Thursday, November 1, 2012

100% Brett Trois White IPA - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Cairn 100% Brett White IPA

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: 100% Brett / White IPA
Brewed: 8.31.2012
ABV: 4%

Appearance: beautiful amber gold, extremely clear, nice head
Smell: juicy tropical fruit, sweet funk, wheat, grass, spice
Taste: tart, sweet fruit, tropical, fruit-flesh, peach, mango, citrus hops, spicy bitter finish

Mouthfeel: light body, thin, med carbonation, bright, crisp

Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (or Brett Trois, for short) may not technically be a new yeast strain — it's a culture isolated from 3 Fonteinen lambics, known in that capacity as 'Brett brux var. Drie' — but it hit the homebrew market this year in a big way when White Labs released a commercial version of the strain. It's marketed as ideal for 100% Brett fermentations, with a big tropical fruit character and a mild funk that's not much beyond your average Belgian yeast. Obviously, I had to try it, so I immediately planned two beers around it.

First up, I figured it was high time I tried a 100% Brett fermented IPA. Unlike straight-up sour beer — sourness and bitterness clash unpleasantly as flavors — Brett's funk can play well with hops. A fruity and aromatic Brett strain has always seemed like an intriguing match with all the bold tropical-fruit hop varieties popular these days, but Brett IPAs are almost impossible to find commercially. (The only two I've seen in New York recently are Kelso's elusive Brett IPA, and Evil Twin Femme Fatale Brett). My second Trois beer (which you can read about here) should serve as a sort of 'control' to the other 100% Brett beers I'm doing, as it's a fairly simple Belgian-inspired recipe with low hopping and a focus on the yeast.

But for Cairn, I wanted a big, aromatic marriage of hops and yeast. Ideally, I would have used mostly New Zealand hops in this, but for my first attempt I just used what I had at the time: some fresh Citra and Zythos, as well as a random ounce of Galaxy that was probably a little too old. Still, that's a good hop blend for something like this, and Trois is the indisputable star of the show, anyway. The word on the street was that Trois is even less funky than your typical 100% Brett fermentation, and boasts intense tropical fruit flavors — like how hefeweizen yeast are with banana esters, only here you get tropical fruit instead of banana. All that is completely true: Brett Trois is pure fruit, of a totally different sort than I've gotten from any other yeast. It's a over-ripe, sweet fruitiness that tastes kind of like sucking the juice from the flesh of a mango and pineapple at the same time. There are suggestions of peach, orange, grapefruit and citrus as well, some of which is undoubtedly from the hops — but enhanced and made "riper" by the yeast. The very slight amount of funk — which is pretty much the same sweet, fruity funk you'd get from some Belgian yeast strains — plays well with the hops too, to the point where it's hard to tell which flavor is coming from what. But one of the few changes I would make to Cairn appears here too: the bitterness is a bit harsh at times, especially in the aftertaste. It's not that it's overly bitter, really, but the character is a bit too spicy and grassy, and the low ABV / light body / dry finish doesn't quite balance it. (50 IBUs in a 7% beer do not taste the same as 50 IBUs in a 4% beer). Harsh bitterness is fine to some extent, but the focus should be on aroma and flavor. The first impressions of this beer are so bold and succulent, I think any harsh flavors it finishes with seem out of place.

The mouthfeel is on the thin side, but I expected that with this recipe, and the 20% wheat in the grain bill definitely helped to give it some substance. In the future, I will probably raise the ABV to about 5% — which is still low enough to fit this beer's intent — and up the percentage of wheat to 30% or more. Despite mashing at 155 degrees F, this came out pleasantly dry and clean. It's possible this could stand to be sweeter, but upping the ABV and the wheat malt would probably accomplish that without any additional changes.

Fermentation was easy and fast, this being such a small beer. There still seems to be some debate online about how long you should age 100% Brett fermented beers before bottling, but in my experience, my All Brett fermentations follow the same timeline as a normal Sacc ferment. Cairn was bottled just three weeks after brewday, at a stable FG of 1.011, and the carbonation is perfect. Even better, Cairn is incredibly clear out of the bottle — if I'm careful with my pour, it's as pristine as any filtered commercial beer. While Brett may be extremely slow to flocculate during fermentation, once bottled and carbonated, it drops fast and drops hard.

The changes I'd make here are very minor in the general scheme of things; Cairn came out absolutely delicious. I've had a string of batches now that I've been very happy with, including the 100% Brett golden strong ale I brewed this spring, but Cairn is a close contender for my favorite batch so far. The flavors are so big and interesting — people who've tried this can't believe how fruity it is — but totally unique from almost anything else I've tasted. A 100% Brett Trois IPA basically takes the concept of a Belgian IPA and does it better — I wish more commercial breweries would take a chance on it. With more fruit and less spice, I'd much rather use Trois for something like this than any Belgian strain.

