Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Yeast Bay: Beta Brett Strains

A few months ago Nick from the Yeast Bay sent four Brett strains (1B, 2B, 3B, 4B) he isolated to the Beta Testers (MarshallBrian and I) to test in both a 100% Brett primary beer and secondary a portion from our Saison strain Beta test roundThis post has been a long time coming, maybe I've been subconsciously holding off on sharing it as it's a partial failure on my part but I still wanted to share the experiences.

The 100% Brett batch recently went down the sewer which is no fault of the Brett strains themselves, or Nick of course. All four variants (Same wort split between four 100% Brett Primaries) exhibited a really harsh, unpalatable character that I'm having a tough time describing, but it was a complete dumper. I sent Nick a bottle of each and he had the same impressions, as far as I know the batches Marshall and Brian brewed did not exhibit this issue so it was likely a cold side snafu in my process. I just wish I could pinpoint the mistake, but I think something may have happened when prepping the starters. Before anyone suggests I should have blended it, or any other attempts at saving 10 gallons of crap beer, just don't, it truly sucked that bad. I've learned my lessons on blending down bad beer in the past and don't care to make that mistake again. This is something that comes with the territory when brewing such experimental beers like this, some hits and some misses better to move on a brew more.

On to the more positive results, the same four Brett strains were used in a split batch secondary test as well, which went much more smoothly than the primary. If you go back and look at our analysis of the four Saison strains Nick sent us you can get a little more background. I was to rack a portion of the batch fermented with Saison strain #2 (Saccharomyces), which was heavily under attenuated finishing at 1.020. Low AA% is a characteristic all three of us experienced with this strain with mine finishing the highest. Despite the under attenuation the beer was actually pretty interesting exhibiting some sourness and enticing phenolics. 

With the high level of residual sugar left I was more than happy to add some Brett and let it dry out. I racked a portion of the Saison into four separate one gallon carboys for a secondary fermentation where I added a 30ml vial of each Brett strain into their own carboy. It was pretty amazing to watch fermentation as they all kicked off within a week of pitching and were highly active creating a thick krausen in secondary. Each variation hung out in secondary for 5 months, with strains 1B and 2B finishing up first but all of them going into bottles at the same time. I was very surprised to find that all four strains attenuated the beer down to 1.012 on the nose, still not very dry for a Saison but plenty of attenuation for me to evaluate the strains contributions. 

Tasting Notes: 6 months in the bottle

1B: 
FG:1.012 

Light clove, allspice, very delicate, could fool me that this is a Brett beer. Some tartness, like the clean batch, there is a residual sweetness that's distracting but the tartness come back in the end to clean up. If it were drier it would be really nice. All the credit goes to Saison strain #2 for this one though, not sure this Brett strain is bringing much to the beer other than additional attenuation.
Pellicle on strain 2B.

2B: 
FG:1.012 

Highly carbonated, huge rocky head, the most carbonated of all four. Phenolic-y, hay, grainy, some pepper, not funky either, another subtle beer. Tart again upfront, the lingering sweetness is not present in this one, appears to be more dry than it is but more body than you want in the style, it's simple but pretty refreshing.

3B: 
FG:1.012 

Great peppery nose, most Saison like in aroma, a bit earthy, mushroom, background musty basement like aromas. Nice carbonic bite on tip of tongue, not as tart as 1 or 2 but it's balanced by some nice spicy notes. It appears more dry then it is but more body than I would want, the residual sweetness is there but not distracting. So far this is the best. 

4B: 
FG:1.012  

Crystal clear, not much aroma, I get malt, slight citrus/lemon, no hops. Very subtle acidity, fuller body than all 4, pretty clean, not much here, bordering on bland and boring. Wish I had more to say about this one but there just isn't much here.

Final Thoughts:


Ye olde window shot.
All four of these Brett Secondary Saisons are decent beers, So long as you can see past the high levels of residual sugar. Strain 2B and 3B are really the only ones that I think I would use again, but would still benefit being blended with another Brett strain for complexity as they are alone they are interesting but maybe not strong enough on their own. Pouring the 2B and 3B Saisons in a 50:50 mix in a glass and it proved that point for me.However, strains 1B and 4B inexplicably brought very little to the finished beer, I could serve them both to someone and they would never know it was a Brett secondary beer. I do not plan to use either of those strains again. I'm not sure if Nick plans to sell any four of these strains but I do think that adding 2B or 3B into a Brett blend, or a new Saison Brett blend, would definitely be an interesting product. 

The biggest take away from these trials is that the Saison (Saccharomyces) strain #2 is a very very unique strain. After chatting with Nick and the other Beta testers we all agree it would be a perfect strain to add to a sour blend. It somehow exhibits a nicely tart beer without any LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) added and is a low attenuator leaving plenty of residual sugars for few Brett and LAB strains to clean up and acidify. But who knows, maybe it doesn't even need the LAB added. Whether it's added to The Yeast Bay line or not I have propped it up and added it (and 2B/3B) to a blend I am playing with at home, currently I am leaving the LAB out to see how it does without it.


