Bringing The Funk

Starting a brewery has mostly been about managing my stress while floating on a vast sea of annoying bureaucracy. Occasionally though, I get to do something spectacularly awesome that doesn’t seem like it should be work, even when it’s extremely important. It’s like getting to frolic at the end of the tunnel before getting pulled back into the abyss.

Recently, frolicking took the form of a really unique tasting opportunity. Modern Times Beer Ninjas Alex Tweet and Derek Freese joined Amy Krone (Modern Times’ Roast Mastah & resident artist) and I in tasting 4 different bottles of Mike’s Belgian single, each dosed with a different strain of brett. We tasted the clean version first—which is itself a really promising beer—before working our way through the funky stuff.

Mike conducted this tasting himself back in November, presumably while shivering and alone in the merciless DC winter, tears freezing to his parched face between each sip (ours was conducted on the patio of a great local beer bar, the sun glistening on our unshorn faces as we laughed in our swimsuits). The additional aging probably made our bottles more brett pronounced, but the results were similar.

Wyeast Brett B went first and got pretty poor reviews. Derek seemed to delight in repeating the word “fecal” while I tried to find things to like about it, which of course, just led Alex to make fun of me for being emotionally attached to yeast. Bottom line: it tasted not so good.

Wyeast Brett Trois faired considerably better. It offered loads of ripe fruit along with some hay and earth. Well-liked all around; easy to see why this performed so spectacularly in Mike’s 100% Brett IPA. This will likely be our go-to strain for hoppy brett beers.

CB1 is a strain of brett isolated from a Cantillon bottles by homebrew blogger Jason Rodriguez. It brought the more traditional brett character: funk, barnyard, horse-blanket. Really nice & well liked, but definitely a strain that should be part of a blend.

CB2, another of Jason’s Cantillon isolations, performed better by itself. Really complex, a balance of fruit, hay, must, and funk. Just an all-around delicious layer of radness atop an already tasty beer. This one will definitely get some use.

So how will we use these magical strains of yeast (except naughty, gross Brett B)? Two ways: for 100% brett fermentations and added at bottling.

Mike’s 100% Brett IPA was so mind-fuckingly good and opened up so many more possibilities, that I think we’re going to devote an entire tank to 100% brett ferments, as I mentioned in my last post. This will have the happy advantage of allowing us to get funky beers out much sooner than our sours, which will take about a year, and give us the ability to make some really unique one-offs.

Then there will be some beers that will be treated more like the ones in this tasting, getting a small dose of brett at bottling and evolving over time in the package. Mike’s dark saison is a particularly promising candidate for this type of treatment, but there are many more on the docket, including a funkified version of Lomaland, our planned year -round saison.

Mike—in his beautiful naivete as a homebrewer—wants us to release a five-bottle mix pack of differently dosed bottles so that people can replicate the tasting discussed above. Needless to say, on a commercial scale such a scheme would be a logistical nightmare, but we’ll try to figure it out anyway.

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