I usually write about the concept behind my beer first, but I didn't want to ramble too much before actually getting to the tasting notes. While Cairn was largely me getting to play around with an awesome new Brett strain, it happened to fit perfectly into one of my existing beer plans: an ideal ale for the outdoors. A "trail ale," if you will. I am an "avid hiker," to use online-dating-profile terminology, and a can of good beer, at the top of a mountain you just climbed, is one of the most enjoyable things in this world. So I've been wanting to design a perfect hiking beer: something refreshing, light, low ABV, but not lacking in character. In fact, the more it embodies the outdoors, the better. A nice dank IPA is usually my first choice, usually something by Oskar Blues. But what could be more outdoorsy than a beer fermented exclusively with wild yeast? Add to that the rustic, refreshing quality of wheat, and you've got something in between a white IPA and a session IPA that really hits the spot when you're resting on a rock a couple thousand feet up.

Cairn, by the way, is the term for those little stone piles that serve as trail markers.

3.5 Gal., All Grain
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Mashed at 155 degrees for 75 minutes
Fermented at ambient room temp, 68- 72 degrees F
Cairn label
Click to enlargen.
OG: 1.042
FG: 1.011

70 % Canada Malting pale malt
20 % white wheat malt
10 % C20 crystal malt

Hop Schedule-
55 IBU
0.4 oz Zythos @FWH
0.6 oz Zythos @12 - 5 min
1 oz Galaxy @12 - 5 min
2 oz Citra Dry Hop 7 days
1 oz Zythos Dry Hop 7 days

White Labs Brett Trois


  1. Sounds like a great beer and it is fun to read about other's experience with this yeast.

    One thing that really amazes me is the intensity of the flavor. The tropical fruit flavors are stronger than any other flavor I've smelled in a beer. Did you also notice this?

    Keep up the good work, it is nice to read along with brewers that have a similar brewing style.

  2. I know, I'm going to have to go back and read the whole Trois thread on HBT again, now that I'm drinking my own. I definitely agree about the intensity, it's hands-down the fruitiest smelling yeast I've ever encountered, and definitely one of the most intense tasting. I'd say it'll rival and stand up to any amount of dry-hopping you throw at it, which is kind of perfect for the style. I really love this yeast, there's nothing else like it.

  3. That thread has really taken off - my screen name on HBT is Almighty.

    Recently, I used my yeast (which is getting up there in generations) on a basic Saison recipe (85% Pils, 15% oats) and the beer after 2 weeks was one of the cleaniest (and kinda boring) beers I've made. But I am pitching pretty huge amounts of yeast (200 ml fresh slurry) for a 1.045 beer. One thing that hasn't been mentioned when re-pitching is that the volume on Mr.Malty doesn't really work for Brett since the cell size is so much smaller. I'm now going to try smaller pitch sizes and see if I can get that flavor intensity back.

    What has been your experience with pitch quantity and flavor?

  4. That's very interesting to hear. I haven't started drinking my second Trois batch yet, so you've got more experience with it than me. My 2nd batch I brewed to be kind of plain in the first place (basically just a Belgian pale ale with minimal hopping, around 7% ABV, I think) so I'm really curious if it turns out like you're describing... plus, I pitched it onto the yeast cake from Cairn. So I definitely overpitched too. I'll have to open a bottle in the next few days to see how it's doing.

    For Cairn, I can't remember the exact starter size (need to start making more detailed notes on that) but I think it was around a 1600 ml starter (for a 3.5 gal batch). Lots of people say to use lager pitching rates, but I haven't seen any lag or attenuation issues, and I figure a little extra stress might just get the Brett to produce more esters. Which now seems like it might just be the case.

  5. Thanks for the write up! Did you oxygenate the beer normally before pitching the Brett?

  6. Yep, same level of oxygenation as I would have done for any other beer.

    My next goal is to experiment with different levels of oxygen in 100% Brett fermentations, both at the start of fermentation and during aging. That'll probably have to wait until spring though, I think it's already too cold in my apartment for Brett to be happy.

    1. Derek,
      I think you might be surprised how cold Brett can ferment. I just did a batch in the low 60s and it finished just as quickly and with very similar flavors as the one fermented in the high 70s.

      If anything it would be a good experiment.

    2. Hmm, interesting. I've read online that people had trouble with their Brett beers finishing below 68 F, but of course, now I can't remember where I read that. It certainly is worth more experimenting with, and maybe it's strain dependent? Were you using Trois in this case? And were there any specific flavor differences you noticed between the temperature variations?

      I certainly believe you, anyway. Last year I made a graff with unpasteurized local cider, counting on the fact that there would be wild yeast in it. The cider freaking started fermenting on its own, still unopened... while sitting in my fridge.

