Traditional Wild Yeast Brewing : an experiment in brettanomyces brewing part 1

Brettanomyces, also known as "Brett"...

Brettanomyces yeast

Ever get sick of drinking the same brews over and over? Had a million IPAs, stouts and American Pale ales? Me too. What could be more different than joining the ” dark side of brewing”? Why not try brewing with a wild yeast known as Brettanomyces? This once wild and feared “spoilage” yeast has plagued wine makers and brewers for years. This is one of those “bugs” that all the brewing books told you would ruin you beer!

Flavors produced from these strains of yeast have been said to taste like *get ready for it* : pinapple, leather, smokey, horse-like, barnyard like, wet dog,  floral and even fecal!  As it is said, Brettanomyces (Brett), is known as the “funk” yeast, although I believe that most of these descriptions are over exaggerated to say the least.

So you may ask Who or WHY anyone would want this problematic, invasive and troublesome yeast? What would you gain from using a yeast of this type? Complexity. Simple and honest.It has been used for many years now, but it is now just gaining popularity.

Belgian brewers have been brewing on the “wild” side for many, many years. There are a number of up and coming brewers also using brett yeast to add extra complexity to a beer. It is traditionally added to aging barrels, and left to sit for many months, as Brett ferments VERY slowly, it takes a while to achieve peak flavors. Normal Saccharomyces (beer) yeast is used to ferment the wort primarily, and then the Brett strain is added to compliment the first “normal” strain. However, some beers are brewed with 100% Brett. Just ask Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River Brewing in Sonoma Valley CA. Most of his barrels aged beers have some Brett added to them, if not all.

Brett was originally isolated from a batch of British Stock Ale, hence the name Brettanomyces (british fungus). So I only see it fitting that the first batch to brew should be a British Style : Old Ale. As it stands, this is the recipe I am going with for now. This is not intended to be a 100% Brett fermented beer. I will be adding the strain to secondary just to add some traditional stock ale flavors to the beer. The first part of fermentation will be a british strain, more than likely the Ringwood Ale strain. I chose a more subdued strain of Brett yeast as to not overwhelm the original character of the beer. So here it goes for now:

Batch Size: 6.50 gal
Boil Size: 8.30 gal
Estimated OG: 1.069 SG
Estimated Color: 18.4 SRM
Estimated IBU: 35.9 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 60 MinutesIngredients:
Amount        Item                                      Type         % or IBU
15 lbs        Pale Malt (2 Row) UK (3.0 SRM)            Grain        88.24 %
1 lbs         Special B Malt (180.0 SRM)                Grain        5.88 %
1 lbs         Victory Malt (biscuit) (Briess) (28.0 SRM)Grain        5.88 %
1.00 oz       Magnum [14.00 %]  (60 min)                Hops         35.9 IBU
1 Pkgs        Brettanomyces Claussenii (White Labs #WLP6Yeast-Ale
1 Pkgs        Ringwood Ale (Wyeast Labs #1187) [Starter Yeast-Ale                  Total Grain Weight: 17.00 lb

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