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Author Replies
Dave I
10/29/07 05:15 PM  
First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to Sta
Hey All,

Wild brews and sour ales seem to have found an audience on the board, which is great. I own Farmhouse Ales and Wildbrews, plus have read all of the threads I have come across, plus the Russian River PowerPoint, and have some basic understanding of Brett, Saccharomyces, et al. So I think I would like to enter the world of bacteria-brews.

My question is what are the best germs to start out with? From what I have gathered, White Labs' Brettanomyces Claussenii is fairly user friendly, funky but not TOO funky, and seems to be fairly well-received in the homebrewer community. But what are the best bets; is claussenii the easiest to produce the best results, or are there other reliable bacteria cultures for getting consistent results for the first-time wild brewer? I know this is purely subjective, but:

What is the best germ/bacteria to start off with for the first time use? This can be based on:

1) Overall impression of the finished product?

2) How easy it is to get a palletable result?

3) If the resulting beer will be better young or old (i.e. should I use one for drinking young and another if I plan to forget about it for six months to a year or more?).

4) Strength of funky flavors (i.e. how intensely sour or different/acquired is it)?

5) Commercially available pure bacteria strains vs. blends vs. reculturing from dregs.

Feel free to advise away. If there is a thread advising which is best to start out with please feel free to tell me to retry the search function ;) . Otherwise, offer opinions for the first-time user.

-Cheers

Ryan
10/29/07 06:52 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Hey Dave

As someone who is also just getting into the sours, I will offer you the following observation: when ordering bugs from a homebrew supplier, whatever you choose, be as specific as possible. I tried multiple times to order B. lambicus for my first culture and ended up with (I think) three separate confused orders (most revolving around the lambic blend from Wyeast). I think that so few people are out there stroking the sour pony (so to speak) that the homebrew shops are often unclear as to what you're looking for.

Al B on this board, was nice enough to send me a lambicus strain of his which I'm now using in a secondary.

Others on this board can give you advice pertaining to your questions. You should also check out madferentationist.blogspot.com for MikeT's pages...good stuff.

Good luck

ryan

Mike T
10/30/07 09:06 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Thanks for the referral Ryan! (I've been a little down that serving beer out of a pumpkin has gotten my blog linked to more than any of my sour beer stuff.)

In my humble opinion the “easiest” and most approachable funky beer to do would be something like an old ale finished with Brett C. I had a 2005 Gale’s Prize Old Ale on cask over the weekend, I was amazed at how close the Brett aroma was to my 14 month old Brett C infused old ale.

Just choose a tasty old ale (porter, or stout would also work) recipe, ferment it as usual, when it is finished rack to secondary then just dump a tube of White Labs Brett C and a few toasted oak cubes and let it sit for 6-9 months.

I am also of the opinion that making sour/funky beers really doesn’t take that much recipe precision. You can take pretty much any base beer (safer if it isn’t too bitter/roasty/toasty etc…) and add whatever selection of bugs (either harvested or commercial) and come up with a pretty tasty and unique sour ale given good time/temperature/oxygen control. I have a Belgian Pale souring now with the Roeselare blend, and I’m planning on using the funky oak chips Vinnie passed out at the NHC in a saison starting this winter.

Brett C also makes a great primary yeast. It takes a bit of work to build up a culture to a pitchable cell count, but after you get it going it will ferment to terminal gravity about as quickly as a regular brewer’s yeast. Take a look for Sebastian’s recipe on this forum, I did that as my first all Brett beer, and it was delicious.

Also, just to get our terminology straight, Brettanomyces is a strain of “wild” yeast, while Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are bacteria.

Good luck on your funky journey.

Baums
10/30/07 10:30 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Roeselare blend (if you can get it) is really user-friendly. If you make something like the Flemish Red recipe out of Wild Brews, primary with whatever normal yeast you feel like (US-05 is fine) and then secondary in glass with Roeselare at room temp, you really should get a nice combination of sourness and light cherry brett flavor. Many people have had success with Roeselare and I haven't heard any horror stories--the worst I've heard is when it did nothing.

