Exploring Flavors of Brettanomyces

Brewers are constantly trying to come up with new flavor combinations, but these are mostly limited by the amount of ingredients available. In brewing, we have 4 main ingredients: Malt, Hops, Water and Yeast. And within each of those ingredients more varieties are constantly being developed. The category that is most exciting to me and which possibly has the greatest impact on flavor is the yeast. The vast majority of beer is brewed with some type of Saccharomyces strain. There is a wide spectrum of flavors possible from the banana and clove notes of a weisse yeast to the relatively clean flavors produced by american ale strains. As large as this spectrum seems, it is still somewhat limited and has not undergone much change until recently. There has been an interest in finding new Brettanomyces strains. Brettanomyces is also a type of yeast and most commonly found in sour ales from Belgian. The range of flavors produced by Brettanomyces is just starting to be discovered.

This new opportunity to find new flavors excited me and I soon found myself speaking with talented microbiologists that had the skill to isolate these Brettanomyces strains from either commercial beers or the ambient air. These yeasts are often used in conjunction with Saccharomyces strains and even souring bacteria like Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. So the particular flavor generated from just the Brettanomyces isn't well known. Plus, Brettanomyces is well known to have a quite drastic flavor change over time (unlike Sacchromyces). 

One microbiologist in particular named Sam Aeschlimann from Switzerland offered to work with me to test several strains he had isolated. We found each other through his website, Eureka Brewing. He sent over 20 different strains of Brettanomyces for me to brew with and provide sensory feedback. More on the background of this experiment can be read here

Brettanomyces pellicle formed on the beer surface

At Council Brewing, we decided it would be fun (and educational) to brew with some of our favorite strains from the initial testing. So we split a batch of our Farmer's Gold Saison into 1/2 BBL kegs and added a separate strain of Brettanomyces to each. These kegs are currently maturing and should be released in the coming months. This opportunity will allow you to taste flavors of each individual strain and realize how much impact a single cell organism can have on your beer.