Beer: CleverBrewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Farmhouse Ale
Bottled On: 3.30.14
Appearance: pale straw yellow, aggressive head, lingering foam, good retention
Smell: soft funk, fruity meadow, soft yeast, grass, berries, citrus, earthiness
Taste: soft fruit, grassiness, berries, citrus, juicy finish, slight tartness
Mouthfeel: high carb, medium body, slight bite, clean finish
Brewers and drinkers these days are extremely fond of Brettanomyces — I would say we're maybe a little guilty of fetishizing this genus of wild yeast, sometimes. But with good reason. Not only is Brett capable of producing powerful and unique flavors, with countless new strains yet un-utilized, but its ability to terraform and even protect a beer from harmful forces is a happy secondary benefit. This batch was essentially an 'extra' from some other projects I'm working on; I'll save a full explanation of those projects for a later date, but for now, let's just say... For Science. The exact same recipe resulted in three beers: a saison, a Brett saison (this one), and a sour farmhouse beer (which I hope to write about next week.)
Being a few gallons of bonus beer, I was just kind of messing around with this one to half-assedly work on a type of beer I wish I could drink more regularly, and find more varied examples of: American-hopped Brett saisons. One recent example that works devastatingly well is Praire's 'Merica, which pairs abundant Nelson Sauvin dry-hopping with a Brett farmhouse culture. Other homebrewers have done excellent clones of that beer, though I figure most fruity American hops should pair well with the base concept also. Mainly, I just think that Brett really wants something to play around with, and hops give it a lot of ammo. Fruity, citrusy hops steer the resulting funk in a very refreshing, accessible direction, and what's all I'm really looking for (in life.)
And thank goodness for Brett's hardiness, because I very nearly ruined this batch due to kegging newbishness. I figured I would batch prime the keg, because with Brett involved, and in no hurry to drink this one quick.... why not? Why tie up my limited CO2 resources? A week later, I check on the keg, thinking it should just about be carbed, and find... well, not really sure what, but the gas-line disconnect won't fit over the gas-in keg poppit. Being, again, new to kegging, I have no idea why I might be encountering this issue. Maybe the keg is a pin-lock and I don't know what those fittings look like? I let the keg sit in my kegerator for a few days as I try out various things, finally concluding that I just got a weird keg. Or maybe some kind of fitting is missing. But at that point, of course, there's no CO2 pressure in the keg from the natural carbonation I attempted. Clearly I'm not going to be serving from this keg. With some two weeks wasted on that mess, I decide to just rack back out of the keg and bottle it.
The first bottle I poured, only a few weeks after bottling, had a slight hint of oxidation. I let it sit for a bit longer. Amazingly, now, there's almost no hint now at how close this batch came to being ruined by a pressure-less keg. Right after dry-hopping, it sat with plenty of headspace and likely a minimal CO2 blanket protecting it. But instead of cardboard, there's only a soft, fruity Brett character. Brett likes oxygen (to some extent), and I've heard before that saison strains enjoy an 'unpressurized' fermentation environment as well; a carboy covered in tin-foil or a permeable sponge stopper, vs. an airlock. It seems worth playing around with different environments to conduct primary fermentation of farmhouse ales, and this is something that's likely easier for any homebrewer to experiment with than a brewery, most of which are locked into using their conicals.
Not that I'm implying my kegging-cluelessness benefited this beer; the fact that it turned out as fine as it did was a very pleasant surprise. Most of the dry-hop character was probably lost in that period, but there are certainly echoes of lingering fruitiness in what the Brett picked up, and transformed, and created on its own. Figuring that I'd given this one more than ample time to dry out, I made sure that carbonation in the bottles was fairly high — most of them threaten to gush, which seems to be very typical of Brett saisons. But this doesn't have that harsh, sharp bite that many highly-carbed beers have, and the yeast character is softer as well, rounded out into fruitiness by the Brett, rather than the usual multiple directions of jagged complexity I find in the style. Perhaps this is tamer and more mellow, but along the lines of that Praire beer — I think it's just how I like my saisons. I'm not the hugest fan of aggressive phenolics, and I'm willing to trade some of their complexity for a soft, quaffable, quieter version. With more presence from the dry-hops, this would shine even more.
Though if I wanted to recreate a beer exactly like this one, it remains to be seen if I could. If you're still wondering about that keg: eventually one of my friends helped me to fix it. I honestly can't even remember what was wrong with it, but I was probably missing an O-Ring or something dumb. Sigh.
6 Gal., All Grain (Split Batch)
Mashed at 150 degrees for 60 minutes
Fermented at room temp, 72 F
78% 2-row malt
11% white wheat malt
11% rye malt
2 oz Belma @5 min
3 oz Citra dry hop for 6 days
White Labs Saison II
Mangrove Jack Belgian Saison