Sunday, April 5, 2015

Brett Caison

Awhile ago I did an interview with award winning homebrewer Keith Ciani on staggered fermentation, it rocked my socks off.  As a homebrewer I have watched my journey ever evolve as my "tool kit," was reshaped (by Crooked Stave), smashed apart (by Devil's Purse brewer, Mike's Stout Saison Brett), and rebuilt again (still working that through). Whether it's mixed cultures, tertiary fermentation profiles, blending, cross-style brewing, staggered malt additions, seasonal/historical brewing or caramelizing raisins in brown sugar, my brewer's mind is constantly trying to unwrap itself from the constraints of style and delve into the never ending abyss of perception.

The interview focused on how a staggered fermentation can lend to getting the character you wish from one yeast, yet the attenuation of another.  So I thought to myself, how would this apply to flavor profiles, and my first thought was of my old friend Brett. What I came up with is to follow.

My plan is to make a Brett-Saison, but instead of going the "funk," route, I am going to use the yeast character of a "100% Brett fermentation profile" to compliment the profile of a Saison fermentation.  Saison 565 may not be the best choice for this and I'm sure to find myself doing this more down the road with other strains, in fact, I must, but for now the high ester Saison characters of 565 will due fine.  Couple that with the tropical fruit/tangerine of Brett C and I think we may have a winning combo!

A small caveat, Brett C is "usually," not really considered a "primary fermenter," although I was happy to find other wild and crazy brewers testing the waters; For instance, fellow beer writer Derek Dellinger.  With that settled, it is Spring, the season of Saison (apropos), and being that Brett C's character as a primary fermenter includes words like tangerine, I am easily sold.

Let's Begin


OG - 1051
FG - 1005ish
ABV - 6.1%
BUGU - .25 - .5

American Pilsner - 8 lbs
White Wheat - 1 lbs
Carapils - .5 lbs
Acidulated - .5 lbs

Mash - 152

This grist and mash were engineered with three end goals in mind, body, alignment with the citrus flavors,  yeast esters, and quick turnaround time.  First, the wheat and carapils will add perceived body to a beer that will attenuate highly.  Second, the acid will compliment those citrus flavors, bringing the acidity of the beer up (or the pH down) to our mind's perceived acidity of a citrus fruit.  Read more on this concept here and scroll down to the section labeled "Acidity."  In turning the beer quickly, I don't need to mash ultra high as I would with a beer I intend to age with Brett, but I do want some portion of additional dextrins to continue to add to my perceived mouthfeel, so 152 it is.  Middle of the road.  As a side note, Mike Tonsmeire also notes the presence of lactic acid is a catalyst to the fruity ester ethyl lactate:
"I added a half pound of acid malt after starch conversion to provide some lactic acid for the Brett to create the fruity ester ethyl lactate." 

Fermentation Profile (the whole shibang): Split batch possibility (No fermenters left! Ran with the staggered pitch)
1. Staggered Pitch Saison third gen slurry, then Brett C.
2. Mixed culture.  Both pitched at the same time.

I built up a vial of Brett C in 3 steps over a period of a month and stored at room temp per the suggestion of Chad Y in his interview at the BN.  I tossed that slurry into a 250ml starter at 1040 with very little nutrient (he actually says none is needed, I just couldnt help myself), and stepped that to 2L after 5 days then let that run for 5 more days.  In the meantime, I simply brewed and pitched slurry from my Rye Saison which went to my  cool fermentation Saison at 70 degrees.  As soon as I have airlock activity I'll pitch the starter of Brett.  No aeration is needed at this stage as the Brett will be happy to ferment in an anaerobic environment, then off to a warm water bath of at least 80 degrees.

This process will allow for the Saison to get a head start on ester production and then the Brett will have plenty of sugars (near a full fermentation) in a truly anaerobic environment hopefully leaving us with a dry, tropical fruit/tangerine Saison that has all its flavors derived from the yeast!

Challenger (or Santium) at 5 targeting .5 BUGU.  Mike and Matt from Devil's Purse kindly donated a pound of each to the Brew Farm Group, perfect.   I was thinking Nelson may be a good choice here too, complimenting the fruit.  Layer aroma with floral, or compliment with fruit?  I'd bet a winner either way!  Bottom line, this is a yeast-centric beer, let's keep our eyes on the prize.


Split the batch to two 3G carboys and pitch the Saison and Brett at the same time in one and stagger the pitch per this article in the other.  A Triangle Test is a great way to see if you have created a measureable difference.

Pre-Brew Day

Initial Brett C build
11/10/14 - Brett C vial that was kept on shelf to 500ml 1040 starter on stir plate. and no nutrient. Kept at room temperature room for 8 days.

11/18/14 - Stepped up to 1300 ml and back on stir plate.  Smelled great, looked great!

12/3/14 - off stir plate and split to three 400ml boiled jars.  Stored at room temp per Chad Y. Resulted in thick 50ml slurry.

Brett C rebuild:
3/26/15: Took two beautiful 50ml slurries to 250ml 1040 wort with a little nutrient on stir plate at 67.
3/31/15 - Stepped - adding 1750ml of 1040 with smidge of nutrient, CaCl, Gypsum and baking soda to RO water. Result 2L total volume.
4/1/15 - high krausen, white foamy head.

Brew Day: 4/4/15 w/MoBigs

Strike - 4G at 162 - landed at 151. 60 min mash. 90 minute boil.  OG - 1048.  Pitched 3rd gen Saison slurry, 200ml (it's all there was) at 70 degrees @ 1730.  MrMalty would say this is 50% of target pitch.

D1 - 4/5/15 - 0900. Krausen had formed and beer was jammin.  Pitched entire 2L starter and placed fermenter in 80 degree water bath.  Aquarium heater set to max to 1keep above 80.
D4 - krausen dropped and airlock activity down to 1/5.  Taste is on a good path.  Brix - 5.2.  1.003!  Sooo, that may explain the big reduction in airlock activity. That's a heckuva 84 hour party!
4/10/15 - 1/5 - 80 degrees.
4/15/15 - moved to room temp (65-67)
4/25/15 - racks 1G to 1.5lbs fresh diced rhubarb
5/15 - bottled with sugar tabs
7/13/15 - this is an epic base beer for so many fun brews!  Pale straw. Dry. A very light saison citrus and spice in the aroma which seems to be getting eaten up as the beer progresses!  Far more Saison esters 6 weeks ago.  Carb is still increasing. Solid body, very light an epically quaffable.  The Brett character of the primary ferment is very subtle on the fruit.  Highly complimentary.   I love this beer and see many iterations...Next time try upping the acid malt to 1lb and/or a straight mixed culture.

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