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03/18/11 12:23 PM  
Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
Here's the background:

I recently brewed a beer inspired by Ithaca Beer Co.'s Brute and Le Bleu. I used a fair amount of wheat, flaked maize, and acidulated (sauer) malt. I fermented with a wine yeast (Lalvin BM45). After fermentation, I racked onto some cranberries and added a vial of Brettanomyces claussenii.

This is my first foray into using Brett and I figured I would just leave this alone for several months. But now I am worried about leaving the beer on the fruit for too long. Is there a recommended timeframe for keeping the beer on the fruit? Is it possible to leave it on the fruit for too long? If so, what are the ramifications of this?

Thanks in advance for any help/advice.

03/18/11 02:44 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
I usually go a few weeks, no particular reason why. I did find this by Googling though:

If the lambic is to become a fruit lambic, the fruit will go in sometime around one to two years after brewing and the beer will sit on the fruit from three months to a year or more. If trying a kriek, a few months on the fruit should be sufficient. Some people claim the lambic will pick up too much bitterness from the pits if left in contact with them more than a few months. Other authors claim that kriek is left on the cherries and pits until the pits dissolve. In Belgium, after a beer sits on the cherries for a few months, it will be racked off the pulp and pits and a second batch will be racked onto the remaining fruit.

03/20/11 10:55 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
I've heard/read that same thing about adding fruit a year or so after the lambic is brewed, but it was my understanding that it was done that way so that the brewer could see how the brews were coming along and could decide which ones would be krieks, framboises, straight lambics, or go into a geuze.
tom sawyer
03/21/11 11:40 AM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
I had a year-old lambic on 11 lb of unpitted cherries for nearly four months and they showed no sign of degrading to any significant extent. I racked off the cherries because I started to worry about the fruit rotting. Not sure it was necessary, but the beer had acheived a lot of cherry flavor by then.
03/21/11 02:12 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
Many of my sours or brett beers get a fruit addition. Mostly I will split batches so I can have a fruited batch and a plain batch. I always use a ton of fruit (typically 2#/gallon) as I feel that a fruit beer like a good IPA can never have enough fruit (or hops).

I usually let the fruit sit in the beer for at least 6 mos. Many times I let the fruit sit for even 8-10 mos with no detriments. The beer does benefit from this long aging on the fruit from increased acidity, flavor intensity, and aroma. Months of aging will change the color of a lighter colored beer fairly significantly depending on the type of fruit used.

I would definitely leave the beer on the fruit for at least 3-4 mos to gain complexity. Another reason why brewers/blenders wait to add fruit to a sour beer is to let the wild organisms take hold before adding the separate fruit addition for the wild yeast to add more increased complexity to the beer.

03/21/11 06:23 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
I am new to brewing sours, but I have left various different fruit on ciders before for over 1 year and they were very good.

One cider I left the airlock run dry on a gallon just to see what would happen to it and that was actually pretty good to.

03/21/11 10:16 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
Thanks all. That is all very reassuring and what I had originally thought - just realized I didn't really know and got nervous. I'll plan on leaving the beer on the fruit for a few months at least.

On a related note - do you try to swirl or mix the fruit in occasionally or just leave it alone?

03/22/11 11:13 AM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
I will gently swirl the carboy with the fruit the first couple days of fermentation to help break the fruit up a bit more, but after that I let it settle where it will especially if I am using wild bacteria or yeast so as not to break any potential pellicle formation to prevent oxidation.
03/22/11 04:19 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
One other thought.

The last time I used cherries I softened them up first by freezing them. Upon thawing they were sitting in their own juice. So I added just the juice to the beer, fantastic results. I was even able to make a pie from the cherries. That's what I didn't get, the pie also turned out really good. Anyway, not so sure you could freeze juice out of a cranberry, but I thought it was worth adding.

tom sawyer
03/22/11 07:00 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
I also froze my cherries, and added them while still frozen. They still remained mostly intact for the four months. Does anyone mash up the fruit before adding to the beer? I wouldn't want to break open pits but it'd be nice to have the fruit a little bit macerated so it would be more extractable.
03/23/11 07:40 AM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
Actually maceration is a lot like marination. The word has a "chew it up in a mill" sorta sound, but any break up of the fruit would be the result of extend exposure to liquid. Cherries are pretty tough, so they stay intact. You'd be surpised how much juice is extracted though by freezing.
03/23/11 12:56 PM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
I do end up mashing the fruit a bit as it enters into the carboy even after a good round of freezing to burst the cell walls and thawing before adding. I have never seen the cherries dissolved entirely (pits included) as stated in some lambic literature. I have also never noticed any intense kirsch almondy contributions from the cherry pits either.
03/24/11 11:10 AM  
Re: Can a Brett beer be left on fruit too long?
Someone wrote that cherries dissolve? I would not trust them for advice!! Funny, I have also never noticed the almondy thing either. But it doesn't really sound like a bad thing!
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