    3. Yes, it was Brett Drie (Trois) and I think it is strain dependent and yeast health dependent. If you make a good healthy starter I bet it will work.

      I've read the same thing with Brett, but my results were much different. I actually couldn't taste a difference when I bottled them. I am going to try the finished beers shortly and will post a review.

      Down near the bottom of my article, I mention temperature dependence -

    4. That's a great write-up, well-structured and tons of great information. Thanks for sharing. I'm curious how you managed to get 100% apparent attenuation for those few batches.

    5. The beers were mashed at 147 with a thick mash to provide a lot of simple sugars. I also used a huge healthy pitch of Brett. I think it is actually too attenuated, so next time I'll be raising the mash temp at least about 150.

  7. I recently brewed a Brett Trois IPA (71% light lme, 19% wheat lme, 4% carapils, and 4% acid malt with magnum, chinook, citra, and galaxy) and I'm getting all the flavors and aromas you mention. After three weeks, the beer has gone from 1.052 to 1.012 and i'm ready to dry hop before bottling.

    What carbonation volume did you go for when bottling? Although the brett acts like a sach yeast during primary fermentation and supposedly drops hard once in the bottle, I would think the brett keeps slowly chugging along and will drop a few additional points over time. I'm curious if you tried to compensate for this or you're drinking it fresh enough that this wouldn't necessarily be an issue.



    1. Hey Drew, thanks for the comment! With 100% Brett Trois, I would recommend going with the same fermentation and carbonation you would with a standard beer. It does seem like the Brett should/would keep chewing on residual sugars once in the bottle, but in my experience (and from what I've read of other's experience, with similar beers) it just doesn't. I saved a couple bottles of this beer, and opened one recently, and the carbonation level was the exact same as when I was drinking it. With all my 100% Brett beers, I've just monitored the FG, and when it stopped dropping, it really stopped. Given you're already down to 1.012, I really don't think you'll see any drop in the bottle if it seems done in the fermentor.

      Of course, I can't say this will be true of every single Brett strain, but Trois seems to behave very much like a Sacch strain in 100% fermentations.

      Also, fair warning, the yeast dropping so hard in the bottle with this batch may have been in a fluke with this batch. I recently did a 100% Brett Trois Imperial IPA, and it was fairly hazy for its entire time in the bottle (gravity never dropped after 2/3 weeks there either, though). Here's the write-up on that:

    2. Thanks for the great info. After checking out your post and review of the Imperial IPA, I was wondering your thoughts on how Brett Trois changes with successive uses. Although it's sold year round, I'm still going to rinse it to save for future batches. In your experience, did the attenuation or flavors seem to change after a few uses? You mentioned that you thought it mutated faster than average yeasts, but could those differences you encountered have been from fresh pitches versus racking onto the yeast cake or different hopping schedules that complement the fruitiness of the Brett Trois in different ways.



    3. That's a really great question, actually something I've been wanting to examine more myself. I've brewed with Trois three times. This first one I remember being the most tropical. The second beer was pitched onto this beer's yeast cake and had more of a tangy, ripe berry character. The imperial IPA was somewhere in between those two. There are definitely a ton of factors that could affect a slight change in flavor, so while I'm assuming the yeast is mutating over time, I'm sure it's not the full explanation for why Trois has given me a slightly different character each time. All those factors you mentioned definitely play a role, and they were all designed to be different beers. At the moment, my feeling is that aeration plays the largest role in Trois' flavor, followed by pitching rate, but mutation must come into play one way or another.

      I still have a reserve of Trois saved, and I plan to brew with it so long as I'm getting good results. A few batches down the line, I am hoping / planning to buy a fresh vial and split a batch to compare the differences between fresh Trois and Trois that's been passed through a few starters and saved for a while.

  8. After reading the HBT thread on Brett Trois and skimming parts of Chad Jakobson's "Brett Project" paper, it seems like you may be on to something with aeration (more aeration and oxygen lead to greater acetic acid production) and pitching rates (higher rates lead to healtier yeast that aren't stressed into producing off flavors). Unfortunately I haven't found much on mutation over successive uses because it seems like most folks have only used this in the primary a handful of times.

    I'd definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts once you get a few more pitches out of this. Also, I follow Jeff Crane's blog and was wondering if he noticed anything along these lines.

    Or on the flip, if the flavors are somewhat hops schedule dependant, it could be a cool experiment to do a small batch SMaSH with different varieties of hops (tropical, piney or dank, noble, etc) and Brett Trois to see what you get.


    1. Yeah, did you see Jeff's latest blog post? He mentioned that his latest Brett Trois (he refers to it as Drie due to different origin source, but it's the same strain) wasn't up to snuff and he's thinking about retiring that pitch. I've been meaning to ask him for more details... gotta do that now so I can think about my own strategy.

