Saturday, February 19, 2011

Brett'd Beers - My take on adding Brettanomyces

I was recently asked my experience with homebrewed beers that use Brett for at least part of the fermentation. After I sent the email, I went back and read it again and thought it could be a good post. I think it expresses my experiences, and opinions, about using Brett in homebrew pretty well........

When using Brett I prefer lower IBU/maltier beers as the base. Now this isn't to say that the beer is sweet, rather the balance of IBU:OG tips it towards the malt. I go this route as I find that the phenolics/esters that Brett produce don't sit well on my palate with lots of bitterness AND i like the Brett funk to shine, you may feel otherwise with some experience but I would nudge you this direction for your first go around.

I also prefer lower gravity Brett beers, because they are ready to drink much more quickly that higher gravity beers, part of this is time needed for flavor development, but most of it is due to the flavors not melding quite right without some aging.

In my experience the higher alcohol beers tend to make Brett put out a lot more sharp phenolics and acids that don't mesh well with lots of alcohol, given time though this will mellow and the beer can taste quite good. However, starting with a lower gravity beer the funk will be a tad milder/smoother and will meld with the beer much more quickly. For a frame of reference This beer is something I brew quite often, however its OG is typically in the 1045 range. The version in the link is in the 1060's, the 1045 version is typically very good after about 2-3mos, while the 1060 version is just now starting to really come together (~1yr+)

Another thing that's nice about lower grav Brett beers is you really get to experience the beer as it changes. Early on the sacch profile will dominate, with age the Brett takes over, I think its a good experience to be able to taste the beer as it evolves. Remember though that no matter what Brett will completely take over a beer given enough aging time.

Ok Now some specific questions.........

When to add Brett? with primary yeast or to secondary?

I generally add the Brett with the primary yeast, this gives it time to gobble up some easy to digest sugars and nutrients to grow up its population. I would suggest doing a 1-2L starter of the Brett prior to using it though, along with a normal sacch starter (albeit a tad small) This does however tend to make a slightly funkier beer, so if you want a much milder Brett presence add it to secondary with the same type of starter and a pinch of yeast nutrient

Brett Type?*

My personal favorite for most styles is Brett Brux. I really like the flavor profile overtime'

Brett C - Haven't brewed with myself but tasted several beers made with it. In my opinion the beers which tend to be pretty bland and lacking on their own without a small amount of acid, even then they tend to be fairly clean and mild. Ive never noticed the supposed pineapple character this Brett is said to produce

Brett L - A Brett I really like a lot, but think it works best in a beer with fruit and especially with grapes, or in a darker maltier beer with a pinch of acid. Without the acid the flavor profile is still pretty good but tends to seem a bit flabby, adding a bit of acid (doesn't even need to be enough to make it tart) really helps to bring out the ester profile and really make those flavors pop. This strain can produce lots of pie cherry aromas but Ive never gotten it to produce that flavor, although overall it is very fruity

Brett B - This is my go to Brett for a basic pale type beer, works well in both high or low grav worts, although aging time is directly related to OG. very characteristic brett funk, higher grav beers tend to have a overripe banana flavor to me, acid isn't needed for the flavors to shine with this strain

*All of the flavor profiles listed here are for the Wyeast Brett cultures

Bulk Aging Time?

So, another question that came up was the bulk aging time prior to bottling. I am generally fairly slow with racking, kegging or even getting to drinking a batch of homebrew. Its actually the reason I think my buddy Jon, a good brewer in his own right, always thinks my beers are much crisper and smoother than his are (he drinks them very quickly), and my Brett'd beers arent any different.

I don't take FG readings all that often anymore, mostly because of how long I normally let the beer sit in primary. But I do suggest taking readings for a Brett'd beer that you've never brewed before. If its a recipe you've used, you can expect a couple extra points to come off your typical FG, but don't expect super attenuation. Brett really isn't capable of super attenuating a beer on its own, the different bugs and yeast need to work in conjunction for that to happen. For the example I gave before, I would expect to need about 3-4mos of bulk aging prior to bottling, and about 1-2 for the 1040 version. Remember that the higher gravity the longer I would suggest waiting to bottle, Id roughly say that a rule of thumb would be that for every 10pts above an OG of 1020 you should bulk age for 1month. So a 1040 is 2mos, a 1060 is 4mos and a 1080 is 6mos.

As far as when to drink that is up to you. What I do is taste every month or so and start drinking when it tastes good, things do only get better with time though!

This is still a work in process and will evolve with time. I'd also bet there are quite a few things I didn't think to put in there, being as close to the issue as I am its tricky to see the questions other people might have. If there's something I left off let me know and I'll try to add it as best as I can


Dave K. said...

How long do you bulk age before you bottle the 1045 version? What is your standard timeline for your brett beers?

Good Write up!

Ryan said...


Thanks for the heads up, I edited the post to include what I generally do

Dank brewer said...

