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Brewing With Brettanomyces

The Brew Dudes went out for beer last Thursday night. I twittered about it. Mike didn’t know we tweet. I said I didn’t know we did either.

I also told him we are now friends with Charlie P. on Facebook. He didn’t know that either. Dude, the world is shrinking….and these were the subjects we discussed during the first beer.

The second beer we had was a Cantillon Kriek Lambic and it was tremendous. I have had some Lambics before, but this Kriek was great. Not sure if a master of pairing beer with food would have approved of my Kriek/BBQ Cheeseburger combo…but oh well. It worked for me!


Lambics are traditionally fermented with wild yeast, including our friend Brett (Brettanomyces). Not sure if this Kriek was fermented with Brettanomyces but it had a light body.  It also had a sourness that may have come from cherries or bacteria or both, but it definitely did not taste like “beer”. The range of flavors you can get from different kinds of beers is amazing…and I am glad I am still amazed to this day.

The wild yeast that live in Senne valley of Belgium give lambics have their signature taste. This concept gives me a few thoughts.

1. What would wild yeast that live in my neighborhood make my beer taste like? They would probably bring in da noise and bring in da funk…and not in a good way…but it might be a good experiment. Put that one on the ever-growing list of experiments that the Brew Dudes need to conduct.

2. Would I ever attempt to brew a lambic? You can get strains of Brettanomyces from White Labs. It might be interesting to give it a go. My hesitation comes from the fact that Brett is usually seen as an off-flavor in other beers…which brings me to thought number 3.

3. When is someone’s off-flavor someone else’s on-flavor?

I would like to get input from readers who have brewed with Brett. What has your experience been?


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  1. Ted

    Yo BrewDudes,

    My only experience has been extended aging of my old ales with Wyeast’s Lambic Blend. It’s a blend of brett yeasts, wild yeast and lactic bacterial strains. It really does a great job finishing a beer from a higher FG, and adds a lot of complexity to the beer. My Old Ale started at OG 1.083 and finished at 1.030, then the blend took it down to 1.019. It did take an exceedingly long time to finish though (about a year).

    It takes all the hop character away, brings on a definite brett/barnyard aroma and taste, sours it a bit, and dries it some. The overall flavor is actually quite strong. I’ve been blending it with other beers (bottling and in the glass), and found that less is more. Also, as I blend it with other beers in jugs and bulk fermenters, the suspended yeast starts to chow down on unfermentables from the “new” beer within minutes.

    No experience with fermenting a beer in primary with brett or lambic blend, but very much intend to in the future. I love sour beers, and plan to experiment a lot.

  2. Thanks Ted. Yeah, I read that Brett is used in real, honest to goodness, secondary fermentations for the most part. There are brewers out there that use it in their primary fermentations without the help of Brett’s cousin Saccharomyces. I wonder how bold those beers are in terms of flavor. I read descriptions of beers fermented with Brett using words like “horsey”….

  3. Aaron

    I really want to brew an oud bruin one of these days, I finally got to try a commercial example of it a month or so ago and absolutely loved it, but it’s so hard to come by I’d hate to have to buy it often.

  4. DJ @ Fermentarium

    I use it in the secondary for lambics. The flavor is a lambic, but if you are expecting Lindemann’s you’ll be disappointed. The flavor is closer to the oud bruin.

    I wouldn’t recommend doing an open fermentation and leaving it to chance. You might get lucky, but you’ll most likely get spoiled beer.

  5. DT

    Cantillon Kriek seems to be in a category all its own. While brett in there, there are also many other wild yeast and bacteria that bring the complex flavors. You get a sour/tartness from the cherries, but a lot of that sourness comes from the bugs. Try their lambic or gueze and you’ll see what I mean, both are still very sour. To get a more specific brett flavor (not the lambic blend), make sure to pour yourself an Orval.

    1. As far as wild yeast in your area go, it never hurts to experiment. I’ve tried open spontaneous fermentation with leftover wort a handful of times in different locations and received very different results in almost all cases. None of it them were something I’d hand out to people, but there were drinkable qualities about them once I got past some of the smells.

    2. If you find yourself brewing a lambic, go with the lambic blend, not just a strain of brett. But don’t limit yourself to just lambics! There is so much experimentation to be done, even if just talking about brett. There is the all brett fermentation, the secondary only brett fermentation, the single strain brett fermentation, the multi-strain brett fermentation, etc.

    3. While brett characteristics maybe considered off flavors in other beers, beauty is in the eye of the beholder… A few months ago, the homebrew club I recently joined (Wort Processors) had an off flavor kit and did an education session. They used an industrial light lager as the control beer to which they added off flavors. When we got to the section on lactic/acetic off flavors, I personally thought the beer tasted better than it did before the addition of off flavors. So I guess I feel that an off flavor is called an off flavor, because it was an unintended flavor – not necessarily because it was a bad flavor.

    You should read up on Mike’s blog – http://madfermentationist.blogspot.com/ – he’s done a lot of experimenting and thankfully is one of those brewers that sees the value in freely dispensing of his knowledge…and beer for that matter, ha.

    Finally, for a real education, get yourself to the Belgian Beer Fest, specifically the “Night of the Funk”! If you like the Cantillon Kriek, then you’ll find a lot of beers here that will blow your mind. Have fun on the long journey!

  6. Hi Aaron, Deege, and DT.

    Thank you for the comments. I am glad you took part in the discussion. Definitely some things to think about. Aaron, if you do brew the Oud Bruin…let us know.

    I think I am going to check up on the mad fermentationist. See what he has…uh…fermenting.

  7. Shamas

    I brewed a beer “in the spirit of” Orval, called Y’allval. Primary fermentation was with a belgian Saccaromyces strain, which brought the OG from 1.054 to about 1.009. I then transfered to a carboy and dosed the beer with a vial of Brettanomyces brux. from White Labs… which, over the course of 4-5 months, brought the gravity down to 1.003. Added priming sugar, fresh Saccaromyces, and bottled.

    The “funky” character of this beer is extremely subdued and not really as complex or rich as Orval. I think perhaps I should have pitched the brett earlier in the game, maybe after half the fermentation was complete (or, even, at the same time I pitched the Sacc.)

    The beer is extremely good however and makes my belly tingle like no other of my homebrews do.

  8. Mark

    Hey Dudes,

    I started my journey into soured beers about a year and a half ago.Currently I have about 30 gallons of beer in various states of souring. You asked about brett so my experiances are like so.

    I have used brett as a primary yeast in a high gravity saison I did recently. No sac yeast was used and it has dropped from 1.080 to 1.016 in about 6 weeks. When i racked this beer, which I didn’t really have to do, I took a taste and their was no typical brett aroma or taste, it tasted like a saison and was a bit dry from the low gravity. I have read as much info as I could about brett as a primary fermentor but there isn’t much out there yet. Some helpful stuff I found was on http://www.babblebelt.com/newboard/forum.html?tid=1108752780&pg=1
    There is an artcile on the page called “The all brett project” which was full of interesting info.

    As far as lambics and flanders, I have 2 batches of flanders going and I recently did my first lamic style of beer. I used all blends you can get at LBHS and have mixed it up as far as what I have used. I have had good luck with the wyeast roesalare blend if you can find that. That one has sac yeast as well as some bugs in it to give you that sourness you might be looking for.

    Have fun and welcome to the madness.

    Oh lastly, you also asked about leaving your fermentor open to your neighborhood air, I have yet to do it but have a few friends that have. They say to do it in the fall or spring and that they have brewed, covered the wort with cheese cloth, left it outside for 2 days and then covered and attached an airlock, Some say good results some not, you’ll just have to try it out!

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