Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Yeast Bay Beta Testing: 100% Brett Pale Ale (It's not a sour Bro)

Four Carboys, one mini-fridge.
The second round of Beta testing for The Yeast Bay is the one I was most looking forward to. The four strains we tested in round one were all Sachromyces Saison strains used in the split batch Les Quatre Saisons, all very unique and a great learning experience. For this round Nick sent us 4 new strains of Brettanomyces that he has isolated and built up for us. In my opinion the tide has shifted, brewers are no longer content with only 3 strains of Brettanomyces available in pure culture, especially with a seemingly infinite selection of Sacchromyces strains to choose from. The Yeast Bay are doing their part to grow the library of available Brettanomyces cultures and I am happy to be a part of it. Maybe one day we will be free of the "Brett beers are Sour", or "Brett is always funky", stereotypes because Brettanomyces can be oh so much more than just barnyard funk.

We set the experiment up similarly to how we did Les Quatre Saisons, we would all brew the same recipe with only small variations in both mash and primary fermentation temperatures. We were each assigned a mash temp, and a primary fermentation temp range so that Nick could get a feel for how the strains work in a slightly varied wort. This time it was decided that we would keep the mash temps within a more typical range of 150F-152F, as opposed to the 148F-156F range we employed for the Saison. We just felt that there was more to be learned from the fermentation temps then the vast differences in the mashing temps.

No rubber bands were harmed
in the making of this beer.
Nick sent us some healthy vials but we all decided to get them going in some starter wort in advance of brew day anyway. The brewday was uneventful, in a good way, I mashed at 151.1F (0.1 above my target temp of 151F), chilled the wort and pitched each culture into its own ~3 gallons of wort in 3 gallon Better Bottles. Prior to pitching I aerated each carboy with only 15 seconds of pure o2, on normal batches I would aerate longer but I fear the acetobacter monster. As fate would have it, all 4 Better Bottles fit snugly into my little fermentation fridge, so a consistent fermentation temp of 71F was maintained throughout.

I took gravity readings and samples to taste at 8 weeks, preliminary tasting notes are below. I was comfortable with the gravity each one was at, but since we don't know the true attenuation of the strains I decided to let them ride a bit longer, then life got in the way and they rode longer yet. All told they spent just under 3 months in primary before I packaged them, that may seem long and maybe it is but I've went that long with 100% Brett beers in the past without issue (never for a sole Sacchromyces ferment however, unless you like the taste of burnt rubber). I am glad that I waited though because the gravity moved at least a point (3 points for 2B)  by the time I packaged, these Bretts were working for a while.

Fermentation went as expected, all four strains kicked off in the same amount of time with very little lag times. I brewed at 6am and pitched the yeast mid day after I let them cool longer in the fermentation chamber, all four showed activity within the few hours before I went to bed. There was noticeable activity for up to 5-6 weeks with some small tiny bubbles shooting up, especially in strain 1B which seemed to the most active the longest, and the numbers show.

8 Week Samples with Tasting Notes:
There's that window shot again, real original Ed.

  • Strain 1B- 1.007 the most clear. Lactic acidity, fruity nose. Stone fruits, sweet tarts, dry, pepper in background. Really awesome.
  • Strain 2B- 1.014 woody funk, cedar!, subtle acetic nose. Sweet upfront, medium body, light tartness, fruity with a bit of spice on the back.
  • Strain 3B1.013 body odor, sweaty aromas but not overpowering. Candy like tartness, a bit sweet on the back.
  • Strain 4B1.014 earthy, dirt, wood-y nose. Earthy, woodsy, some malt balance not in others.

All four seem to run the gamut of Brett flavors/aromas, some really unique stuff from the early tasting especially with strains 1B and 3B. But I would think that they will vary by the time I do a final bottle conditioned tasting next week. Below are the final numbers for myself, Marshall, and Brian, you can look forward to tasting notes and more info from them on their blogs. You can see how much each strain dropped over that last 4 weeks or so from the samples I pulled above.

Where some of the Saison strains we tested last were hit or miss I think all of these Brett strains are a hit in one way or another. Now I cant be certain until we taste all four in their final state, but the early tasting notes have me optimistic. As of this posting they have been in bottles for ~3 weeks so I will get to tasting shortly, we are all really excited about these strains. I will leave you with a slide show of fermentation and pellicles, really only 2B had a cool pellicle but its very wild looking (probably because it was the only one with an orange carboy cap).

TYB Beta 100% Brett Pale Ale

Brew day: 5/25/2014
Packaged: 9/1/2014

Recipe Specifications
Boil Size: 15.20 gal
Post Boil Volume: 12.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 12.00 gal 
Bottling Volume: 11.60 gal
Estimated OG: 1.055 SG
Measured OG: 1.055 SG
Measured FG: 1.006/1.011/1.012/1.013
Estimated Color: 6.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 23.5 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 60 Minutes

70% - 16 lbs 7 oz - Pale Malt 
20% - 4 lbs 11 oz - Munich 10L
10% - 2 lbs 6 oz - Oats

Boil: 60min - 0.81 oz Magnum [14.20 %] - 20.0 IBUs
Boil: 15min - 2x Whirlfloc + 2tsp Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 10min - 1.00 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 3.5 IBUs
Boil:  0min - 1.50 oz Cascade [5.50 %] - 0.0 IBUs

The Yeast Bay Beta Brettanomyces - #1B, #2B, #3B, #4B

Sacch rest - 60 min @ 151.1 F 

Fly Sparge 10.55 gallons of 170f

Misc: 15 seconds of pure O2 per carboy. Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, no salt additions.


  1. I've always been an all RO and build up kind of guy. Why not do that for an experiment like this to take out another factor?

    With that said, I love what you're doing and thanks for documenting it!

    1. Thats a good suggestion, we never spoke about how we all would be handling water but with beers being brewed by 3 different brewers with different water profiles it shouldnt matter much. There is a typo in this post though, I did use form Lactic Acid to adjust the mash PH.

    2. Using lactic to adjust might well throw off your results if the other brewers didn't. Lactic acid is a precursor compound that brett can turn into a fruity ester. Which might be another experiment (lactic vs other acid to adjust mash pH, for example). But agreed- interesting stuff, and I hope to see some additional brett strains available easily. With their newfound popularity, I wouldn't doubt many more making an appearance.
      - Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

  2. nice write up. i just got a vial of his amalgamation brett blend for a brett ipa. btw, i really need to come to another phbc meeting, i suck.

  3. It's funny how many people expect Brett to be sour or funky. My club did a group brew wheat beer for an Oktoberfest event and I took 5 gallons and fermented it with Brett-C. I pretty much spent the whole time explaining that it shouldn't be sour and it's not going to get funky. I think they were surprised by the fact that it was so boring, pretty similar to a Hefeweizen strain (less phenolic) but more citrusy.