Feb 12, 2014

Brewday: Sideshow Brett - 100% Brett Baby IPA

The low gravity (aka Baby) IPA-style beer is a beer I keep coming back to. Big hop aroma, nice bitter kick but very drinkable. I know some people think it's stupid to call it an IPA when pale ale is the category for a pale hoppy beer that's lighter than an IPA. Still, I think that when the balance of bitterness is on the side of the IPA, the IPA label is appropriate and even helpful. If a label like IPA has any meaning, it's to give people an idea of what to expect before they drink it.

I've brewed several of these over the years with some good results and they're always somewhere on my torturously long list of 'what I'd like to brew next'. I've also been aiming to brew some kind of Brett IPA since August but between competitions, events and a couple of seasonal brews, I haven't been able to get to it until now. So here we are, two birds, one stone.

The yeast I used is fairly exotic. Last year my brother posted me a jar of Brett II from Saccharolicious, a home brew yeast supplier in Sweden. I've been itching to try it out in a beer but haven't gotten past making a starter. The starter gave me heaps of strawberry aroma and I'm hoping that those esters make it into the finished beer. I'm flying blind with regard to temperature and the esters it will give in primary fermentation so we'll just have to see how it goes.

The recipe is pretty much what I've used before for a 'clean' Baby IPA except for a smallish addition of flaked oats to ensure the beer has a decent body. Vienna and biscuit malt are there to maximise the malt flavour which is important in helping a low gravity beer punch above its weight. I've used it in the past with good results. With the hop combination I'm shooting for a big fruity and floral punch with plenty of bitterness to back it. Hopefully the Brett will give an extra dimension to the hops.

The good stuff! Crackerjack biscuit malt.

I'm still fairly new at 100% brett fermentations but these seem to be the key differences between a 100% brett beer and a 'clean' Saccharomyces fermentation:
  • Add some extra lactic acid/acidulated malt after the mash conversion is complete to get more fruity esters from the Brett. The lactic acid is converted during fermentation to ethyl lactate which can add creamy and fruit aromas.
  • A brett fermentation can leave a thin mouthfeel. It's a good idea to mash a bit higher than normal and maybe add flaked oats/barley/rye for body.
  • It's a good idea to grow up a bigger starter than with saccharomyces. I aimed for a pitching rate of 1.25 million cells/ml/degree plato or around 245 billion cells total. Most people seem to suggest something between standard ale and lager pitching rates.
  • Keep oxygen out! Brett tends to produce acid/funk when it's got access to oxygen, the aroma of my starter was crazy. We're talking about the stinkiest washed rind cheese smell ever, it was crazy. The original unstirred starter was all strawberry, hopefully that's what I get from the beer.
  • Fermentation temperature is a bit of an unknown for me with this yeast but it seems to be higher than I'd normally ferment an IPA. The yeast didn't come with any documentation so I'm making a guess based on WLP644 Brett Trois which says 21-29C. I started conservatively at 19C but it was sluggish until I increased it to 21C.

Hop stew: post boil hop stand
Sideshow Brett Baby IPA (22L batch)
OG: 1.035 (1.037 measured)
FG: 1.007
IBU: 35
EBC: 8.3
ABV: 3.9%

88% Golden Promise
7% NFH Crackerjack (biscuit malt)
5% Flaked oats

5g Columbus @ 45 minutes
20g Simcoe @ 10 minutes
20g Galaxy @ 10 minutes
20g Centennial @ 10 minutes
30g Simcoe @ dry hop
30g Galaxy @ dry hop
30g Centennial @ dry hop

Brett II from Saccharolicious

  • 8g CaSO4, 2g CaCl2, 3g MgSO4 to increase the calcium and sulfate. 3ml lactic acid added during mash out to encourage the production of ethyl lactate.
  • Stepped mash: 66C (45 min), 72C (15 min) and a mash out at 78C.

  • 60 minute boil with hop additions as above at 45 and 10 minutes.
  • Irish moss @ 15 minutes.

  • Chilled but didn't oxygenate this time. 
  • Started fermentation at 20C, increased to 22C over 7 days.

31/01/14 - Brewed with help from Sacha

12/02/14 - Krausen has mostly dropped, I'll take a gravity reading in the next day or two and hopefully dry hop & bottle within the week.

22/02/14 - Finally got around to dry hopping

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