Roeselare would be hard to find right now, so you could try to approximate it with wyeast b. lambicus and maybe wyeast pedio.

Negatives: I've seldom heard of, or tasted, anything good from the White Labs brett l or brett b (excessively phenolic in what I've tasted and heard), or from the WLP sour mix that contains at least one of them I think. But maybe that's just coincidence. Also I wouldn't count on Wyeast lacto to give you much/any sourness.

BPotts
10/30/07 10:35 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
As long as you adhere to a few rules, there's really no rhyme or reason to how you make a wild brew. I've made 6 or 7 so far, and everyone has come out differently (3 are still in fermenters now). It's hard to predict exectly how these beers will turn out when you start. Personally, I just jumped right in with the lambic blend and my own Flanders Red recipe, and I haven't looked back yet. It'll take you 2 or 3 beers maybe to start getting results you PLANNED for. What may work well for someone else may not work well for you. It's great way to experiment and come up with some wonderful results. I agree with Mike, start out with something simple, see how it works, and modify your procedures on how that one turned out (or not at all if you like it!).
BPotts
10/30/07 10:38 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Baums - I used the WL Sour Mix with wonderful results. Gave me a real nice cherry/sour flavor profile.
Dave I
10/30/07 11:32 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Two-part follow-up question:

1) Is my best bet for a drink-it-young sort of beer to use something like WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii or use some wild yeast/bacteria in secondary (ala. Orval, traditional Old Ale, Stout, Porter, et al.)?

2) Is my best bet for letting it sit long term is to jump in head first with a Lambic for a Flanders Red or the like, throw in some oak cubes, and forget about it for a year or so of secondary conditioning?

If I can talk my wife into letting me brew a couple of batches (new baby, lack of time, and all) or do some late-night brewing, I think I would like a drink-young sort of beer (e.g. Sebastian's all-Brett C. beer or an Orval clone), and one to sit for a year or more (Flanders Red, Lambic, something else out of Wild Brews, etc.).

Thanks for all of the posts so far, I really appreciate it!

-Cheers

BPotts
10/30/07 11:44 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Have not tried it yet, but from what everyone's been saying lately, as well as what it says in WB's, you can have a perfectly drinkable "young" beer if you ferment all brett, no sacch or bacteria.

If you would like to age one it really doesn't matter what you brew, I think any beer containing bugs will age well. It depends on what you're most interested in, what flavors you enjoy most, etc...

SteveG
10/30/07 11:46 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
I would like to echo Mikes comment that recipe precision at this point is not a real concern. And I'm with Baums regarding Roeselare blend. I think its a mistake to start of with a straight brett beer unless you have a friend like Al to help you through the yeast development stage (unless you yourself possess such expertise).

I see Roeselare blend as a sort of "sour beer kit" approach. Try that to get a feel for the sour beer world. I think the biggest mistake a brewer can make is to enter this building from the 10th floor. Start at the lobby. We can help you along the way, but there is no substitute for your own observation of cause and effect.

I'd also recommed you plan a couple beers with the Roeselare blend, each a week or two apart. I feel this pack needs a couple generations to really kick into gear. It can also give you a nice chance to observe the multi-generation effect.

BPotts
10/30/07 11:48 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
When I say perfectly drinkable "young" beer I use quotes because a beer with all brett will reach TG in standard ferment times. Although its reached TG i'm sure it would be perfectly fine to cellar as well....
Ryan
10/30/07 01:53 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Is the consensus that an all Brett l. beer is not as nice as Brett c? I would have thought that the cherry flavors from the l. would be generally favored by you folks with experience.

Dave I
10/30/07 01:54 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
So SteveG, you think the Roeselare blend (or some other pre-packaged bug-blend) would be better to start out with than Sebastian's all-Brett. C beer? And for the record, I have none of the expertise of the bug-fiends like Al B.

