Saturday, February 9, 2013

100% Brett Mead? oohh YES

If you wanted to read the Tasting Notes for this please click here

I think I've lost my mind with thoughts of these "Wild" yeasts, but I might not be alone.  Recently I brewed a Brett/Citra Pale Ale after listening to Chad on the The Brewing Network talk about Brettanomyces beers.  After I put up the post, I saw that Jeff over at Bikes, Beer and Adventure brewed a Extra Special "Brett"er.  I'm sure other homebrewers are also "playing around" with solid Brettanomyces fermentation's. 

The traditional thought of using Brettanomyces during secondary fermentation only is slowing changing.  Without a doubt, breweries like Crooked Stave, Russian River, Jolly Pumkin and New Belguim are leading the charge but homebrewers have better ability to play around with small test batches without the financial impact "For Profit" breweries would endure. 

Which got me thinking about the beautiful flavor compounds associated with 100% Brett fermentations.  The passion-fruit, tropical flavors and pineapple aroma of Brettanomyces Claussenii fermentation's should work well in a Mead playing off the honey Backbone. 

Nothing like a good starter, this has been going for 3 weeks

My thought is a 100% clover honey mead with only a Brett-C fermentation.  I have no idea on the fermentation time this will take.  But I'll start it in the fermentation chamber around 66 for a week or so and move it to my "sour closet" for the longer fermentation.  This beer ended up moving very quickly through fermentation.  It started with a big starter at 66 degrees for 2 weeks.  It stalled at 1.030, so I moved it on top of the fermentation fridge and it shot down to .997 in 12 days.  

For the honey, I have 5#'s from a group buy with Danny over at DeeperRoots Brewing

UPDATE #1:  1-28-2013  (Before Brewing)

If you have looked at the comments, some readers thought that the Brett would eat right through all the sugars, leaving the mead to dry and thin.  (Pictures below) After doing some more research, I settled on adding Oats into a hot water bath. (at 170ish degrees)  This would let the sugars inside the oats lock into unfermentable starches, blocking the simple sugars in the yeast from converting them.  Essentially stopping the Brett's ability to convert (eat) them.  By leaving these starches behind, they would in theory add some body to the remaining mead.

Now this is only a theory, I really don't know if this will work or not, if you have any thoughts please let me know in comments.  I believe this worked correctly.  The samples pulled are well balanced and have a beer feel to them in the mouthfeel. 

UPDATE #2:  2-08-13

I got around to brewing this Mead on Saturday after doing some testing on the theory above.  The good news is, "It worked".  The sugars in the oats are locked into starches.  How this will effect the over all mouthfeel of the mead is still uncertain.

As you can see above, the iodine test shows that the sugars did not convert into something that the Brett-C can eat.  This means they will stay in solution, hopefully giving the beer a greater mouthfeel addressing the comments below.

Pioneer Series: Brett Mead
Open Category Mead
Type: All Grain Date: 2/8/2013
Batch Size (fermenter): 2.50 gal Brewer: Chris Lewis
Boil Size: 3.22 gal Asst Brewer:
Boil Time: 60 min Equipment: Lewys Tower
End of Boil Volume 2.60 gal Brewhouse Efficiency: 100.00 %
Final Bottling Volume: 2.50 gal Est Mash Efficiency 100.0 %
Fermentation: Ale, Single Stage Taste Rating(out of 50): TBA
Taste Notes: No Tasting Notes are posted for this Recipe yet.
Amt Name Type # %/IBU
12.8 oz Oats, Malted (30 min Rest at 174 Degrees w/water) Grain 1 13.8 %
5 lbs Honey (1.0 SRM) Sugar 2 86.2 %
1.0 pkg Brettanomyces Claussenii (White Labs #WLP645) [50.28 ml] Yeast 3 -
Beer Profile
Est Original Gravity: 1.081 SG Measured Original Gravity: 1.090 SG
Est Final Gravity: 0.988 SG Measured Final Gravity: .997 SG
Estimated Alcohol by Vol: 12.3 % Actual Alcohol by Vol: 12.4 %
Bitterness: 0.0 IBUs Calories: 302 kcal/12oz
Est Color: 2.7 SRM
Mash Profile
Mash Name: Temperature Mash, 1 Step, Full Body Total Grain Weight: 5 lbs 12.8 oz
Sparge Water: 3.06 gal Grain Temperature: 72.0 F
Sparge Temperature: 168.0 F Tun Temperature: 72.0 F
Adjust Temp for Equipment: FALSE Mash PH: 5.20
Mash Steps
Name Description Step Temperature Step Time
Saccharification Add 1.00 qt of water at 184.3 F 170.0 F 30 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 10 min 168.0 F 10 min
Sparge Step: Fly sparge with 3.06 gal water at 168.0 F
Mash Notes:
Carbonation and Storage
Carbonation Type: Bottle Volumes of CO2: 2.3
Pressure/Weight: 1.96 oz Carbonation Used: Bottle with 1.96 oz Corn Sugar
Keg/Bottling Temperature: 70.0 F Age for: 30.00 days
Fermentation: Ale, Two Stage Storage Temperature: 65.0 F
Fermentation Notes
Primary Fermentation:  65 degrees for 12 days, then free rising to 72 degrees.
Created with BeerSmith

UPDATE #3:  2-14-13

The Brett-C has quickly started fermenting this Mead.  The smell of wort has seeped out of the chamber.  its a mix of pineapple, mango and peach that's soaking into the garage area.  The smell this yeast creates at the start of fermentation is amazing.  I will get a gravity reading this weekend so see how its going.

