Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Homebrew Tasting: Bkyeast Brett Strains

In the middle of October a fellow homebrew blogger, bkyeast (Dmitri), offered up strains of Brettanomyces that he isolated from a bottle of Cantillon Iris. He did some minor experimenting to make sure they were viable. He was also generous enough to ship 4 different strains from NY to San Diego and was looking for some feedback. 

Here were his brief (and edited) descriptions:

C1: ferments fast, produces some acid. very bright, very tart and lemony.

C2: The starter still emits that forest strawberry aroma.

C3: 1st week the beers smell very sulfurous and even vomity. 2nd week sweet, dark berry kind of thing. Then so much pineapple gradually gives way to mango and orange 

I made a simple starter (re-boiled from frozen 2nd runnings of my Spelt Saison) back in October. I pitched the yeast right out of the vial into .5 gal containers. I swirled each container to aerate and then added an airlock.  I had grand plans to use the strains pretty quickly in a large scale Brett experiment, but that has been delayed by boring life events like a new house and baby on the way. 

The starters are all 3 months old. They have gone through a move and as you can see in the pictures (below), all have great clarity. C1 and C2 do not have a pellicle and I never remember them getting much of one. C3 has a very thin patchy film that I'm not sure that I would consider a pellicle. 

Here are my quick tasting notes:

C1: High intensity aroma of apples and pear with just a hint of tartness. The tastes start with a light tartness that is well rounded (so maybe low amounts of acetic acid) and the esters are all apple and pear. I bet I could tell some people this is apple cider and they would believe it. There is very little traditional Brett (barnyard) aromas or flavors. I think this will perform well as a primary yeast strain

C2: Low intensity aroma with some slight sulfur notes and very pleasant traditional Brett (like Orval or like Wyeast Brett B finished beers) notes. The taste is lightly tart and has the similar well rounded (non-harsh) character. It has a nice balance between the Brett phenolics (smoky, barnyard) and Belgian esters (again apple and pear). I think this would work nicely in secondary with a Belgian Blonde or Saison 

C3: Medium intensity aroma with dominate smoky phenols. Flavors are slightly tart (same as C1, C2) and the phenol/ester balance is more toward the smoky/plastic. There is a slight astringency in this sample that has a medicinal flavor.

You will notice that my descriptions are surprisingly pretty different from what Dmitri has posted. It has me scratching my head a bit about reasons why. It will be interesting to see if the yeast profiles change as they get stepped up and used in an actual batch. As a science person, this is only one data point for each of these yeasts and I have more testing planned in the future.


  1. Cool!
    Glad to hear that they're not poisonous!
    I have gotten other reports that C1 is tart and lemony, but I've not yet tasted the saison made with it. In my experience they all produce a nice pellicle, except C3 is very thin and patchy. C3 mango/pineapple character does seem to fade with time, but gets woody and funky for me. I guess it could all depend on the content of the wort, hops, temperatures, aeration etc etc. They most definitely do change with more passages, as do all yeast.
    In any case this is great! Thanks a lot!
    I hope the real beers you make with them will turn out good :)

    1. I am beginning to think that Brett strains are much more sensitive with respect to flavors they produce than we are used to with Sacc. I guess this makes sense since we know we have all seen the difference when Brett is added to secondary versus primary.

      Thank you again Dmitri it has been fun to brew with something brand new and I intend to build these up more for a larger batch.

  2. Sounds like a great experiment.

    For the bigger batches what is the recipe looking like? After reading your descriptions I wonder if a 50/50 blend of C1 and C2 would be a viable option? Once you get enough cells of course.

    1. It was a lot of fun, let me know if you are interested in any of the strains as I can split some off for you.

      I'm planning to keep them separate at least for the next batch and then I think you have a good idea of blending these yeast. (It works for Chad at Crooked Stave right?)

      I haven't totally figured out the recipe yet. The difficulty is figuring out a recipe that is not too complex or too simple. I would like some complex sugars in the wort because my basic Saison recipe with the Brett I did previously was pretty flat. I'd also like to add some hops because Brett does some interesting things with the hop flavors, but I don't want to cover up too much yeast character.

      Any ideas?

  3. Fantastic Jeff, I cant wait to hear what results you get from brewing with these starains.
    How about a hybrid ESB/Belgian: going towards strong say about SG 1060 with lots of late hops.
    I am very jealous

    1. Well don't be jealous. Just keep up with my blog and I'll announce and send you some next time I do yeast mail.


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