Thursday, March 14, 2013

Brettanomyces: World Traveller

Back in August of 2012, I was contacted by Lee that lives in Thailand about sending him some different strains of Brett and bacteria. I'm always excited about getting email from readers and thought this would be a cool experience. We figured the easiest way to send the strains would be to send them in used oak cubes (vials could easily be used since Brett has great viability at room temperature). I actually had a small collection going just to give to fellow homebrewers or to use again myself.
  • Brett Drie 
  • Wyeast Roeselare
  • Allagash Confluence Dregs
  • White Labs Brett C
After travelling 8,150 miles they arrived to Lee in Chiang Mai, Thailand. If I remember correctly, it was really cheap (~$5) and only took about 5 days. Then Lee in his words:

"Saturday night I put all of the oak chips into starter wort, about 125ml each, of about OG1020. 20 hours later there was OBVIOUS activity building in the Brett Drie. At hour 30 there was also activity building in the Brett C. AS of this morning about hour 38, there were small indications of activity in the Roselare blend."

This news was very exciting for both of us. I was a bit amazed by how quickly he saw activity since these oak cubes were pretty old to start with. The next step in the process was to add some more wort to the starters and build up the cultures, but first Lee "snook" a taste

"Brett C: smells and tasted of English cider with slight hint of spice on the nose.
Allagash: dirt and oak (no action still)
Brett Drie: fruity, citrus, English floral hops(on the nose) and tart. Very long lasting tropical fruit cordial after taste.
Roselare: old dry cheese on the nose. Taste a little fruity and lemon tartness."

And my response on how I like to use each of these strains:

1. Brett Drie - I think you will love it as a primary with some fruity hops.
2. Brett C - I have not had great results by itself but others have. I prefer it as a finishing yeast in secondary of a Saison
3. Roeselare - pitch it all at once with some Sacc or it may never get to the sourness you want.
4. Allagash Confluence - It is great to finish strong Belgians like the beer it came from.

Above are the pictures and below are the descriptions from Lee on the activity after the 2nd addition of wort to the starter:

Roselare has a full thick pellicle. The top of which is furry.
Brett Drie now also has a thin filmy pellicle.
Brett C, no pellicle,lots of yeast settled out AND some of the cubes have fallen to the bottom
Biggest surprise of all was that the Allagash Confluence has started to do something.

And then, "A bit of a let down yesterday when I realised that the activity I thought I had gotten at long last in the Allagash cubes,was in fact mould,and it was kind of like opening the rice cooker on Monday morning after forgetting about it and going away for the weekend".

I'd still say that 3 out of 4 is pretty good. I think the Confluence cubes were the oldest so I'm not totally surprised. Now that the yeast is built up it is time to finally put together a recipe and taste some results. First, was a nice malty wort for the Roeselare dregs:

1st Thailand - San Diego Collaboration Batch - Roeselare
750gr of Vienna
40gr of crystal wheat
Mashed at 69c for 45 minutes
Added about 2.3 quarts of frozen 1023 Munich stout second runnings.
Boiled for 90 minutes.
Added 15IBUs of Fuggle at 60 and another 8IBUs of Fuggle at 30.
Let it cool over night
Morning, pitched about 3gr of Aussie ale yeast and the Roselare starter with oak,pellicle and all.
Activity in 4 hours. 8 hours saw a raging fermentation.

2nd Thailand - San Diego Collaboration Batch - Brett Drie
2lb munich
2lb vienna
2lb pale 2row
250gr raw wheat
250gr crystal wheat.
Hopd were all zythos, an oz at 15,10 & 5.
Came back 30 hours later to see a very thick krausen ring but the krausen its self was on the decline. The room it is fermenting in smells awesomely of overly ripe fruit and something fantastic i have never come across before.

