Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brett'd Beers - My take on adding Brettanomyces

I was recently asked my experience with homebrewed beers that use Brett for at least part of the fermentation. After I sent the email, I went back and read it again and thought it could be a good post. I think it expresses my experiences, and opinions, about using Brett in homebrew pretty well........

When using Brett I prefer lower IBU/maltier beers as the base. Now this isn't to say that the beer is sweet, rather the balance of IBU:OG tips it towards the malt. I go this route as I find that the phenolics/esters that Brett produce don't sit well on my palate with lots of bitterness AND i like the Brett funk to shine, you may feel otherwise with some experience but I would nudge you this direction for your first go around.

I also prefer lower gravity Brett beers, because they are ready to drink much more quickly that higher gravity beers, part of this is time needed for flavor development, but most of it is due to the flavors not melding quite right without some aging.

In my experience the higher alcohol beers tend to make Brett put out a lot more sharp phenolics and acids that don't mesh well with lots of alcohol, given time though this will mellow and the beer can taste quite good. However, starting with a lower gravity beer the funk will be a tad milder/smoother and will meld with the beer much more quickly. For a frame of reference This beer is something I brew quite often, however its OG is typically in the 1045 range. The version in the link is in the 1060's, the 1045 version is typically very good after about 2-3mos, while the 1060 version is just now starting to really come together (~1yr+)

Another thing that's nice about lower grav Brett beers is you really get to experience the beer as it changes. Early on the sacch profile will dominate, with age the Brett takes over, I think its a good experience to be able to taste the beer as it evolves. Remember though that no matter what Brett will completely take over a beer given enough aging time.

Ok Now some specific questions.........

When to add Brett? with primary yeast or to secondary?

I generally add the Brett with the primary yeast, this gives it time to gobble up some easy to digest sugars and nutrients to grow up its population. I would suggest doing a 1-2L starter of the Brett prior to using it though, along with a normal sacch starter (albeit a tad small) This does however tend to make a slightly funkier beer, so if you want a much milder Brett presence add it to secondary with the same type of starter and a pinch of yeast nutrient

Brett Type?*

My personal favorite for most styles is Brett Brux. I really like the flavor profile overtime'

Brett C - Haven't brewed with myself but tasted several beers made with it. In my opinion the beers which tend to be pretty bland and lacking on their own without a small amount of acid, even then they tend to be fairly clean and mild. Ive never noticed the supposed pineapple character this Brett is said to produce

Brett L - A Brett I really like a lot, but think it works best in a beer with fruit and especially with grapes, or in a darker maltier beer with a pinch of acid. Without the acid the flavor profile is still pretty good but tends to seem a bit flabby, adding a bit of acid (doesn't even need to be enough to make it tart) really helps to bring out the ester profile and really make those flavors pop. This strain can produce lots of pie cherry aromas but Ive never gotten it to produce that flavor, although overall it is very fruity

Brett B - This is my go to Brett for a basic pale type beer, works well in both high or low grav worts, although aging time is directly related to OG. very characteristic brett funk, higher grav beers tend to have a overripe banana flavor to me, acid isn't needed for the flavors to shine with this strain

*All of the flavor profiles listed here are for the Wyeast Brett cultures

Bulk Aging Time?

So, another question that came up was the bulk aging time prior to bottling. I am generally fairly slow with racking, kegging or even getting to drinking a batch of homebrew. Its actually the reason I think my buddy Jon, a good brewer in his own right, always thinks my beers are much crisper and smoother than his are (he drinks them very quickly), and my Brett'd beers arent any different.

I don't take FG readings all that often anymore, mostly because of how long I normally let the beer sit in primary. But I do suggest taking readings for a Brett'd beer that you've never brewed before. If its a recipe you've used, you can expect a couple extra points to come off your typical FG, but don't expect super attenuation. Brett really isn't capable of super attenuating a beer on its own, the different bugs and yeast need to work in conjunction for that to happen. For the example I gave before, I would expect to need about 3-4mos of bulk aging prior to bottling, and about 1-2 for the 1040 version. Remember that the higher gravity the longer I would suggest waiting to bottle, Id roughly say that a rule of thumb would be that for every 10pts above an OG of 1020 you should bulk age for 1month. So a 1040 is 2mos, a 1060 is 4mos and a 1080 is 6mos.

As far as when to drink that is up to you. What I do is taste every month or so and start drinking when it tastes good, things do only get better with time though!

This is still a work in process and will evolve with time. I'd also bet there are quite a few things I didn't think to put in there, being as close to the issue as I am its tricky to see the questions other people might have. If there's something I left off let me know and I'll try to add it as best as I can
Saturday, February 5, 2011

Schwarzbier Redux Review

This was quite an unexpected find in my mess of kegs about a week ago. I had completely forgotten about the beer as it Lagered away for over a year! All that time definitely was worth the wait.......

Appearance: Jet black with a dense two finger tan head, head dissipates after about 1/4 of the glass is drank leaving lots of sticky lacing and some small patches of bubbles

Aroma: Malt! hops are very very subdued, as they should be, hints of bread and coffee

Taste: Very clean and malty, lots of bready flavors from all the dark munich, bitterness is very subdued but balances the malt very well, hints of coffee and roast flavors in the finish which linger on the palate

Mouthfeel: Moderately high body, I prefer it with lower carbonation but I have it carbed up to about 2.4vols of CO2 and that suits it well too, although this level accentuates the coffee notes a bit

Drinkability: Very easy drinker, goes down smoother than last years version, although the beers came out considerably different from one another

Overall: Very easy drinker, the hints of roast in the finish really help to balance the maltiness of the beer, lower carbonation seems to cut the roast flavors a bit and accentuate the bready/malty flavors more, if I was forced to choose between the two Schwarzbiers Ive done to date I would probably side with this one. The malt depth on this beer is surprisingly good and is more in-line with what I was shooting for overall.

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