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10/28/10 10:40 PM  
Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
I've got a batch of Saison that I plan to bottle this weekend. Fermented with WLP565, Brett C (by accident), and Brett B (starter made from a bottle of Avery 15), I racked it to secondary almost a week ago.

It was in the primary bucket for about 6 weeks and the secondary is held at refrigerator temperatures.

I just took a sample and noted a very coarse tartness. A biting acidity that gets you in the back of the throat similar to black pepper but without the spice.

Thinking that perhaps the pH had dropped, I tested it and the strip indicated that the pH was around a little higher than 4.0.

Why the bite? Does anyone find that brett beers taste great at bottling/kegging time? Regular brewer's yeast beers I find taste mediocre at bottling time, but certainly not as coarse tasting as this one.

How long do your funky beers typically take before they smooth out? An earlier batch of Saison (brewed in July) tasted off shortly after bottling and has improved after ~2 months of conditioning. In fact, I'd say it went from one of my worst to one of my best batches (WLP565, Brett C, Vienna malt, and flaked oats).

What's your experience been like?

10/29/10 04:00 PM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
Brett CL is a very forgiving brett strain that doesn't really act like a traditional brett and is closer to a normal Serv yeast strain. However the Brett BR is a traditional brett strain that will take a long time to develop to a reasonable and pleasant taste profile. Personally I would give the beer a year aging in the secondary before kegging/bottling and carbonate at 2/3 your normal conditioning.
10/29/10 04:45 PM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
"However the Brett BR is a traditional brett strain that will take a long time to develop to a reasonable and pleasant taste profile"

I was basing my assumptions on the taste of the Avery 15 starters I built up this summer. In both cases, the beer tasted funky, but perfectly palatable after lagering in the fridge for a month or so. (Very pungent lemon pith kind of citrusy aroma to this strain.)

The 5 gallon batch version is like that same musty lemon flavor turned up to 11. The acidic bite is like eating a lemon, rind and all. Smells quite nice from the dry hops, though.

"Personally I would give the beer a year aging in the secondary before kegging/bottling and carbonate at 2/3 your normal conditioning."

:( I was hoping to send this out as a 2010 Christmas gift. Really? A year in secondary? Is that for micro oxidation purposes? Why not just bottle it and forget about it for a year? I assume the two-thirds comment is because it's assumed the yeast have not consumed all the sugars and bottle-bombs may result? Last I checked the gravity it was down around 1005 (down from 1057 I think).

Are you saying that it may drop to, like, 1.000 or lower over the coarse of the next year? I don't know if this will change your perspective, but all the yeast strains I listed were used in primary fermentation.

FWIF, I was planning to carbonate to about 3.5 vols of C02 to give myself a little bit of room.

10/29/10 06:56 PM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
If you want to develop those characteristic brett flavors I recommend secondarying in the low 60's. This seems to give the brett ample warmth to produce interesting flavor and aromas. If you have the beer at fridge temps (40's) then the brett will probably not perform well. That is really too cold for any yeast (besides maybe lager) to do its thing. I vote you should let the beer warm to the low 6o's and let it secondary for at least 4-6 mos for optimal flavor/aroma production.

At 1.005 you are really not leaving much for the brett to work on so don't be concerned if you don't see much of a change in the beer. At that low of a gravity, if you wanted to, you could even bottle the beer at your desired volumes and be just fine. That is my 2 cents.

10/29/10 08:06 PM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
Thanks for the advice, but I don't believe I've explained myself properly. Perhaps my subject line is misleading. I apologize.

The beer fermented in primary with Brettanomyces. I'm not looking for additional funky flavors as it's already got more than enough from the primary fermentation (in my opinion). The bucket smells like musty over ripe lemon soaked tropical fruit salad. It's just that the taste is a little too coarse to be enjoyable at this time.

The one week lager was done simple to try to get less yeast in the bottles at bottling time. I find that racking to secondary before bottling causes the yeast layer in the bottles to be a good bit thinner. Plus it seems to clear faster.

Mike T
10/29/10 09:03 PM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
Sounds like you should be safe bottling, although I tend to give any beers with Brett a few months at minimum before bottling just to be safe. I tend to like longer secondaries because they make for more consistent beers, less bottle to bottle variation (and it stops me from opening a bunch of bottles before the beer has a chance to age).

I haven't used the Avery/Drie strain, so I can't say what the beer "should" taste like at this stage, but it isn't too surprising that it would be a bit rough.

Hope that helps, good luck.

10/30/10 09:25 AM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
Providing your process was good (not oversparging too hot, etc) and you don't have any tannins in the finished product, then your lagering should help smooth this one out. Give it some more time and don't be worried if the beer goes through some changes. I have had brett beers that tasted great the first few mos, then go through a kind of "sickness" where they become very vegetal tasting. This occurred around mos 5-7 for me, even at lagering temps (go figure). I let it sit a couple mos longer and the beer improved from that point as well.
Mike H
11/05/10 12:46 PM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
<<A biting acidity that gets you in the back of the throat similar to black pepper but without the spice>>

In my experience, that harsh acidity that burns the back of my throat is usually caused by acetic acid. Is it possible that oxygen got into your primary bucket or the secondary? Did you taste it before transferring it to the secondary?

Conditioning may allow the Brett to convert some of it to Ethyl Acetate. That may reduce the harshness of the acidity, as long as oxygen is kept away from the beer

11/05/10 11:49 PM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
The beer was in the primary bucket for 6 weeks so I suppose it could have been exposed to excess oxygen. It just seems odd that the pH didn't drop and there isn't any sort of vinegar aroma to match the bite. If I remember right it tasted the same prior to racking.

At any rate, I ended up bottling anyway. TG was actually closer to 1007. I shot for 3.5 vols of C02 and used sparkling wine bottles to handle the extra carbonation in case it hyper attenuates. I also tossed in a little T-58 dry yeast at bottling to help it carbonate quickly.

Grist was the following:

72.7% Belgian Pilsner

13.6% American Pale (6-row)

9.1% Red Wheat Malt

4.5% Flaked Oates

88% attenuation isn't too bad considering the grist.

I'll taste the first sample after Thanksgiving and report back.

12/07/10 09:29 AM  
Re: Conditioning a Brett-laced Beer
Report: Delicious!

The harshness is gone. Here are the tasting notes I cobbled together this morning after tasting a sample bottle with some friends last night:

Aroma of fresh stone fruit, lemon grass, grapefruit pith, and subtle earthy notes.

Taste of fresh squeezed citrus, herbs, and stone fruit. Bright but restrained acidity. Sweet with a dry finish.

Not peppery and dry like Saison Dupont. Kind of reminds me of a rustic version of Le Merle.

I'm very happy that the harsh acidity is gone and am interested to see how this batch matures over the next couple years. The Avery 15 yeast notes are very noticeable. Yay!

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