Vitals for the Brett Primary Batches.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Brettanomyces Bruxellensis var. Drie

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a five gallon sized pitch of Brewing Sciences Institute's Brettanomyces Bruxellensis var. Drie, aka "Brett Drie". Up until the recent Brett Trois controversy, a horse that has been beat to a pulp, most of us thought Drie was the same strain as WLP644 Brettanomyces Troisaccusations that have recently been confirmed by White Labs for those still unconvinced. Despite one being S. Cerevisiae and the other Brettanomyces I was still curious to see if the two strains shared any similarities that may have caused folks to think they were the same initially. Or maybe we all just blindly believed they were the same and kept passing along misinformation, that never happens does it? So I brewed a split batch pale ale half fermented with Drie and half with Trois to see what, if any, similarities the two cultures shared.
Is it spelled "Drei" or "Drie"? Im so confused

For the comparison I brewed the HopWards recipe, with some minor hop selection changes that aren't important to this post. The recipe has plenty of Oats in the grain bill to retain some body for the non-glycerol producing Brett strain, Trois tends to need a boost in body as well. Being that I'm a big fan of the strain and using it regularly I had plenty of fresh Trois slurry, but I felt I had to build up the Drie a little more. BSI packages the yeast in these little pouches that come with a vial of sugar solution that you're to feed to the pouch 8-12 hours prior to pitching. It really might be a pitchable quantity after that sugar addition but I felt more comfortable feeding it an extra 500 ml of starter wort right into the pouch, just in case. The pitching rates ended up as a bit of a guess here because I wasn't sure how many cells came in the BSI pack, but it should be more than sufficient for a beer of this gravity.


A sparge arm would be on fleek.
Going into this I was kind of expecting the two strains to be pretty similar, having used Trois a great deal over the years I knew exactly what to expect, but as soon as I took a whiff of the Drie starter there were dramatic differences in aroma. Trois smells overwhelmingly like a tropical fruit drink and while Drie has the tropical fruit aromas it also throws off a rustic, funky edge to it that's so very distinctly Brett. Made me wonder even more if anyone who had claimed the two cultures were the same had ever used the two at all, let alone for a side by side comparison. 

Neither batch received any o2 other than my pumping into the fermenter, I know Trois can handle that and with Drie (and all Bretts) I'm afraid of the acetic acid boogie man. The Trois batch was fermented out and kegged in two weeks with a FG of 1.011, dry hopped and put on tap within three weeks of brewing. The Drie portion took a little longer to wrap up and stayed in the primary for ~4 weeks until it reached a terminal gravity of 1.012 (OG was 1.054 by the way). The AA% was about what I would expect from a 100% Brett fermentation, and just about exactly the same as Trois. I packaged a couple bottles of both the Drie and Trois variants prior to dry hopping for a better analysis down the road, as well as to see how the Drie ages under the rigors of bottle conditioning. 


Early signs of fermentation.
Tasting Notes/Comparison:

Brewday: 2/22/15
Kegged:  Trois - 3/8/15
Kegged:  Drie - 3/26/15
Notes:     4/26/15

Taking the first whiff of the Drie version I am getting smacked in the face with aromas of Mango, pineapple, papaya, mostly very soft stone fruits. Bordering on spoiled fruit everything is of the overripe variety with a rustic peculiar funk to it. Its almost as if you blended a bunch of fruit into a smoothy while sitting in a dingy mildewy basement. While the Trois version has sharp/bright fresh Peach, orange etc, Drie has more of a peculiar fruit character. A slightly similar beer in aroma but Drie favors more rusticity to Trois' bright fruity tropical bomb. Similarl to when I wafter the Drie starter, its is unmistakably wild on the nose that upon first whiff you think its Brett fermented, not so for the Trois version. Actually the Drie starter smells almost exactly like the beer, which is almost never the case.

Mouthfeel of the two beers is nearly identical, they have a soft wheaty oaty body and very very slight dry sharp bitterness on the front of the tongue. The oats are very prominent in the middle of the mouth then the finish starts with a kick in the top back of the throat and then fades back to the wheaty/oaty pillowy softness. The beer as a whole is very soft, nothing overwhelming. Where the two differ is in the finish, the Trois version has a more crisp dry finish where the Drie version hangs onto the Oaty/wheaty character a bit longer than I enjoy. Despite the FG of the two being nearly identical I think the Drie version needs to be more dry, especially with the significant body that remains. It does drink very easily though, the beer is quite good but the finish on it could get a little boring if you have more than a few glasses. 
Check out that bakers table I'm restoring!

Trois just works so much better in this beer, the funkiness of Drie actually seems to clash with the tropical fruit nature of the base beer. I quite enjoy the Drie version but the Trois version is what I am shooting for with this recipe. The proof is in the pudding as I kicked the Trois keg in a few weeks while the Drie variant remains on tap. This is not to say I do not like the B. Drie strain, I actually thinks its one of the most unique Brett strains I have used and have since pitched it into 5 beers since this batch. Its been added to barrels, and soon to added to secondary on a few wacky weird Saisons so this pitch will be going quite far.

Sure, the two strains share some similarities, specifically in the fruity aroma department, and seemed to exhibit similar tendencies in fermentation, i.e. AA%, body etc. But when you drink the same beer fermented with each culture side by side it's obvious that they are not the "same" (not earth shattering news here I know). Drie is more classic Brett than I had imagined it would be, but with the fruity esters it throws off I can see it being very versatile strain for my beers. Both of these strains are going to work for me just fine, yes sir. Did anyone ever do a sensory analysis of the two strains or was this Trois=Drie rumor just a whisper down the lane kind of thing, I'm thinking the latter. 

***I realize that BSI Drie is not available to homebrewers and thus this information may not seem useful but I have reason to believe that it will be available soon. A lot of us have been interested in this culture for quite a while but even more so in light of the reclassification or Trois (thats a good beer name btw) and I know a few labs have noticed the demand from folks. I am not ready to jump to the conclusion that the newly "released" WLP648  Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois Vrai is the same as BSI Drei, but I do plan to put them through some sensory analysis to see how similar they are. We don't want to spread any more misinformation now do we?