Very Helpful. I have a vial of Brett C. in my fridge that I'm getting ready to do a smallish - Saison Brett with Brett C and Wyeast French Saison 3711. What temp is best for Brett fermentation? Normal 65-70? What happens at higher temps?

Ryan said...

during the most "vigorous" portion of the fermentation, I generally try to have the beer under normal ale temps, although with extended aging Ive had beers easily reach 85F

way down the line the high temps wont effect much, but early on they will make the beer much more phenolic, and should be avoided at all costs during the primary ferment

Jorge - Brew Beer And Drink It said...

I've yet to try any beers brewed with Brett... what are some good commercial examples?

Ryan said...

Brute - Ithaca
Saison Brett - Boulevard
Matilda - Goose Island

Those are a couple off the top of my head that are brett only or brett/sacch beers, other things like flanders reds and lambics have brett too, but the flavors are complimented by the acidity

Anonymous said...

When you bottle, do you add any more yeast or just corn sugar to carbonate? Does it take longer than usual to carbonate in the bottle?


Ryan said...

- I dont add additional yeast to brett'd beers, but will add it to a 2yr+ old lambic to deal with the acidity and time

- I wouldnt say it takes any longer, than normal, but I tend to be very slow compared to most homebrewers in doing much with my beer

Anonymous said...

When you mention adding "acid" - are you referring to straight lactic (78% or whatever is standard from winemakers) or something else?


Ryan said...

Anon - You could do it that way, Ive never been the biggest fan of straight lactic acid though, and prefer to use citric acid if I add it, other ways would include ~10% of acid malt or using lactic acid bacteria

Drewski said...

Can you comment on your choice of yeast producer? White Labs indicates that Brett L provides the strongest “horse blanket” funk, whilst Wyeast indicates that Brett B produces more of said funk. I’m gearing up for my first Brett beer and don’t know whom to believe.

Also, I’m looking to bring out a fairly strong funk character. Intuitively, I lean toward an all-Brett beer. But I have read some reviews indicating that the funk will be more pronounced in a beer that has already gone thru primary fermentation using another yeast, as the alcohol present will stress the Brett more and bring out more funk in the process. Any thoughts on that?

Ryan said...

Drewski - Most of my personal experience is with the WY versions. I have tasted many with WL brett though. It should be kept in mind that just because they each label one strain as lambicus or brux doesnt mean the WY = WL, in fact each yeast lab has very different strains

the descriptions I gave above were for WY, Ive tasted the WL Lambicus and have to agree it is over the top horsey, while the brux is a bit mroe subdued although its still fairly funky. Both versions of C seem comparably bland to me. If you like fruity flavors mixed with a moderate bretty flavor I would suggest using the Wyeast Brett L

Nateo said...

I'm planning my first set of B. lambicus beers, so it was great coming across this post. I was originally going to use a BDS and a Tripel as my base beers, but after reading this I'm going to scale down to an enkel and dubbel.

Ed Hanna said...

For a 1060 brew, how long do you leave on primary before raking to secondary; or do you leave it sit on the yeast cake for the whole 4 months? Thanks

Ryan said...

Ed - as far as racking, that is up to you.
Ive gone both ways. Racking makes a cleaner tasting beer, while leaving on the cake makes it funkier. Taste as you go and if you get to a point you like the taste (and your on the cake) rack, and let it sit till you feel comfortable.

lifefermented said...

Over this summer I made an IPA with a ton of tropical fruit hops and used a 100% Brett fermentation (Kick in the Mangos IPA) with no other yeast. My experience was, when used in this way, it acts just like a normal yeast as far as attenuation, ferment schedule, etc. You should avoid excess oxygen, however, as it will get tart/ sour quickly- my starter I was constantly swirling was quite puckering, but the beer itself was not at all. It also avoids the characteristic barnyard type of flavors, instead giving a more tropical fruit flavor when used without other yeasts, as you need them to make some precursor compounds.
- Dennis, Life Fermented Blog

Ryan said...


I agree with you to an extent, brett only beers always seem to start out fruity and act like sacch beers, but with extended aging (I have 4yr old brett beers) they become your typical funky bretty beer

I see this as a great thing though, the beer continues to evolve and changes dramatically with age, constantly keeping me on my toes!!

Anonymous said...

You have commented that you are slow racking, bottling, and drinking. How long is your normal timeframe on primary, secondary before bottling for a non-Brett beer? Do you add yeast before bottling?

I was told by my LHBS that flavors of a Brett beer won't change much after bottling. The comments here seem to say that flavor will change while in the bottle. ??

Thank you. Enjoy your blog.

Ryan said...


My normal timeframe for a "clean" beer is around 4-5wk from pitch to kegging/bottling and no I dont add yeast at that point its not necessary

As to your LHBS telling you brett beers dont change with time, they ....have NO idea what they are talking about!!!

There are very few people Ive spoken with at LHBS's that really know what they are talking about.

Orval is bottled with brett, how does that beer change with time? Grab a fresh bottle, or a 1yr,2yr old bottle and see how they taste.

All funky beers evolve with time, its part of what makes them so great.

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