As to the Roeselare blend . . . For making something like a Flanders Red (which sounds kind of nice), could I use Roeselare as the primary yeast, or should I really just let some neutral yeast do the heavy lifting and leave the Roeselare for secondary fermentation and aging duties? If I can use it for primary, would something like a basic Tripel and then a Flanders Red on the yeast/bug-cake be safe to plan multi-generation beers?

-Cheers

Dave I
10/30/07 02:08 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
<<For making something like a Flanders Red (which sounds kind of nice),>>

Or an Oud Bruin. A Flanders Red AND a Flanders Brown/Oud Bruin both sound nice.

-Cheers

Al B
10/30/07 02:16 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Yes the Rosy blend is user friendly and you can use it primary or secondary. The Russian river inoculated wood chips blow every blend out of the water. My personal favorite for an all Brett brew is Wyeast B. lambicus - batch# 2 soon to come. B. clausenii turns into a pine-apple bomb when I brew with it. But I've tasted other brews completely different. They also continue to evolve, as in the Fantome Brett I have.

Al

Dave I
10/30/07 02:31 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
<<The Russian river inoculated wood chips blow every blend out of the water.>>

I cannot say I am surprised. There is not any way to get access to these, is there? Anybody have some extra RR wood chips they are interested in parting with?

If I cannot acquire any RR-wood chips, how does this sound for a backup plan:

Use the Belgian Ardennes for the primary of an Oud Bruin and Roeselare & oak cube it in secondary, then do an all-Roeselare (or the Roeselare/Ardennes yeast cake) for a Flanders Red.

Is that remotely viable?

-Cheers

Mike T
10/30/07 02:35 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
"The Russian river inoculated wood chips blow every blend out of the water."

Excellent!

Anyone who is using these have any tips? I just got a baggie of them from James Spencer (Basic Brewing Radio/Video). SAH and I are thinking of doing a beer inspired by Russian River Temptation (Pils + unmalted wheat to 1.062, Sterling and Stryian Goldings to 27 IBU, some chardonnay soaked oak cubes), and I am thinking of funk-ifying a saison (recipe TBD).

Should I just toss some of the chips directly into the secondary on each? Should I rinse them off first? Is it worth making a starter? Just a regular starter or should I add some already fermented beer so there is a bit of alcohol to protect them from other critters?

Any help would be appreciated.

SteveG
10/30/07 02:48 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
<<So SteveG, you think the Roeselare blend (or some other pre-packaged bug-blend) would be better to start out with than Sebastian's all-Brett. C beer?>>

Dave, definately. I think the biggest danger in brewing with brett is a tendancy to think in terms of more conventional yeast. For example, I made a Berliner with just Brett C, it fermented out and was basically finished in a week and won a regional AHA medal. All this happened because the calibre of the slurry Al made me was so good, it could be argued that it was more his success than mine. Someone here was encouraged by this success and tried it for themselves. Understanding the yeast needs to be really gung ho they pitched it in a starter for a week and swirled it to add O2. In conventional yeast terms this would have been fine. But not for brett, where my beer was finished (including having hit its ultimate flavor profile) in a week there's began showing activity 70 days after pitching.

I feel brett brewing is a very advanced thing, to be honest if I didn't know Al it would probably be too advanced for me. Encouraging people to brew with all brett is something I try to be careful about cause its easy to fail, and failures can be really aweful (in taste terms). So IMO if you try it before you are ready the likely outcome will be that you end up discouraging yourself. Dave, hopefully your career as a homebrewer will be a long one. If so, there is plenty of time to start easy and ramp up as your experience grows. Odds of finding a level of success using Roeselare are high, especially if you recycled it a couple times. Take the path of lease resistance and your enthusiasm will grow as you get deeper into this. Bite off too much too soon and you may well end up poisoning the well for yourself.

