Brewing a 100% Brett Pale Ale

A friend recently encouraged me to start a brewing blog and I was hesitant, to say the least. But after some thought I decided to give it a shot. I think it can only help to write out the progress from developing a recipe, to brewing, to the best part, tasting! So here goes…

The same friend brews awesome beer and has a very well written blog, if you’re not reading it yet you should be!

I debated for a while what beer to start with and two reasons brought me to this Brett pale ale. Firstly it’s my most recent beer, having only kegged it about a week ago. Secondly, I had some issues on brew day. Issues with brewing, fermentation, carbonation etc are all part of home brewing. Everyone experiences them at some point. So, despite having some issues on brew day I thought this was appropriate for my first post.

I mainly brew hop forward styles. Over the past couple of years I have become pretty picky, for better or worse, on what I expect out of these styles. I generally want a prominent hop aroma and flavor up front, with very little in the way of specialty malts (especially Crystal!), and I want the beer to finish dry. As dry as possible! I’m not saying this is the correct way to brew IPAs and pale ales, it’s just what I prefer.

I’ve especially been enjoying hop forward beer using Brett as a primary strain lately. You still get some classic Brett barnyard character this way, though it’s far less pronounced. What you lose in barnyard character gets made up for with lots of over ripe fruit and tropical flavors. The Brett only seems to accentuate hops that fall into that category, which is why I think I enjoy Brett as a primary strain so much.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m about as far from an expert with Brett as one can get, this being only my third time using Brett as a primary strain, and only the second time in a hop-forward style. From everything I’ve read Brett used in primary creates a fairly stable flavor profile, showcasing mostly fruity flavor and aroma. But this can change as the beer ages to produce more of the characteristic Brett funk. This changes a great deal when Brett is used in secondary, in this situation it exhibits a much more leather, horse blanket, barnyard profile. As I’ve said, I’m no expert, if you’d like to read more I suggest this post by The Mad Fermentationist.

For strains there are obviously numerous choices. I know someone who has made a couple of fantastic Brett IPAs using Brett Amalgamation from the Yeast Bay, so I felt this was a safe choice. From there, choosing hops wasn’t overly difficult considering what I had on hand. Vic Secret and Kohatu are a couple of new(ish) varieties from Australia and New Zealand, respectively, with both boasting fruity and tropical characteristics. Even though I hadn’t used either before, they also seemed like reasonably safe choices. From there I went with a simplified grist similar to this recipe which I’ve had and really enjoyed.

amalgamation

I built up a starter to about 300 billion cells. I only needed about 200 billion, but I wanted to over grow so I could set some aside to keep an active culture for future use.

As far as the brew day issue I had mentioned previously, this was supposed to be an IPA, not pale ale. I had recently made some changes to my equipment profile and I ended up with a lower than expected efficiency and OG as a result. I ended up 7 points low which lead me out of the IPA category and into pale ale.

Recipe Targets:

5.0 gallons, 74% efficiency, OG 1.058, FG  1.008, IBU  56, SRM 3.7, ABV  5.7%

Grain:

3.50 kg Pale Malt (2 Row) 68.1 %

0.50 kg Oats, Flaked 9.7 %

0.50 kg Wheat Malt White 9.7 %

0.30 kg Carapils 5.8 %

0.20 kg Rice Hulls 3.9 %

0.14 kg Acid Malt 2.7 %

Hops:

20g Polaris [21%] @60

40g Kohatu [6.40 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 15 minutes

40g Vic Secret [17.40 %] – Steep/Whirlpool 15 minutes

35g Kohatu [6.40 %] – Chiller

35g Vic Secret [17.40 %] – Chiller

70.00 g Kohatu [6.40 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days

70.00 g Vic Secret [17.40 %] – Dry Hop 7.0 Days

*Dry hop additions were split. Half added to primary, the other half added to keg in weighted muslin bag.

Extras:

1 whirlfloc tablet @10

1 tsp yeast nutrient @10

Yeast:

The Yeast Bay – Amalgamation Brett Super Blend

I generally mash in quite low for IPA’s, usually at 149F. But I have found some brett beers to be a bit thin so I mashed in a little higher this time, 152F. I also knew from my last experience with this strain that it attenuates quite well.

09/01/2016 Mashed in with 14L water (165F) to attain mash temp of 152F for 45 minutes. Added mash out water, 8L (200F) for 15 minutes. Drained mash tun completely then sparged with 3 gallons of 170F water. Pre boil volume 7.2 gallons. 60 minute boil, chilled to 62F and transferred to primary. Shook for about two minutes, pitched yeast and shook for one more minute (I really need to get an oxygen system). Measured OG 1.051 which is why this ended up a pale ale instead of an IPA.

10/01/2016 Vigorous fermentation within 24 hours. Temperature never rose above 70F.

17/01/2016 Added dry hops

22/01/2016 Racked to CO2 purged keg along with keg hop addition in weighted muslin bag

Force carbed at 35 psi for 36 hours. Vented keg and lowered to serving pressure.

Final gravity 1.004

IMG_0315

Appearance: Pours with a medium, white head which fades to a thin ring within about a minute. Straw colored (lighter than it appears in the picture above) with touch a of orange.

Aroma: Mainly over ripe fruit, a little pineapple, with some Brett barnyard rounding things out.

Taste: Similar to the aroma, light pineapple and maybe a little mango and orange. Brett barnyard funk comes through mid taste. Light bitterness that fades quickly, finishing quite dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium carbonation, light body, crisp and dry.

Overall: Despite my issue on brew day this turned out fairly well. I’m enjoying having it on tap and it seems to be mostly well received by friends (even the honest ones). Having said that if this was an IPA I would like a little more punch from the hops, but as a pale ale I think it works. If you get a chance to purchase either of these hops I can definitely say I recommend them. I’m excited to try a new strain of Brett and my favorite hop (Nelson) for my next Brett IPA. Coming soon…

 

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7 thoughts on “Brewing a 100% Brett Pale Ale”

  1. Good first post. Congrats on starting the blog – I’ve been thinking about doing the same … a combination of both TW & homebrewing. I’ll be watching this blog closely. Cheers.

    Jake

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  2. Great first post. I just received a vial of Amalgamation and I plan on doing my first 100% Brett IPA, I was wondering how you made your starter (ie. multiple steps, how long did you stir for, etc.) I’ve read a lot of varying answers on this strand

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    1. I began with a 1L DME starter, I let that spin for a few days until activity slowed. I then added 2L of DME starter and let that go for about a week. I did use yeast nutrient both times, though I’m not sure it was necessary. After the week I crahsed, and decanted as usual. I did over build as mentioned to keep an active culture. This is a great blend! I’d like to hear what you think of it. Thanks for the reply and happy brewing!

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  3. When I did a Brett IPA w/ Amalgamation a got kinda a light phenolic (peppery)/herbal thing going–did you notice any of that? Though I was on like generation five of my Amalgamation batch at that point 😛

    Great writeup!

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    1. This is second generation, and I didn’t notice anything like that. But I do know a brewer that had to toss his strain on the third generation due to an issue with it.

      Thanks for the reply. Cheers!

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