My very first trip to the Allagash brewery in Portland, Maine opened my eyes to a whole new world of beer styles, flavors, and quality. At that time I hadn’t had much exposure to Belgian styles or any wild ales for that matter. On that first trip they had four samples on tap, White, Saison, Century Ale, and finally Midnight Brett. They were all great beer in their own right, and all free to sample! But I enjoyed Midnight Brett the most and luckily I was able to purchase two bottles to take home as well.
I didn’t make any tasting notes that day, or with the bottles I brought home (Doh!) but I did remember how complex the beer was. Not to mention it still stands out for me as one of the best beers I’ve enjoyed from Allagash, along with Nancy and Coolship Resurgam. It was something completely different from anything I had enjoyed up to that point.
Here’s what Allagash has to say about Midnight Brett:
“Midnight Brett gets its name from the Midnight Wheat we brew it with. The dark wheat gives it a deep, dark chocolate color. The aroma opens with fresh berries and sour cherries, and ends with a warm roastiness. Each sip offers smooth drinkability met with the zip of tart fruitiness on the palate. We brew this beer with 2-row, Midnight wheat, raw wheat, and rye malt. It’s hopped with a blend of Perle, Glacier, and Simcoe hops. We then add our house strain of local, wild Brettanomyces yeast. The yeast works its magic over the next eight months where the beer ferments in a stainless tank. Midnight Brett begs to be shared no matter the hour on the clock.”
I knew, realistically, that I wouldn’t get extremely close to recreating it. I mean, this brewery makes incredible beer, and they’ve been doing it for a long time. Ranging from their tasty classic Belgian styles (White, Saison, Black, Dubbel, Tripel etc.) to their wild ales and coolship program which create incredible complex and tasty offerings. I did email Allagash trying to get a few details to help me out when I was writing this recipe. I was mainly looking for approximate grain percentages and a Brett strain as I assumed they used a house strain. To my surprise the Technical Lead at the brewery responded quickly, and they were quite helpful. I gave them what I had come up with for a grain bill and they responded with a “looks good”, they did confirm they used a house Brett strain but were nice enough to point me towards Brett Claussenii, calling it “a beast!”. I didn’t remember hops playing a large role in the flavor of the beer, and there wasn’t much bitterness to speak of. So I settled on using about 35 IBUs, something in the range of a Saison. I didn’t have all of the hops that were listed for their recipe, but since I didn’t find them to have a prevalent role any of the times I’ve had the beer I didn’t worry too much about it, and I tried to sub in something remotely similar.
Recipe Targets: 10 gallons, Efficiency 72%, OG 1.055, FG 1.008, IBU 36, SRM 34, ABV 6.0%
7.0 kg 2-row 67.9%
1.0 kg Rye malt 9.7%
0.9 kg Wheat malt 8.8%
0.8 kg Midnight wheat 7.8%
0.4 kg Rice hulls 3.9%
0.2 kg Acid malt 1.9%
Magnum (13%) @ 60
Amarillo (8.7%) @ 10
CTZ (13.4%) @ 10
1 Whirlfloc tablet @ 10
2 tsp yeast nutrient @ 10
White Labs – Brett Claussenii
I normally don’t brew 10 gallon batches, mainly because the majority of the beers I brew are hop forward and I just can’t get through that much on my own before the hops have faded significantly. But I had signed up for a beer exchange within a local beer club, the NBCBA and I wanted half for the exchange and the other half to age for an extended period of time as per the feedback I received from Allagash.
03/11/2015 Brewed by myself, mashed in with 27L @162F for 60 minutes resulting in a mash temp of 147F (target was 149F), mashed out with 15L @207F for 15 minutes. Drained mash tun completely and fly sparged with 4 gallons @168F. Pre boil gravity was 7 points high, 1.054, I assume increased efficiency as a result of fly sparging? Boil for 60 minutes, chilled to 60F, and split wort to two primaries. Shook each carboy for approximately two minutes, pitched about 200 billion cells to each and saved a little to maintain a culture. Shook each carboy for approximately one more minute each.
Activity took off within 24 hours and continued strong for a few days. Temperature never rose above 68F, within a week krausen had fallen and SG had already dropped to 1.008! Brett C is a beast indeed. I left it in primary for another five weeks (after which time it had settled in at 1.006) before bottling to meet the exchange deadline. I tried the beer a week later and I found it, well, boring. It tasted of light roast character, had a smooth mouth feel and minimal Brett presence, it tasted similar to a dark saison, but not a good dark saison. I was worried I was going to be “that guy”, you know, the guy that brings the worst beer to the exchange and everyone is stuck with drinking or dumping the mess he created. I decided to leave the bottles for another six weeks before reevaluating and luckily it’s coming along and gaining some complexity. Below are the tasting notes as the beer is now, I do still have the other carboy that will be left for another four to six months in primary with some Brett dregs added to, hopefully, improve this even more.
Appearance: Pours with a medium, brown and tan head which fades after several minutes to a quarter finger. Dark brown, almost black in color.
Aroma: Some dark fruit, light roast and slight leather.
Taste: Again dark fruit, cherry followed by leather Brett notes and finally moderate roast with almost no bitterness to speak of.
Mouthfeel: Medium-high carbonation, medium body, smooth.
Overall: I am enjoying this beer more now that it has some age,complexity, and Brett character. The roast character is still a little too prevalent but I know that will fade with time. I would likely reduce the midnight wheat to 6% next time. I am looking forward to comparing this batch with the batch still in primary, I will update my tasting notes at that time. I believe this is a solid recipe and an easy one to brew, it’s going to be nice to have bottles of this around for quite some time. I hope to get my hands on another bottle of Midnight Brett next month when I get back to the brewery so I can do a side by side comparison.