Friday, October 11, 2013

100% Brett Trois IPA - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: 100% Brett / IPA
Brewed: 8.31.2013
ABV: 5.8%

Appearance: pale yellow gold, slight haze, minimal head but good retention
Smell: tropical fruit, musty pineapple, mango, sweet berry, citrus hops, mild funky esters
Taste: dry tropical fruit, fruit-flesh, guava, mango, pineapple, citrus hops, clean finish
Mouthfeel: light body, slightly thin, low-med carbonation, crisp

I may not get to them often, but I actually have a pretty solid idea of what my "house beers" would be — if I had the time and capacity to get to them more often. One of my main brews would definitely be Cairn, a concept I thought up as soon as I heard about Brett Trois, described as intensely fruity and ideal for 100% Brett fermentations. Trois is a relatively new (to us) Brettanomyces strain isolated from Drie Fonteinein (it's also known, less obscurely, as "Drie" in some circles). The goal with Cairn is a beer that's fairly pale, light-weight and balanced, and thus highly drinkable, but that pairs the complex juicy-fruitiness of Trois with bright, dank hops.

My first brew of Cairn, roughly a year ago, was one of the most pleasant surprises up to that point in my brewing career, so I didn't have a ton to "correct" from that recipe. My main concern with 100% Brett beers is the relationship between yeast and hop flavor — Brett seems to get a little bit combative when you dump much of anything else in a beer, and chomps up a lot of hop character very quickly. I've noticed this in all my hoppy + Brett beers, and I've noticed it in commercial 100% Brett beers, like Crooked Stave's Hop Savant, and some local examples popping up around New York. And I'm not talking bitterness, here — it's the really pleasant, subtle hop nuances that Brett seems to chew through, sadly. The stuff I'm ultimately looking for. It's not that you can't tell these beers were brewed with a healthy dose of hops, but a huge chunk of the expected hop flavor is clearly missing, replaced by the intense tropic fruitiness of Trois. Certainly not a bad trade, but the real jackpot, in my opinion, would be getting both in full force. 

So, one of my big goals in refining Cairn, and any other subsequent hoppy 100% Brett beers, is to bring out the best qualities in both the Brett and my hops. My strategy here was to knock out as much Brett in suspension as possible prior to dry-hopping. Whirlpool hopping still goes a long way in adding some background hoppiness here, and I will definitely always throw a few ounces in at flameout. But when Brett is chomping away during primary fermentation, a lot of that flavor is going to be lost no matter how many hops you hit it with. Drop out some of that Brett post-ferment, hit it with a big dose of dry hops, and then your aromatic hop compounds might stand a chance.

That's the idea, at least. To achieve this, I waited about two and a half weeks for the beer to hit final gravity (100% Trois beers don't take long), then used gelatin and cold crashed at 38 degrees for three days. Prior to the cold crash, my Trois had formed a nice funky pellicle. Afterwards, the beer was clear as sunbeams over a mountaintop, and in went the hops. To improve upon this technique even further — if you have a kegging setup (or even just a spare carboy), you could rack upon hitting terminal gravity, cold crash + gelatin in a CO2-flushed keg, and then dry hop. After racking off the initial yeast cake and then crashing out the Brett, there's less chance it'll rise up again to disturb those precious hop aromatics.

The technique was a success, though a limited success. One of my most trusted friends and beer tasters told me that this is the hoppiest-tasting 100% Brett beer he's ever had, and while I'm not entirely sure I would claim the same thing, but it's definitely in contention. (I can think of a few Brett IPAs with a much punchier hop bitterness, but that wasn't what I was aiming for here). So even if this is the hoppiest I'll ever manage to get a 100% Brett beer like this, I'm quite happy with the results: the pairing is just so pleasant and refreshing. A few minor tweaks remain to the core recipe: more wheat or body-enhancing malts might still be a good idea, and I undercarbed this batch slightly, though that's a minor fix. As far as my original goal goes —an ideal hiking beer — I really couldn't be much more satisfied. I took this one across the country to Colorado on a recent trip, hauled it upstate and up a few mountains, and it was entirely worth it.

One final evaluation, and this is an important one. So, I've established that hops don't quite come across the same way when strained through a 100% Brett fermentation: their character gets transmogrified into something different. With previous batches, I've still gone the route I would for a "regular" IPA of this ilk, selecting hop varieties that are intense and tropical and complimentary. With this batch, I used quite a bit of Nelson Sauvin, which remains one of my very favorite hop varieties, and a variety which compliments the flavor of Trois exceedingly well. Nonetheless, I'm starting to think it's just not worth using such an exceedingly rare, pricey hop, when the Nelson character becomes muted in many ways. Nelson, Mosaic, Galaxy, Citra — all will taste great, and would be fun to use as a big dry-hop dose, but you aren't going to get the same bang for your buck. And at this point, I've basically concluded that Cairn should perhaps stick to some of the more classic varieties — albeit intensely flavorful varieties like Columbus and Centennial — and leave those expensive, scarce All Stars to shine on their own.

4.5 Gal., All Grain
Brewhouse Efficiency: 80%
Mashed at 148 F for 65 minutes
Boiled for 60 minutes
Fermented at 70 degrees F
OG: 1.054
FG: 1.009
ABV: 5.8%

62.5% (5 lbs) 2-row malt
25% (2 lbs) White Wheat malt
12.5% (1 lb) CaraHell

Hop Schedule-
0.25 oz CTZ @60
1 oz CTZ @ hop stand for 30 min
2 oz Nelson Sauvin @ hop stand for 30 min
2 oz CTZ dry hop for 8 days
1 oz Centennial dry hop for 8 days
2 oz Nelson Sauvin dry hop for 4 days

White Labs Brett Brux Trois


  1. Based on the tasting we had while you were in town, I might hit this with a simcoe dry-hop for a few days, or even columbus. However, that ounce of centennial probably proved to be enough in the "dank" department. Great beer.

    1. Yeah, Columbus for sure... CTZ and Columbus are the same thing, so there was already a good bit of Columbus in this recipe. Next time I'd actually go with even more, replacing a lot of the Nelson. More Centennial too. Simcoe would definitely go super well with it, but it's another one of those "expensive, rare, and kind of delicate" hops that I feel might lose some of its oomph alongside the Brett.

    2. What's your IBU's on this one?

    3. Came out to 54 IBUs. Tastes like maybe even a bit less than that... I wanted something very clean, soft, and not overly-aggressive.

    4. In your experience, has it been possible to get a "dank" character with a 100% brett beer? It seems like common practice to think citrus, but I'd like to have that "dank" character there to go along with the intense fruitiness of brett. I haven't dry-hopped a lot with the dank-er varietals so I'm curious. I know brett will eat up a lot of the boil additions. Maybe get heavy-handed with Apollo?

    5. Heavy handed on the Apollo and Columbus would probably do it. I was leaning in that direction with this version, but still played it fairly safe. It would definitely be a good pairing, as that dankness probably has enough oomph to survive the Brett fermentation, but would still compliment the funk quite well. Next time I'll push it even more.

    6. Did you make a starter for the Brett?

    7. Yes, definitely. The vials / smackpacks of Brett don't contain enough cells for a healthy fermentation. I recommend pitching Brett for all-Brett fermentations at around lager rates.

  2. Did you oxygenate the batch prior to pitching the Brett?

    1. With 100% Brett I generally just give it a few shakes of the carboy but nothing too significant.


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