UPDATE #4:  2-26-13

The beer is stalled at 1.030 right now.  The smell has changed to a dirty, more earthy smell.  Not quite barnyard, more rustic, metal shop smell.  The flavor is still a punch in your face tropical rainbow of tastes.

This is normal in the other Brett-C beers I've done in primary.  The smell changes first followed by the taste.  Once the Mead gets down into the 1.0"Teens" I expect the Mead to rough'n up a little.

I am going to move the carboy out of the controlled fermentation fridge (I have another beer going in and I need it to be down in the low 60's) and on to the top of my chamber.  The ambient air temp is going between 50 and 75 degrees (night vs day) I am going to wrap the carboy with a couple towels and see what happens to the gravity over the next week. 

UPDATE#5:  3-15-13

I took the beer of temp control and out of the fermentation chamber on 3-09-13, not on 2-26 like I stated above, I forgot about moving it until a week later.  Since then it has gone from very clear to milky/cloudy looking.  The fermentation has increased again, it is rapidly fermenting.  I think the Brett-C is really liking the warm conditions of the garage (San Diego).

UPDATE #6:  3-25-13  (Bottling Day)

Moving the Mead out of the temp controlled chamber really did wonders to this Mead.  Taking a gravity reading today, I had to wipe my eyes and double check the hydrometer again.  It's at .997 FG. The mead once again cleared up the milky appearance that it had back in mid February.  I wouldn't say it is brilliantly clear, but the Mead has a clear appearance.  Almost like a small case of chill haze is keeping it from looking like a Pilsner.

Finishing at .997 makes this Mead around 12.4% ABV.  Its no slouch, that's for sure.  The aroma is still developing into more of a dirty mineral sweetness.  The metallic notes I got before are gone, but it still has an almost mint quality to it. As I expected the tropical mango and papaya flavors are gone.  I really would like them to come back in the bottle, but we will have to see about that down the road.

For the very low finishing gravity, I am floored that this beer has a solid body to it.  Hinting that my starching the wort, (or really it was just water) worked.  Now you know this is a mead, hands down, but the flavor is so complex compared to the other Meads I've had.  The flavors that I got yesterday before bottling go from a sweetness to a minty pear flavor.  I really wanted to do a "Before, Tasting Session" with this beer but I was to excited to bottle all of it. 


  1. Have you gone too far? - nope
    This is a great idea. I have been wanting to try to find the fermentation limits of my Brett Drie strain. I noticed you only went to 1.081. What did you base your starting gravity on? I wonder how high you could go.

    1. I might change the recipe up a little. I should of added above that the carboy I'm using is 3 gallons total, the volume of wort added to it will really be around 2.4ish gallons. That means its really 1.101 as the starting gravity.

  2. All Brett fermentations are something I would love to try, but I'm leary of the fact that Brett don't product glycerol. I've tried a number of my starters, and they just seem so thin and watery that I'm hesitant to do this on a larger scale. Thoughts?

    1. You are right. I haven't address this issue. On my all Brett-C Citra pale, I added oats to the boil which (I hope) will increase the perception of body. From my understanding you can use spelt, rye, malto-dextin or any oat products to trick yourself about the lack of glycerol.

    2. Chad talked about this on "The Session", so you might want to listen to that again. I can't remember what his solution was...

    3. Your right, I remember something about that...This beer keeps getting "pushed" out of the way for whatever reason. I have the honey just waiting, ready to go.

      I think I will find that show and re-listen. I think it was the Crooked Stave ep

    4. Brett beers can have a thin mouthfeel because of high attenuation and Brett's lack of glycerol production. Brewer can adjust recipe (add oats/wheat 5%) and increase mash temperature to compensate.

      From Chads website:

      Vienna and Munich work well in Brett beers because their flavor contributions will balance Brett's less complex flavor characteristics.

      Brett will add bready aroma and/or flavor, so might need to decrease biscuity and bready malts in Brett beers.

      Brett also can add astringency, so might need to adjust recipe for this.

  3. I have updated the post about adding Rolled Oats in a hot water steep. Roughly at 170 degrees.

  4. Any updates on the results? I'm very interested in how this came out.

    1. Andrew,

      Yes I only have a couple of bottles left of this batch. The mead started off really tropical and full of mangos, pineapple and papaya. It stalled around 1.023...I moved it out to ambient temp and it dropped to .996 in 5 days (after stalling) As most brett primary fermentations the tropical dropped out, replaced with more of a cider taste. I have one bottle marked with Red tape, reminding me to do a tasting session when I open it.

  5. I just wanted to point out the mechanism that caused the oats to add mouthfeel. The unfermentable sugars are not the primary driver, but beta glucans that oats bring to the table. You could have mashed the oats -and avoided adding starch haze and you still would have had the mouth feel from the beta glucans.

  6. I want to point out to those of you who might want to try this that the WLP645 I bought around this time was not Brettanomyces, it was a strain of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. I'm certain the problem has been remedied now but don't expect the same results from a real Brett strain.

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Thanks for Commenting, Prost!