A while back I bought a vial of Brettanomyces Lambicus WLP653 which is described as;
High intensity Brett character. Defines the “Brett character”: Horsey, smoky and spicy flavors.
I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, I just really wanted to experiment with some mixed fermentations. It sat in my fridge for some time whilst I dreamed up split batches I could use it with and the different ways I could use it but in the end I decided I just wanted to see what it would do. I’ve only ever used brettanomyces once, in a Saison I did a few years ago which turned out brilliantly and is still one of my favourite beers of all time, so I’m far from an expert in how to use it or how to get the best effects.
I decided to take a pre-bittered malt extract kit (the Mangrove Jack’s Craft Series London Porter) and do a part grain brew to try and turn it into a stout.
The stats of the London Porter are;
Colour: Orange Brown
Makes: 23 L
Yeast: M36 Liberty Bell Ale
Brewing Sugar Required: 1 kg Dextrose/Brew Enhancer or 1.2 kg Pure Malt Enhancer
I added a hop sock with 150 grams of chocolate malt and 50 grams of roasted barley to 11 litres of hot water (65°C) and steeped for 30 minutes. I then drained the bag of malt and added half of my malt extract, stirring as I brought everything up to the boil. With 15 minutes left of the boil I added the remaining half of my malt extract and stirred to dissolve.
After the boil I added everything to my fermenter, added 1kg of Dextrose sugar and topped up to 23 litres with cold water before pitching my yeast (1 sachet of Mangrove Jack’s M15 Empire Ale).
I allowed fermentation to go as usual for about 9 days before drawing off five litres into a demijohn where I added a small amount of oak chips and poured in the vial of WLP653.
This was back in September and it is now April so it has been nearly seven months in secondary and I took a sample today. This was a total experiment so I wasn’t really expecting anything but the sample surprised me in a really good way.
The colour is lighter than I was hoping for, more of a brown ale than a stout (but I only added very small amounts of the grains as I didn’t want it to dry out and become acrid). The smell from the sample is rich red wine and a faint vinegar in the background – a little bit earthy and much more complex than I expected. This follows through into the taste. The body is a little thin but the flavour profile is rich and complex like a well aged brett beer should be. I was worried that putting such a small amount of beer onto oak chips for such a long time would have some negative effect but I only get faint vanilla and hopefully the tannins from the oak help improve the body slightly.
I’m really happy with this. The only problem is that I wasn’t expecting it to be any good so I didn’t make any notes on it and as it was nearly 10 months ago now I’ve had to guess a little at my process.
I tried this beer for the first time on the 11th of June so it had been in the bottle for 2 months and was nearly 9 months old. This was actually one of the beers that I live reviewed on the Let’s Make Beer Blog Facebook page so if you want to watch the live review you can find it here; Brett brown ale live tasting.
Appearance: Deep brown with some nice looking red tints when the light hits it – not as bright as I’d expect considering how long it has been conditioning for but it is a darker beer so the clarity is not too much of an issue. A thin head that dissipates quite quickly. The carbonation is light which I was expecting but it has carbonated which I’m pleased with!
Aroma: Really lovely almost red-wine character, some of the musty, horse blanket aromas that you would expect and some inviting, light vinegar aroma. There is a really complex character to the aroma that is quite exciting for a kit beer. On the nose this actually reminds me of a good flanders red – maybe something like Duchesse de Bourgogne.
Flavour: My big worry was that with this being a kit and only a small amount of specialty malt added the brett might just completely strip this of all body and leave it as ‘funky water’. Whilst it is a little bit thin it is not offensively so. The oak, red wine, slight vinegar and funk all carry through into the taste – a really good complexity which I’m made up with and those dark fruit and woody flavours make it a really interesting beer to drink.
Mouthfeel: Lightly carbonated and a touch too thin.
Overall Impressions: I’m really happy with how this beer turned out – this was a total experiment so I really didn’t expect a lot from this but if I had done this as an all grain Flanders Red I would be made up with it. If I was to do this again I would probably use some maltodextrin to give it a little more body in the finish. Update: A few helpful brewers on Reddit advised that brett can eat maltodextrin and that (depending on the strain of Brett that I’m using) I could use lactose to boost the body. Thank you u/rb0ne and u/MDBrews – they also pointed me in the direction of the Milk the Funk wiki for more advice on mixed fermentation which looks like a great resource for anyone interested in brewing these! As this wasn’t an all grain beer I didn’t have control over things like mash temps or the grain bill so in future I’d definitely be looking at other ways to boost the body but for a first attempt I was quite pleased. My plan is to do another kit soon and I have another vial of brett (bruxellensis this time I think) and plan to pitch the dregs from this and just keep experimenting with wild kit beers.
If you’ve experimented with mixed fermentations and kit beers I’d love to hear how it turned out. Feel free to contact me through the contact page or leave a comment below and if you like my blog and want to keep up to date with posts make sure you sign up below!
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