Brewing with Brettanomyces

Brewing with Brettanomyces

I’ve recently noticed that it’s becoming more and more der rigueur to ferment a beer with a single or multiple strains of Brettanomyces without the help of any other yeast.

That sounds interesting I thought, I’ll give that a crack, first things first though, research!

Brettanomyces does not in itself produce a traditional sour beer, brettanomyces is more often associated with funk more than sourness although Brettanomyces will produce both lactic and acetic acid, acetic acid production is relatively low and will only occur under aerobic conditions.

Brettanomyces fermentations will show a pellicle, a coarse white matt that floats on the beer protecting it.

Brettanomyces produces three compounds that have high sensory profiles: 4-ethyl phenol (band aid and barnyard), 4-ethyl guaiacol (wet burnt wood, spicy) and Isovaleric acid (fruity esters and rancid characters)

Research indicates that Brett has nutritional requirements similar to brewer’s yeast, doesn’t grow well at low temperatures or at pH values lower than 3.4. Brett works well between 13-30 degrees with less pleasing organoleptic results in the upper end.

To use Brett as a primary fermenter a very large cell count is required, proper pitching rates are not well defined but indications are to pitch at least 1.25 x 106 cells/mL per °P or as much as a lager fermentation. Brettanomyces fermentations properly pitched will take as long as a lager fermentation.

Although when thinking about a 100% Brettanomyces beer the natural assumption is that the beer will be crazy with a lot of wild Brettanomyces character, this however paradoxically is often not the case. Without the competition of a mixed strain fermentation Brettanomyces does not tend to ferment as many of the complex carbohydrates that are present, this coupled with the lack of by products supplied by Saccharomyces that serve as substrates for flavour development means that the crazy flavours and aromas that are the signature of Brettanomyces are often at lower levels.

So, what strain to use? Brettanomyces bruxellensis and B. clausennii are easy to come by from Whitelabs so I used them. What beer to ferment them in? I thought I’d go with a mid strength beer first off, I was brewing a New Zealand pale ale at the time so hijacked some wort and fermented some with B. bruxellensis and some with B. clausennii

FERMENTATION RESULTS

Brettanomyces bruxellensis took 16 days to ferment wort from 1.055 down to 1.009

Brettanomyces Fermentation Profile

Brettanomyces bruxellensis Fermentation Profile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brettanomyces Homebrew

B.bruxellensis Pellicle during fermentation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brettanomyces clausennii took 16 days to ferment down 1.055 to 1.018 and then stuck there

Brettanomyces Fermentation Profile

Brettanomyces clausennii Fermentation Profile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brettanomyces Homebrew

Brettanomyces clausennii during fermentation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both beers were bottled without sugar and then refermented.

Tasting brux bottled 28/3 tasted 9/5 Bottling grav 1.009 down to 1.006

Pours a lovely gold with a big white fluffy head, looks great.

Aroma is a cacophony of sweet sweaty NZ hops and a horse blanket funk from the Brett

Flavour is moderately dry with a tart and slightly acetic flavour, bitterness and the flavour of the hops work well together

Finish is acidic and dry and long, a delicious beer that begs for a sunny day

Tasting claus bottled 27/3 tasted 9/5 Bottling gravity 1.018 no change

No Carbonation and no change in gravity.

Overly sweet and unfinished, some light funk and slight acetic character, overall disappointing.

The fermentation is unfinished with no carbonation in the bottle, although the pitching rate was the same as bruxellensis it seems that clausennii requires a higher pitching rate to complete fermentation.

 

A fascinating experiment, further brewing experiments are need to correctly determine the pitching rates required for different Brett strains. What’s your favoured brett strain to use? and how do my results compare to your own? Let us know in the comments below.

Formerly of Fullers, Thornbridge and Buxton. Now a freelance Black IPA advocate, homebrew geezer and creator of Baby Back Bacon Black IPA™

5 Comments

  • Reply February 2, 2015

    warren

    Hi JK,

    Just wondering if i was to make a 20 lt Brett brux beer of an OG 1.050 what yeast count would i need as i don’t understand the (1.25 x 106 cells/mL per) formula.

    Cheers

    Warren

  • Reply February 3, 2015

    James Kemp

    Hi Warren,

    No problem. first thing to do is convert SG to Plato which rough means you divide it by 4 to get 12.5. You then drop the zero’s and ignore the litres to millilitre calculation and just times it out like this:

    1.25x20x12.5 = 312.5

    Add the zero’s back in and you need 312.5 Billion cells per brew or about 15 million cells per ml.

    I’ve just knocked you up a simple calculator on excel to make it easier and emailed it to you.

    Cheers

    JK

  • Reply February 11, 2015

    John

    Recently brewed 5 gallons of all Brett Trois APA. No bittering hops and just a big whirlpool addition of amarillo and mosaic (Hops which I want to clear b4 they go bad), and an oz of dry hop.

    The aroma was so good out of the fermentor that I didn’t want to dry hop the beer. RIght now, the beer is really pleasant and you almost can’t figure what came from the brett and what from the hops.

    It has the ability to thin out the beer, so I used some flaked wheat and oats. A high mash temperature may not make a difference, as the brett will get to it over time. In fact, it may risk bottle bombs.

    my headache now is the yeast in suspension. Gelatin and crash chill always gets my beer that is very bright, but the brett refuses to drop even after lagering it. Seems like I gotta run it through my friend’s filter as it looks like a weizen!

  • Reply February 12, 2015

    Jah

    Hi Paul

    Hi can you referment in the bottle if you are not adding any extra sugar?

    • Reply February 12, 2015

      Paul Dodd

      Hi, yes you can this is the way I tend to do it, I figure there’s probably some fermentable sugars that Brett can utilise and I don’t like taking the risk of over carbonation by adding more.

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