Al B
10/30/07 02:48 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
It was suggested by Vinnie to do a starter, and the older they get, I would do so. Mine were fairly fresh and were added to the secondary w/out a starter. I didn't bother to wash them off. If you do a starter, be sure to also add the chips into the brew.

Another note: I did some culturing initially and found numerous oxidative yeasts (other than Bretts). They contribute to the complexity, so a little air (microaerophilic conditions) during the secondary would be a good thing in the headspace. I do this since my reds are in glass, so I pop the airlock once a month or so.

Al Bacillus

Mike T
10/30/07 02:56 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Thanks Al, how far in advance do you think I should make the starter? I'm excited to get going, but I probably won't be adding the bugs to a batch for another 2 months.
Ryan
10/30/07 03:01 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
MikeT

I made a starter with my chips and it grew a gnarly mold on the surface (which I didn't see until pitching and noted a cloud of green spores poofing out of the carboy). I ended up racking the beer out from underneath the mold and have now been sitting clean for a month or so. still no pellicle but you might keep your eyes open.

Al, I am growing up the Brett l. on a stir plate and plan to chill/decant/feed fresh wort every day for the next five days or so. Anything else that you do to get the results Steve is talking about?

Mike T
10/30/07 03:13 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
"it grew a gnarly mold on the surface"

I saw your post on the other thread, it is part of the reason I was considering adding some already fermented beer to the starter. I figure that some alcohol (2% or so) right off the bat would help to keep mold and other unwelcome guests from showing up until the Vinnie’s pets wake up and can fend for themselves.

Strange that it still hasn't grown a pellicle after a month. What sort of container are you aging it in? I have found that some bugs won't make a pellicle unless there is some oxygen in the headspace.

Al B
10/30/07 03:21 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
It may take several days to a couple of weeks if the chips are older. I am not sure, but it couldn't hurt. But then again, you might get some mold growing initially as well, so keep an eye on it.

Ryan - Sounds good.

Ryan
10/30/07 03:31 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
i think my mold was a consequence of my 175 year old cabinetry that I had the starter jar in, not the chips themselves.

I am aging it in a glass carboy that I flushed with CO2 before racking into. Maybe I should pop the top and let it breathe for a sec?

So, Al--that is to say that that's all you do? timewise is good too?

BPotts
10/30/07 04:41 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Dave - For your oud bruin you might want to consider that the Ardennes yeast is very assertive with it's phenolic and estery flavors (bubblegum, clove, banana). While this can be delicious in a wide variety of belgian style ales, it can contrast greatly with the flavors produced by bretts and bacteria (and the styles using them). Wyeast, and I'm assuming White Labs (and I would suggest this myself from experience), suggests to use a more neutral primary yeast in conjunction with bugs to let the buggy flavors shine through. Something like the German Ale yeast, or the new Cry Havoc yeast from WL which I have tried myself and is VERY clean....I also think English yeasts go well with bretts and bacteria due to lower attentuation and higher fruity-ester production.
Al B
10/30/07 06:40 PM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Ryan,

You may need a couple of weeks for building a slurry on a 100% brett brew. You will want to pitch a slurry as if you were pitching for a lager (at a minimum), and the brett may grow slower than Sacch. (depending on strain, age of culture, etc.)

For a brett starter, I use DME and dextrose (1:1), maltodextrin (optional), peptone (0.1%)and yeast nutrient.

Dextrose is a simple sugar and quickly attacked. Oxygen and agitation for optimum growth + sterol production.

Mike T
10/31/07 08:46 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
BPotts - I have actually gotten pretty good results using Belgian yeasts as the starting yeast for funky beers. It seems to me that the Brett either changes or covers up most of the esters/phenols that the primary yeast produces. Have you actually had an experience where after a year or two of Brett/Bacterial aging the primary yeast character was detrimental to the finished beer?

