Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brett Drie (Trois) Overview + Spelt Saison Results

First, a confession - I have become slightly obsessed with a single cell organism.

 I have posted my experience with Brett Drie (WLP644 - Brett B Trois) (Avery 15 Brett) in a couple different online sources so I thought I would compile some of the information.

WLP644 -Brett B Trois - Homebrewtalk Thread

WLP644 - Babblebelt Thread

I have been brewing with this strain for about a year and a half. The back story is that one of my homebrew friends cultured this from a bottle of Avery 15. The yeast is referred to as the Brett Drie strain. If you have read through Chad Y's paper and website he discovered that there are actually 2 strains present (Chad still uses these strains at Crooked Stave in addition to others he has isolated). They were each used in his thesis experiment and the fermentation is well documented.

My friend, Adrian, gave me a vial and Neva at White Labs one too. It took White Lab's quite a while to come out with this yeast and not sure how well it relates to what I have been using. Did they isolated one strain or do any manipulation?)

I do know that I get the flavors and attenuation that others have reported from using WLP644. After my first time using this Brett I was hooked. The tropical fruit notes were great, they literally filled the room when I was bottling.

Best Bitter with Brett Drie -  1.048 - 1.010 - 79% Apparent Attenuation - Mashed 154 - 8% crystal malts  - 30 IBUs -no aeration - big tropical fruit - nice w/ Goldings

I have tried it in several different styles of wort since that first test batch (link above) and consider it my house Brett strain. I mostly use it in Primary as in the examples below. (I have also used it at bottling in some Saisons and was not all that impressed with the results - mostly some light traditional Brett funk flavors.)

Old Ale wort -  1.079 - 1.014 - 82% Apparent Attenuation - Mashed 154 - 7.5% Crystal Malts, 8% Turbinado sugar  40 IBUS - 8.6% - aerated - sour and decently complex in 3 months - one of my favorite beers I've ever made or tasted.

Hoppy Bitter (Extra Special Brett-er) - 1.049 - 1.006 - 20 IBUs - Dry-hopped w Nelson - testing it with a Hoppy wort - no aeration - fermentation fruit notes played really well with tropical fruit notes of the Nelson hops - my best hop forward beer I've made.

Table Saison with Rolled Oats - F.G. (.999) - 103% Apparent Attenuation. Mashed at 147 with 80% Pils, 15% Rolled Oats, 2.5% Acid Malt, 2.5% Piloncillo sugar - very clean on first taste, going to dry-hop half with HBC 342 hops (aroma and taste was weak) and now added 1 oz of Calypso hops

The Brett will produce some acid (acetic) if you aerate it well, the acidity is just enough in my opinion to give people the idea that it is a wild beer, but no where near a sharp bite. If you do not aerate, then the yeast will still produce the fruit flavors, but with little to no acidity and a very "clean" taste.

I get a very quick fermentation from this yeast, but I'm making large starters. I usually start with some saved yeast in a White Labs vial that is 1/8 full of yeast. I do a 4 oz 1.020 starter , then a 32 oz 1.040 starter, then 64 oz 1.040 with a week between each. According to my estimates (very rough) and this calculator ( - based on Sacc), I had some where around 220 billion cells. The majority of the activity seems to be done in a few days and then I get some residual for another couple weeks.

As for temperature, my first batches were all fermented in the 68 - 72 range. Well, for this most recent batch of Spelt Saison I wanted to test this temperature dependence. I split the main batch wort into 2 - 1 gal batches. One batch was fermented with a normal Saison temperature profile (start in the low 70s and free rise into the 80s and held for a week). The other batch was temperature controlled in the fermentation cabinet at 63-65 for 2 weeks and then brought up to mid 70s. The fermentation looked complete after 2 weeks.

Saison Profile - 1.000 - nice spicy notes, Belgian phenols and light fruit notes
Low Ale Temps - 1.000 - nice spicy notes, Belgian phenols and light fruit notes

I was surprised by the results, both were 100% Apparent Attenuation and 7.9% ABV. These both were allowed to ferment out for a total of 3 weeks before bottling. I'll do an official taste test in the following weeks.

Flavor Progression:

The beer starts very clean (no noticeable acidity if you don't intentionally aerate) with huge tropical fruit flavors. I refer to the flavor as POG (Passion Orange Guava). After a month or so that flavor starts going toward over ripe fruit with a bit of funk. And long term the beer has gotten progressively more sour (I may not have a pure culture), but not more than a mild tartness. And the tropical fruit flavors remain and are mixed with more traditional Brett funk notes.