3rd Thailand - San Diego Collaboration Batch - Brett Split 

13ltr batch:
2.5kg Vienna
0.5kg Munich
250gr raw wheat
250gr table sugar
70 gr Carafa 3
1oz of Tettnanger@60
18gr of EKG@20.
OG was 1063
Pitched LaChouffe re-cultured yeast and let it go at 25c for 6 days before cold crashing it. Took a sample last night and he gravity was 1014.
Split it 3 ways:
FV1: Brett C
FV2: Brett B Trois cubes
FV3: Mix of Orval dregs/Brett C/Brett B Trois

Lee followed my good example and knows a recipe is worthless without following up with tasting notes:

All Brett B Trois Belgian IPA Tasting

Aroma: slightly damp bread and ripe summer fruit preserve.
Mouthfeel: Minimal carbonation and a VERY cream mouth feel, reminds me of Dupont.
Flavor: A lovely tart twang on the palate and a lingering chewy feel. High IBUs are but a faint tingle at the end, followed by toffee and prunes.
Overall: It is far more balanced and easy drinking than the 8.5% and 70+ IBUs should be. It reminds me of a mix of Fresh Bass,Banks's Mild and Old Peculiar. I am very impressed by this, to the point of being enamoured.

Tasting Update:
A few weeks after the first bottle and there has been a flavour change.
The sweet breadiness is somewhat diminished and a HUGE tartness is coming to the forefront! The more the beer warms up,the more the tartness shines through. This is an amazing beer which is going to be hard to keep a hold of for very long.

And it looks like we have another Brett Drie fan as Lee has more plans: "Just started to build up a culture again as I am thinking of using the trois in a berliner weisse; home cultured lacto first and then pitch a big starter of Brett B Trois."

This has been a lot of fun to follow along with Lee's experience and one of the nice parts has been gaining a penpal in Thailand.


  1. It's always nice to get emails from readers and fellow brewers. It's doubly sweet when you get to share bugs, ideas, or even collaborate.

    1. Speaking of that. I may have some bugs to share with you soon. A local friend of mine has been plating and isolating yeast for years and I gave him some dregs from Jolly Pumpkin, Crooked Stave and Allagash.
      I'll let you know when they are ready.

  2. This is a very cool idea. Good job, Jeffrey and Lee.

  3. Jeffery,

    This is just awesome! I need to start putting by bug into wood for better storage, I just tossed a starter of Logsdon Brett due to nats getting into it.

    The entire post was just an awesome thing.

    1. It was a pretty cool experience and Lee was great at keeping me updated so it was fun to follow along.

      I still make starters for the dregs, but once I pith them into a 1 gal batch I'll usually add some oak cubes. I think a oak really goes well in every sour beer as it adds some complexity, body from the tannins and some sweetness from unfermentable wood sugars. The amount varies on the style of beer. This should work with the honeycomb cubes that you use.

  4. Hey Jeff, awesome post. I owe you some Bugfarm which should be coming up this weekend. My brother happens to live in Thailand and has been thinking about getting into brewing over there. I wonder if mayb you could put me in touch with Lee and I could find out where my brother could start over there.


    1. Sure thing, there is an email coming your way.

      Can't wait for that Bug Farm - what has been your favorite style to brew with it?

    2. Not sure yet as I only have 2 finished beers with it, and both were somewhat similar. One was a Golden Strong, just Pils/wheat/ saaz. Its good but kind of 1 dimensional. The 2nd was a Saison, Pils/wheat/munich bittered with Magnum and finished with saaz, this one is a bit better.

      The most recent one is a Belgian Dark Strong (consecration clone), I have high expectations for this one. What I am thinking is that a simple grist might not be complex enough, even with a high mash temp. The blend is funky and sour but needs either a more complex grist, a step mash, or maybe even a bit of oak.

    3. Thanks for the feedback. I have found that it is pretty difficult to make pale sour beers complex with only souring bugs. I think this is why lambic takes so long to make and depends so much on blending.

  5. Good afternoon, I write you from Buenos Aires Argentina, I have been following your blog a little while ago and really surprised me the interesting things you are doing.

    Mainly doing these tests with Brett, is more I would like to exchange some chips Argentinos (Malbec Mendocino Sirach) and to experiment with some of yours.

    Last year had experienced making a blueberry lambic and got several brett coming from the same fruit (Blueberries Patagonia Argentina).

    I leave a greeting and I are in touch.



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