brewing – brewers’ yeast multiplies a whole lot quicker then Brett and really likes the constant aeration of a stir plate all the time.

Apparently Brett gets over-excited when given too much aeration and can start to produce acetic acid when in the presence of lots of oxygen.  I’ve been told that if your starter seems vinegary you can still pitch it and that vinegar note won’t carry over to the finished beer.  If you’re afeared of doing that, just let it settle for a day and decant off the liquid and pitch the slurry from the bottom of the flask.

(PS: Yes, alright, let’s leave the whole “WLP644 is actually a Sacchromyces rather than a Brettanomyces strain” argument for another day…)