In my opinion, the homebrewer with the most expertise brewing wild/sour ales is Michael Tonsmeire who hosts an excellent and active blog, the Mad Fermentationist. He has done 100% Brett beers, lambics, and commercial sour clones, to name a few. Most importantly, he has documented all his experience to share with homebrewers and his articles on Brettanomyces brewing and brewing sour beer at home are required reads for any homebrewer stepping into the world of sour ales. His blog site is my goto resource for homebrewing wild yeast at home.
My experience in homebrewing wild beers is close to none – I have one Flanders Red ale in secondary happily souring away. However, I do not yet have the experience of multiple wild sour ales under my belt. My plan is to brew as many wild ales as I can while culturing different forms of Brett and other bacteria from commercial examples. Once my experience has increased, I plan on merging what I’ve learned and grown in the lab to homebrewing at home.
In my last post I mentioned that I was making two starters for an all Brettanomyces brew. I purchased a packet each of Brettanomyces bruxellenis and lambicus from Wyeast to culture them on media selective for wild yeasts (results forthcoming) but used the starters for making this beer. The goals of this brew were as follows:
- 100% Brettanomyces.
- Pale in color and low in gravity.
- Fast fermentation time.
The idea is to make a wild ale as quickly as possible, hopefully the brew is done in two months which is very fast for Brett beers. I do understand that there will be less complexity from the yeast this way, but I purposefully want to know what the profile of a quickly fermented Brett table beer is like. I made the starters like any other yeast starter.
- 100 g of DME in 1000 mls of water
- pinch of yeast nutrient
- packet of Brettanomyces
- placed on a stir plate at room temperature
I counted exactly how many cells were in each pack from Wyeast; Brett L: 53 billion and Brett B: 68 billion. The packs that I bought were 4 and 3 months old respectively so with viability playing a factor I would say that Wyeast prepares around 100 billion cells in the Brett packs. I’ve read on a few forums that Brett starters tend to grow slowly, but this was not the case in my experience. Not much activity on the first day but by the second day, starters look confluent and full of cells with classic Pellicles that stuck around despite the solution being stirred. Both starters had a very agressive aroma. Brett L smelled strongly of pears, sour fruit, and strong esters while Brett B was extremely horsey, goaty, and had alot more funk.
After counting I had 435 billion cells for Brett L and 185 billion cells for Brett B. Under a microscope, Brett B cells looked rather different and were difficult to count, I would not be surprised if my numbers are actually higher. Brett B cells are more elongated, smaller, and clump together more than Brett L. However, Brett L yeast cells look very similar to regular Sacchromyces yeast and counting is more accurate. 500 billion yeast cells is more than enough for a low gravity beer and I’m not sure if overpitching is a concern here.
The recipe (5.5 gallons):
- 6.0 pounds of Pilsner malt (Weyerman)
- 1.0 pound of White Wheat malt (Briess)
- 2.0 pounds of Vienna Malt (Briess)
- 0.5 pound of Caravienne (20L)
- 0.5 pound of Acidulated Malt
Mashed the grist with 1.5 qts/pound of grain of water at 149°F and held at the temperature for one hour. Raised temperature to 167°F for mashout and batch sparged as usual. Collected 6.5 gallons of wort at a gravity of 1.036. Boiled for one hour:
- 1.0 oz of Czech Saaz at 60 minutes (13 IBUs)
- 1.0 oz of Czech Saaz at whirlpool
- 1 Whirlfloc tablet at 20 minutes
- 1/2 tsp of Yeast nutrient at 20 minutes
Cooled by whirlpooling to 70°F and pitched both starters, spent wort and all. Unfortunately I did not have time to crash the yeast out of suspension and had to pitch the whole thing. Hopefully the character from the starter is minimized but this may crop up in the finished beer. This beer will be fermented at room temperature which means actually fermentation temps will be higher – 77°F to 80°F.
6/5/11: Brewday. Check above details for notes
6/6/11: 16 hours post-pitch and fermentation has taken off like a rocket. In the evening, krausen is starting being expelled through the blow off tube.
6/7/11: There is so much yeast coming off the krausen I needed to replace the growler collecting my blowoff.
6/8/11: Activity is starting to subside and switched to an airlock.
6/14/11: Activity completely ceased two days ago with no gas evolution as the partial pressures of CO2 in the beer and outside has reached an equilibrium. The beer is nearly opaque with Brett and will need some time to clarfiy. Yeast krausen has fallen away but left what seems like a pellicle mixed with trub and hop debris.