100% Brett Pale Ale

I just picked up the new American Sour Beers book byMichael Tonsmeire (aka The Mad Fermentationist) to see if I can get a better understanding of sour beer preparation. Thus far, I’ve pretty much stayed on the path of mixing in Brettanomyces into Saisons to add a bit of souring. I did try a split batch of my normal Saison recipe and pitched two varieties of mixed yeast loads from Yeast Bay, but there was little to no differences between the two on my palette (though the attenuation was much better in one than the other), so I just blended them back into a single corny and they are aging nicely.

This time, I am interested in doing a full Brett beer (e.g., no brewers yeast). The recipe is one of the ones suggested in the book and is suggested to have a “…big peach flavor that meshes well with the hop aromatics.” Seeing as it is the fall and peaches are starting to roll of the trees into the farmers markets in RVA, it sounded like a nice one to try.

The Recipe

The recipe is for a normal pale ale on my home system. This is essentially the “Sabastian’s God Damn Brett recipe from American Sour Beers modified for my system and the alpha acids on the hops I could get from my LHBS. I typically get somewhere in the low 70s for efficiency in my 5 gallon batches.

  • 7.8# Belgian Pilsner Malt (2.0 SRM) * 1.6# German Wheat Malt (2.0 SRM) * 0.60oz Sterling (7.5% @50 min) * 0.40oz Mt. Hood (6.0%@ 10 min) * 0.40oz Sterling (7.5%@ 5 min) * 0.25oz Mt. Hood (6.0%@ 5 min) * 0.60oz Mt. Hood (6.0%@ 0 min) * 0.60oz Sterling (7.5%@ 0 min) * Brettanomyces claussenii (White labs WLP645)

This is slated to give me an OG of around 1.049, 23 IBU, 3.4 SRM, and a quaffable 4.8% ABV. I did this using a standard single infusion, medium body, batch sparge mash protocol.

The Starter

As for most beers, a good starter is almost as helpful as proper fermentation. I mixed up a starter batch (I typically use 100g x liters to mix up starters which gives me roughly 1.030-1.040 OG). It is suggested many places on the web to have a LARGE starter, in fact as large as one would make for a lager. I began with 1.5L and let it go to completion (~5 days). I was going to decant and build it up again, but kind of ran out of time.

The Brett didn’t act like a normal Saccro starter, it doesn’t make the sludgy precipitate. Trust gravity readings, not visual cues.

The Mash

The mash schedule I followed was a single infusion, batch sparge. This is pretty much what my current system does on a regular basis. I mashed in by adding 3.7g of 171F water (which the garage temperature Home Depot Water Cooler+ 9.4# of grain from the fridge settled at 153F, just in the sweet spot. I carried this for 45 minutes and then started recirculating via the pump to clean the wort. At 60 minutes, I ran the first runnings (1.0XX) off into the boil kettle. I batch sparged in 2 steps of 1.4+ 3.9g 168F water), each time stirring it in, letting it settle, and then circulating for 10-15 min. Final pull from the last sparge was 1.0XX giving me 7.Xg for a 90 minute boil (given all the pilsner malt in there).

The Fermentation

Fermentation was done at slightly higher temperatures than normal. The starter was apparently good enough, it was bubbling within 9 hours of pitching and in the morning it looked like this.

I let this ferment in the ambient temperature of my garage (~80F fairly consistent for the first week). After the first flush of fermentation settled down, around 6 days, a secondary fermentation started, smaller bubbles and lots of turbulence in the fermenter. Here is a movie of it at 7 days.

Father, Husband, Brewer, Professor

Middle aged guy trying to keep it all together and figure out how to best navigate the world as it is. Technology geek, practitioner of fermentation sciences, researcher, biologist.