(American Wild Ale, Brett Beer, 28A (unofficial 2014)) BeerSmith Recipe File
The inspiration for this beer came from one place: Michael Tonsmeire. His blog is a fantastic tome of wild and sour beers. He has also recently authored a book on the subject, of which I have referenced heavily for this recipe.
What surprised me about 100% Brett beers after having a few commercial examples is the lack of funk. You’d think, given that a little Brett in finished beer can produce lots of funk, that a beer made entirely of Brett would make a beer so funky as to be undrinkable. Not so. The resulting flavors of your 100% Brett beer will vary based on the strain of Brett you use, so do some research and select the strain carefully. Brett Trios aka Brett Drie produces wonderful tropical fruit flavors that lend it to IPAs (1), so that’s what I’m making. A 100% Brett IPA.
The single hardest part about making a 100% Brett beer is that you need to make massive starters. Maybe massive isn’t the right word, since I would say lagers need massive starters. You need to make an epic starter for 100% Brett beer, or better yet, a multi-step starter. The vials of Brett that White Labs sells only contain 2-3.5 billion cells, compared to 100 billion cells in a S. cervasiea vial. Throw that number into your favorite yeast pitching rate calculator, and you’ll realize that you need to start preparing for this brew day 2 weeks in advance.
Since it is such a pain in the butt to make all that yeast, I would also make plans to harvest as much as you can post fermentation. Even if you never make Brett beer again, save another brewer the trouble of making godzilla starters.
Brett ferments like to have a little lower pH than “normal” wort. So I also added a half pound of acid malt after the sacrification rest (post mash, pre sparge) to help the Brett ferment faster (again, see Tonsmeire’s book for why), and to allow for the creation of the ester ethyl lactate, which is perceived as “tropical fruit” by many.
9 lbs. US 2-Row
4 lbs. White Wheat Malt
0.25 lbs. Carapils
0.25 lbs. Munich Malt
0.5 lbs. Acidulated Malt (added post mash)
Mash @ 153° for 60 minutes (1.5 qt/lb.), sparge w/ 4.9 gal
Boil for 60 minutes
1 oz. Citra (14.4% AA) boil for 60 min
1 oz. each Citra, Mosiac, Equinox, Nelson Sauvin at flameout, steep for 15 min
2 Step starter of WLP644 Brett. Trois, pitched @ 66°
Dry Hop 1 oz each Citra, Mosaic, Equinox, Nelson Sauvin for 3 days
There really isn’t anything exciting to say about the brew day. The hot side of this wort isn’t really the important part. Perhaps I should point out (or should have already pointed out) that the higher percentage of wheat in this recipe is an attempt to help give the final beer some body. Fermentations with 100% Brett usually result in final gravities well below 1.010, which can be overly dry on the palate, especially for this style of beer.
The fermentation proceeded exactly how you’d expect a S. cerevisiae (normal ale yeast) beer to. In fact, it was identical to an ale fermentation, save for the tail end. The beer seemed to have airlock activity (not always the best indicator of yeast activity, but I digress) for at least another week before settling down. I let the beer sit in primary for a total of 3 weeks, just to ensure the gravity was somewhat stable before packaging. I began fermentation at 66°, and began ramping up to 72° on day 4 over the course of several days.
I racked the beer to a keg for dry hopping. I dry hopped for 3 days.
I carbonated this beer in the keg for a week. While you can certainly bottle condition 100% Brett beers, make sure the gravity is stable! Again, if you have questions about what that means, read American Sour Beers, or hit Michael T.’s blog.
I REALLY like this beer. The aroma is off the charts tropical fruit! While certainly dry, it isn’t off putting. I brought this beer to two different homebrew club meetings, and got nothing but positive compliments from everyone.
Which makes this next part kind of awkward…
Some say He is the founder of the nudist colony “Twigs and Berries”, and that He sleeps in an cocoon… All we know is, He’s called The Stig!
Aroma: pineapple popsicle and orange concentrate. Vey yeasty/ doughy, as well.
Appearance: super hazy, pale yellow. So cloudy that there’s almost a grayish tint to the body of the beer. Fine, white head that forms a persistent film, as well as provides some spotty lacing.
Flavor: some faint citrus comes through, but mostly dominated by autolytic off flavors: dough and raw egg whites. There is also a sharp, vegetal bitterness.
Mouthfeel: astringent, and very dry. Long, lingering bitterness. Carbonation is frothy, but the beer is so bitter and dry that those sensations dominate everything.
Overall: I think the fermentation was halted, and/or was in a weird phase. If the brett was still working, no matter how sluggish, hop aroma and flavor would have been kept in very good condition- continuous fermentation drives off oxygen and preserves these characteristics for up to 10 months. I’ve spoken to a professional brewer who brews a fantastic 100% brettanomyces fermented IPA, and he says his beer is best in the 9-12 month old range. I got no typical brett flavors from this beer: it’s not earthy, tart, fruity, grassy, barnyard-y, horse blanket-y, or nutty. Fermentations of this kind can go through weird, ‘sick’ phases where everything is off. I remember reading a Russian River bottle log on a batch of Sanctification that documented this occurrence.
So, by the time The Stig got his hands on this one, obviously it had evolved into something entirely different from what Jason, lots of other home brewers, and I loved so much. 100% Brett beers are new to me, and I have yet to learn how these things develop and change in the bottle. I have to say, the review is disappointing and confusing. Especially considering that one month AFTER this review, the beer scored reasonably well in a home-brew competition, with none of the negative comments mentioned by The Stig being noted (2).
So, to summarize: We here at Klaserhausen loved this beer fresh, The Stig hated it 2 months old, and the competition judges thought it was OK at 3 months. Put this beer in the “win” and “loss” columns? A tie? One thing is for sure, I’ll be brewing 100% Brett IPA again sometime soon
Also, as a last little note: since I last posted something, I’ve become a Certified Cicerone®! Since I don’t work in the beer industry (and have no desire to), it was sort of a silly thing for me to do… but I don’t care, it was fun!