Brewing with Brett Part 3 - Fermentation By: Fred Brown
If you have been keeping up with the previous posts you should now have a firm grasp on the history and make up of Brettanomyces. Your recipe has been created and brewed. We have reached the finish line and our finely crafted wort is awaiting to be pitched with yeast. For me this is where I spend a lot of time thinking. The yeast you pitch into your wort is critical choice as it will create all of those flavors you envisioned when we began this discussion.
The characteristics in your Brett beer can be manipulated depending on the stage of fermentation you choose to add it. If you are after a clean brett profile, meaning slight tartness, fruity aromas and light clove; pitching Brett for primary fermentation would be the move to make. If you are after a more funky beer with more complex Brett character, this would be achieved by pitching Brett for a secondary fermentation after completing primary with a Saccharomyces yeast strain. The longer you allow the beer to age, the more “funk” you will get. Lastly doing a primary fermentation with a Saccharomyces yeast and Brett strain together will result in fermentation that attenuates well gives you that fruity profile but also would be well suited for a long aging period. There is no wrong answer here!
A primary fermentation with Brett will take about 2 weeks to a month. Monitor your gravity to determine when fermentation is complete. You will not notice much tartness as a result, however you may notice a minimal amount of acetic acid (tartness) produce during long aging periods. I like to pitch at 68 degrees hold that temperature for 3 days and then ramp up to about 72 degrees until fermentation is complete.
When deciding to pitch Brett for secondary fermentation you should again consider how the addition will affect your beer. You can add a great amount of complexity taking your beer in a whole new direction! Be sure to have some extra sugars left in the beer. Adjuncts and specialty malts are helpful in these situations. You beer could attenuate too low resulting in a beer that is thin, watery and lacking depth.
Bottle conditioning with Brett is a technique popularly used as it does not require the added equipment you should have dedicated to Brett and other wild bugs. All it requires is separate bottling equipment. Flavor can develop in as soon as 2 weeks or as long as 3 months. In my experience using White Labs strains, adding the entire vial has yielded good results.
We cannot discuss fermentation without propagation (that rhymes). It is important to know that White Labs Brett cultures are not meant for 100% primary fermentation. These vials do not contain enough cells and must be propagated with a starter. The main difference in how you increase cell count with Brett compared to normal beer yeast is the amount of time needed to increase that count. A starter will take about 7 days to fully grown an adequate amount of cells for primary fermentation.
Good sanitation practices are equally if not more critical when using Brett. To safeguard from cross contamination, I have a second set of fermentation gear. This includes fermentors, stoppers, airlocks, erlenmeyer flasks, racking canes and buckets for keeping sanitizer. I committed my older equipment to the wild side and picked up fresh gear for my clean beers. To piggyback on cross contamination I ferment my Brett beers alongside my clean beers without concern. Brett is not going to escape through your airlock to party with your clean beers!
There seem to be endless possibilities when choosing to allow Brett to enter your brew house. Experiment, try using Brett at different stages of fermentation. Which best suits your palate? Create new recipes or take a recipe you have dialed to a whole new dimension! Good luck on your wild brewing adventures!
Batch Size:5.25 Gal
Boil Size 7 Gal
Boil Time: 60 Min
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
6 lb - Pilsner Malt
2.25 lb - Caramel 10 Malt
12 oz - Rye Malt
12 oz - White Wheat Malt
8 oz - Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
8 oz - Spelt Malt
Mash with 1.25 qts/lb @ 150 degrees for 60 min. Fly sparge to collect 7 gals pre boil volume.
.5 oz - Columbus -60 min
1 Whirlfloc Tablet-15 min
1 tsp Yeast Nutrient-15 min
.15 oz - Ground Corriander - 5 min
.35 oz - Saaz - 5 min
.15 oz - Orange Peel - 5 min
Chill to 68 degrees and Pitch:
White labs brettanomyces bruxellensis (WLP 650)
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