Nothing to worry about if you are kegging, but for bottling I have been waiting about 3 -4 weeks. And the stability in the bottle is great. You can use standard priming sugar amounts. This Brett strain and most of them have very low flocculation. You may need to assist the yeast to floc out with a cold crash and a bit of pressure. Also gelatin and racking will greatly help.

One thing I have just noticed in my latest Table Saison with 100% Brett is how clean the fermentation profile turned out. The beer was mashed at 148 with 20% rolled oats. This beer fermented from 1.044 down to 1.000 in about a week. I am thinking that without very many complex sugars (from a higher mash temp or crystal malts) that the Brett does not produce the same esters. Also it did not have a lot of hop compounds to play off either.

Please feel free to ask questions and suggest ideas for future experiments. (I am interested in seeing the fermentation limits of this yeast - 20% Brett Beer anyone?)


  1. Great write up on this strain. I used it in March to make Chad Y's Baltic Porter from Zymurgy and at the time you gave me some good info about the background of the strain. Coincidentally, I bottled that beer yesterday, so I had my first taste of what you describe above. One of the most interesting things about your write up is how you keyed in on the role of aeration in changing the finished product. I didn't aerate the wort any differently than I do with any other beer (shook the shit out of it) and got results similar to those you mention. The beer was much cleaner than I expected and you describe the complementary esters (POG)perfectly. The Baltic Porter was made with Citra, having that yeast fruitiness in mind, and I think it worked out well.

    I don't see too many limits to this strain as long as you can compensate for the potentially thin mouthfeel with grain, fruit or spice additions. Since it seemed to work so well for me with fruity hops, I'd like to extend that concept to an IPA. I'm thinking a Brett B Trois version of Alpine's Nelson (Rye, Nelson flavor/aroma hops). What do you think?

    1. I want to try that Baltic Porter. There are only a few bottles left of my Old Ale and it was my favorite beer I've brewed. Lets have a tasting, it will be a good excuse to open a bottle.

      As for IPA, that is a great choice. I thought my Brett Bitter with Nelson was awesome. The flavors from the hops and yeast are very similar so the flavor intensity is huge (can smell the aroma from an arm length away).
      I've read about a few brewers doing IPAs, here is the Mad Fermentationist's -

    2. Lewy and I are trying to nail down a date for Flanders blending. He's taken some initiative and bought some graduated cylinders and other necessities (basically putting me on notice to step it up). Maybe you can meet up with us when it happens and try the Baltic Porter among other things. Lewy has some amazing beers floating around right now. Keep you posted.

    3. Thats good to hear. And I am down for some blending and sampling. Just let me know when it works for you guys.

  2. Woot! I'm famous! ;)

    I want to comment about the aeration=acetic acid commentary. I'll admit that so far my experience with this strain has been lackluster. I love the aroma of over-ripe fruit salad, but all of my beers have a harsh acetic-like bite to them and I wonder if that has to do with my process.

    1) I ferment in buckets
    2) I leave the beer in the primary fermentation vessel for months at a time.

    Both of these factors means the beer has the potential for getting quite acedic. So much so that the last batch I decided to dump rather than bottle.

    After racking off a fruited sour beer I added apple juice to the pomace to create a "sour pomace cider". 1 to 2 weeks into the fermentation it smelled and tasted pretty fantastic. Unfortunately I think I left it in the bucket for 2 months too long as the resulting cider had a harsh acidic bite to it as well as an acetone-like aroma.

    In contrast, I did have a positive experience recently. My first attempt at using this strain was to find a way to make a beer based on old stale extract taste delicious. That beer I brewed in October 2010 and bottled in January 2011. 80 days in primary and the resulting beer had a tart bite that when combined with the oak tannins and pomegranate juice made for a rather disappointing beer.

    Fast forward to last week. I've still got most of this first batch left. A couple of bottles are in the fridge and the balance are in the closet. Last week I popped open a sample that's been in the refrigerator for about a year and lo and behold it was actually much smoother than I remember. In fact I'd say it was actually not too bad.

    Maybe in this case time can heal a poorly executed sour? If so, I'm hoping my second and third batches turn around similarly.

    I recently picked up a plastic carboy with the plan of using it as a "bright tank" for these sour type beers. My hope is the plastic carboy will reduce the oxygen exposure post fermentation resulting in brett beers with less bite. I'm planning to brew brett beer #4 in the next month or two so it will be a while before I will have results.