      You've inspired me to focus more on this mutation issue with Trois for my next batch, so I think I'm going to brew it sooner than later. Of course that means I'll need to pick up a fresh vial of Trois somewhere soon too!

      I like the idea about the hops, another good suggestion. That could make for a good dry-hop experiment too, which would be a little easier. So much experimentation, so little time!

  9. I thought I'd share an interesting comment from Chad's "Brett Paper" which is getting a closer read tonight:
    - The opposite was observed with B. bruxellensis (BSI-Drie) as cell count increased the amount of esters and higher alcohols produced decreased, this was coupled with the decrease in attenuation and appears that a lower pitching rate has a positive effect on the metabolism and fermentation of this strain.

    I also read Jeff's post on the Drie. In the comments he mentions he is on his 10th batch over two and a half years using the same slury. If he's grown the slury up over time to the point of what would be a healthy starter, or even overpitching, in light of Chad's findings, I wonder if this could have contributed to the tart/astringent off flavors.

    I'm glad I could help inspire you to experiment. I'm a huge fan of experimenting with your beers and pulling a few gallons for souring with brett, bugs, or dregs. A couple of split batches (one with a new vial of Brett Trois and the other on rinsed BT or a cake) could get you through a few generations relatively quickly. And with dry hopping, you could brew a fairly neutral pale or blonde ale, split them into growlers, and start experimenting with different dry hops.

    All this talk is gettng me interested in trying something along these lines as well!


    1. Good discussion you have going here.

      As far as flavor changing over time, I have a very hard time believing that mutation is the answer. From what I have read, yeast mutation takes a long time and it is not such a dramatic change as what I experienced. Usually it is an attenuation shift from selectively collecting from highly flocculant yeast.

      This drastic flavor change lends me to thinking I have some sort of contamination in my pitch and it has grown over time. I've been reading about wild Sacc strains (I forget the genus, not cerevisiae) that produce plastic phenolics and astringency and are quite common.

      To add some more complexity, my original pitch came from Avery 15 dregs which is the Brett that Chad covered in his thesis and found that it was actually 2 difference strains. So I could also have an issue with the balance of my slurry. I know that White Labs was given the same pitch I was, but I don't know if they isolated a single strain or if the commercial version is also 2 strains.

      I still have an original bottle from my first Brett Drie batch that I will try to build up. I also just got some BSI Drie from Levi Funk. I'll be doing a grand Brett strain experiment with Eureka Brewing shortly and will include these strains. Check it out here:
      We are looking for more volunteers so we can build some data for these strains.

    2. Thanks for the reply Jeff, good info. I confess to not fully understanding the nature of yeast mutation, although I've been told Brett mutates fairly rapidly. But you make a good point — this is usually just a shift in attenuation or even flocculation characteristics. (I also noticed that my Trois never formed a pellicle for a few months, but after building it back up in the spring, it now forms a pellicle in its storage jars rather quickly). It would make sense that the flavor and more ingrained character of the yeast mutates much more slowly.

      The common infection Sacch strain that I know of is Saccharomyces diastaticus, which might be what you're referring to. My one infected batch, a brown ale last fall, had the flavors it apparently gives off, very plasticy and medicinal.

      I love that Brett strain experiment idea. Very ambitious! I'm not sure I'll have the time or resources to join in at the moment, but if it's an ongoing thing, I'd definitely be curious to brew up some data in the future.

    3. On the Brett experiment, I'm actually thinking it might not be too involved. I need to write up my strategy on it, but I'm planning to build up the cultures in glass beer bottles and probably the fermentation in growlers. If you want to make it a bit smaller scale you could split them among 750s/22s.

    4. Yeah, thinking about it more, I think I'd like to make time for it. It's a really cool idea, and I've basically been trying to do a similar thing myself with the more commercial Brett strains (plus what I've gotten from you and Dmitri) to have descriptions available on my blog. Would definitely be curious to read more about your strategy.

      Any idea what time frame you'd like to have all the results back by? I'm traveling a lot in September so part of my worry is that I wouldn't be able to brew for the experiment until October.

    5. I should have a post up later today.

      As far as timing, I can't speak for Sam but I think a little delay is not bad at all. We are mostly looking for people that have some experience with brewing with Brett and can help us analyze the flavors and characteristics of each strain.

    6. Cool, I'll be on the lookout for the post.

      Okay, sweet. I'm now convinced. I had been planning on brewing a big split batch with those wood honeycombs you sent me in a couple weeks. That would tie up my small jugs for a while, but I think I'll just hold off on that until winter so I can knock out this experiment first. It's too cool of an idea to skip.

  10. Could you post a link to the HBT Brett thread?

  11. Very nice recipe, I'll brew it soon as my first 100% Brett beer. I thing White labs recently released a new strain which is Brett. brux. Trois Vrai (648). Which one would you take for this beer?


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