As a general rule I keep the primary fermentation cool to make sure the yeast stays relatively clean, and to encourage low attenuation. I have very good luck with with a Flanders Red and a Cuvee Tomme clone that I started with WL 530 (Westmalle), and a Flanders Pale that I started with the Ardennes is headed in the right direction. This winter I am planning on using the WY saison yeast as the primary on a funky beer.

Check out the Russian River bottle log, Vinnie seems to use expressive Belgian Yeasts as the base for all his sour beers.

BPotts
10/31/07 09:07 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
Interesting...never checked out that part of the site before....that's great that they post their results like that.....

I see that most of it is the RR abbey or RR belgian ale yeast, which I'm pretty unfamiliar with, and I have know idea how "expressive" they are, but I never notice any strong phenolics in any of their sour beers (maybe they're broken down over long aging). Abbey ale yeasts in general tend to be the more subtle of the Belgians, especially in ester production and I don't think it produces much phenols either.

I've never experienced extreme flavor contrasts in long-aged beer, but a flanders pale ale I did this summer with the WL Farmhouse yeast came out quite phenolic and it definitly competes with the lacto/bretts for dominance of the flavor. While I do like this beer A LOT either way, especially as my first Flanders Pale ale (finished in a timely 3 months, more tart than beers sitting for a year+) I think it might have been more accurate to style (and taste) if the phenolics were not trying to overpower the buggy acidic flavors.

Al B
10/31/07 09:37 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
A logical choice for me was using WY Belgian wheat (DeDolle) in the primary for my reds. Just checked on them last night w/ the RR chips.........utterly insane.
BPotts
10/31/07 09:45 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
The lambic blend contains the wheat yeast, which worked well for me. The resulting flanders red came out nice and vinuous. Al, have you examined what might exactly be contained in those chips yet?
Mike T
10/31/07 10:00 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
I agree that you don't want over-the-top Belgian style esters/phenols in most sour beers, I was just suggesting that I don’t have to go the other direction with an ultra clean yeast which seems to be the trend these days. I think the more compounds your primary yeast produces the more complexity the finished beer will have as the Brett/bacteria interact.

I got my starter going last night with those chips. Al is killing me his occasional references to how good his batch with them is coming along. I can’t wait to try my funky beers with them…after I get around to brewing and ageing them…

Baums
10/31/07 10:34 AM  
Re: First Foray Into the Wild Brews: Which Germ to
BPotts says "the Ardennes yeast is very assertive with it's phenolic and estery flavors (bubblegum, clove, banana)"

The esters can be easily controlled--I know from experience that if you pitch a (well-aerated) 3L starter of 3522 for 5G of 1.050 beer you will get little/none of the esters. On the other hand lower pitch rates and aeration will increase those esters.

I believe that the esters don't matter much in a beer aged with brett, because brett can and will destroy them. (I wish I could remember an exact reference for that because I don't like it strong claims are made wihtout support--but anyway in both the beer and wine literature there's solid documentation that brett destroys fruity esters, and many people like Mike have noticed this effect). Maybe the broken-down esters add some complexity, but on the other hand the taste threshold for the esters is generally much lower than for the fusels and acids they break into. Anyway the point is I think we can be confident that fruity esters will not HURT a beer aged with brett, and it's not clear whether they will add anything or not.

As for the clove/phenols, I am with you on that BPotts. Two recent brews with 3522 have convinved me that I need to either learn how to control its phenolics (and I'm not sure that can even be done in any reasonable way) or else continue my search for the perfect workhorse strain that fits my taste. I like the black pepper thing 3522 can do, but *to my taste* the clove levels are distracting, and I'm not sure they will diminish with age. German hefes from the back shelf of a liquor store have no banana left, but they still seem to maintain that cloviness.

By the way, regarding Russian River, the quote from BLAM is interesting along these lines. He says he steers people toward WLP500 because it produces less phenolics than a lot of the other yeasts.

Had a Maredsous 10 the other day and noticed that phenolics were not too apparent in that either. Presumably WY1388 and WLP 570 are similar?

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