    Also, as a side note: This strain is extremely resilient. I kept yeast dregs submerged in beer in my fridge for over a year and it only took about a day to show signs of life in the starter I made a couple weeks back. Feisty bugs they are.

    1. Yes, Adrian you are famous.
      I really do think that your acetic acid is coming from your use of buckets and the slow exposure over time. The batches that I tried to sour by aerating were at a complimentary sourness level within a few months. And those were still done in glass. Also about your buckets, I'm not super convinced that it lets in all that much O2 except if the bucket seal is bad and you have a lot of head space. Or if you have a lot of head space and let the airlock go dry.

      As far as age healing your sours, I have read about and experienced this happen with problems with acetic acid. What I believe is happening is that as the beer mellows there is an equilibrium reaction happening with esters, acids and ethanol.

      Ex. Acetic acid + ethanol -> ethyl acetate

      "Ethyl acetate is synthesized industrially mainly via the classic Fischer esterification reaction of ethanol and acetic acid. This mixture converts to the ester in about 65% yield at room temperature:

      CH3CH2OH + CH3COOH ⇌ CH3COOCH2CH3 + H2O "

      Thanks wiki -

      And for your next batch may I recommend you try a hoppier style and see what this yeast can do in the short term. I think that is where Brett Drie really shines (As a primary fermenter instead of added in secondary).

    2. Bringing the discussion over here too, since I'm curious about these results with Brett producing acetic acid. One of the things I was hoping for with my 100% Brett beers so far (which turned out awesome, otherwise) was the lack of barnyard funk and acidity. It's interesting that Adrian was getting exaggerated levels of acidity when my 3-month-in-primary Brett L & B beer ( ) didn't produce any that I can detect at all.

      So based on what you guys are saying... is the acetic acid necessarily bad? Or just that it was unwanted (in Adrian's case)?

      In hoppy beers, I like the clean / fruity ferment I've gotten with Trois, but in other 100% Brett beers I've done I wouldn't mind a bit of acidic character, and I was planning an experiment next year where I let in a bit of extra oxygen while it aged on oak for two or three months.

    3. Derek,
      I'll give you my opinions, but they are only based on my experience and research I've read.

      I don't think acetic acid is bad at all depending on the amount present, but this is all personal taste. In lower amounts it gives a sweet round tartness, but in higher amounts it is sharp and makes you just think someone has added vinegar to your beer. (test it yourself with balsalmic vinegar or red wine vinegar added to beer) I relate the amount of acetic acid to diacetyl, some people can't stand it at any concentration and some people love it (Shipyard beers). Acetic acid ,just like diacetyl, can be controlled through your brewing practices and are appropriate in some styles. Some diacetyl in an English style beer gives it a nice caramel flavor, just like acetic acid in a Flanders Red gives it a bit of sweet-sour tang that works well with the malt.

      And I have also had some 100% Brett beers that have gotten pretty sour and I don't really think that it is the Brett doing the souring - I think it is probably some bacteria (pedio most likely) that is in with the Brett culture. This is only my guess and has not been proven yet.

      The other theory which I think could be equally true, is that the particular Brett strain has a certain equilibrium of esters and acids that it is happy with. Let me go into a bit more detail here: esterification takes place during the aging process. Over time, the acid will react with ethanol and produce esters (for example, ethyl acetate -- the ester of ethanol and acetic acid) This process is highly reversible and active over the lifetime of the beer. My thought is that Brett is more comfortable in a lower pH environment so it produces the needed compounds to drive the reaction toward that strain's optimum conditions. This is the main reason you can detect so many changes in the first year.

  3. To say that "normal saison temp" is somewhere between 70-80 is simply not the case. That is the case for the single note Americanized saisons that follow use the Dupont strain. But if you examine the incredible diversity of saisons you see that the vast majority are fermented at typical ale temps of 60-70. People criticize Ommegang Hennepin as being pedestrian because it isn't some incredibly dry, peppery thing, and instead is a lightly clove bubble gum thing. But it's still well within the generous confines of a saison.

    As a style goes, saison is one of the most expansive of all beer styles simply because the historical diversity. So don't get pigeonholed into the belief that it requires some outrageously complex yeast profile or high temps.

    1. Anon,
      I hear what you are saying. I have read Farmhouse Ales and it is amazing how much the "style" has changed.

      I should have called it the "Homebrew Dupont Strain" fermentation profile. For example, I really like to use WY3711 down at normal Ale temps 65 - 70.



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