Today I’m brewing my favorite type of beer to brew… Beers fermented with Brettanomyces! This is our first take on a Brett beer at Tombstone and it features a Brett blend that I developed with the help of a small yeast lab. This particular beer is being fermented with Brettanomyces only. No bacteria and no Saccharomyces.
One of my favorite things about brewing Brett beers is the look of shock on other brewer’s faces when I tell them that we’re bring Brett into the brewery. While cross contamination of yeast is a concern for all breweries, the simple fact is that Brett is just as easy to kill and clean as any other yeast as long as certain precautions are taken. At Tombstone, we actually go a step further than many people might expect. We use color coded gaskets for various types of yeast and we’re very careful to ensure that we’re not having cross contamination even within our various Saccharomyces strains. Every fermenter is checked with an ATP Luminometer in at least 3 locations on the tank and spot checking is done on all the smaller pieces of equipment. Anything that can tolerate heat is also autoclaved for full sterilization.
Another thing I love about brewing with Brett is that so many people still have false impressions of what Brett actually is. Normally when I hear people describing what a Brett beer is, they say it’s a sour beer. I think the reason for that is because Brett is frequently used with bacteria or with other yeast strains to make interesting flavors, sometimes described as earthy, mushroom, funky, leather, or horse blanket. The beer we’re brewing today is none of those. Since we are using only Brett, we will be getting flavors that are actually pretty similar to clean ale yeast strains, with the addition of pineapple and stone fruit esters. The beer will be very fun to watch age as it will change rapidly in the first 3-6 months. At that point, the flavor development will slow, but continue on for many years to come.
Although it is becoming more common in recent years, 100% Brett beers are still pretty rare to come by. The first known 100% Brett beers were brewed just over 10 years ago, so it’s also new enough that brewers are still finding out what can be done with Brett and many strains are still being isolated and propagated every year.
Other than the fear of cross contamination, one of the most frustrating things for brewers is that 100% Brett beers typically don’t have a mouthfeel comparable to what we think of beer feeling like. The reason is that Brett can not create glycogens which contribute creaminess or silkiness to mouthfeel. In order to keep the beer feeling dry and drinkable, but still have a mouthfeel that isn’t thin, we are using a large quantity of flaked oats to replace the missing glycogens.
Our first batch of Brett beer should be ready in about 4-5 weeks and will be heavily dry hopped with Lemondrop hops to compliment the pineapple character from our Brett blend!