Monday, 4 July 2016

Azacca Brett brux Trois Vrai IPA

Ok, say that three times really fast.

I've been itching to brew another 100% Brett IPA for a few months - my first two attempts in 2015 were both fermented with The Yeast Bay's Amalgamation (a blend of six Brett strains); the first was hopped with Amarillo and Hallertau Blanc, the second with Galaxy and Southern Cross. I was happy with both beers, although my favourite of the two would probably be the first one. When making an online order for some homebrew supplies a couple of months ago, I saw that they had White Labs Brett brux Trois Vrai available; you may remember all the controversy surrounding White Labs Brett Trois last year, a popular strain that turned out not to actually have Brett in it at all (summed up best here). Vrai being french for "true", this is the real Brett Brux strain, and is described by White Labs as having a "robust, complex sour character with aromas of pear", and is intended to be used for Brett-primary fermentations.

Sure, why not? Like I said, I really enjoyed my last couple of Brett IPAs; I won't rehash Brett IPA facts that I covered in the original posts, but they're great because they're usually ready within several weeks (similar to Sacch-fermentations) as opposed to when Brett is used with other strains, where a beer can ultimately take months before it's ready. Also, they often exhibit a really great combination of light Brett funk and tropical fruit (depending on hop variety(ies) used, of course), where at least some of the fruit character is from the Brett itself.

Of course, there's a lot of Brett strains out there, and just like Saccharomyces, the strain you use is ultimately going to have a huge effect on how your beer turns out. I assume that some Brett strains work better in Brett IPAs than others, but I ordered the Trois Vrai for the hell of it, throwing caution to the wind like the crazy, wild man I commonly am. I built it up with a couple of starters (of course, the vial White Labs sent had an extremely small amount of cells - only 3 billion - so you have to get that up to ~200 billion, plus I overbuilt by another 50 billion to re-use for another beer), and planned my recipe.

I was completely happy going with the same grist I had used for the last two Brett IPAs: 2-row, a good portion of Wheat malt, and a bit of Carapils and Acid malt to make up the difference, all to an OG of 1.057 (Trois Vrai is listed as having an attenuation of 85%+, so I was hoping for the FG to get to at LEAST 1.010). I mashed at 153 F to try to keep the body of the beer from being too thin (most Brett strains don't produce glycerol, which increases body and mouthfeel of beer).

I'm not quite sure why I decided to make this a single-hop beer, but I had quite a bit of Azacca on hand, which may have had something to do with it. I also really love Azacca - its citrus, pineapple, and tropical fruit characteristics are pretty awesome, and those qualities really sound like they would work great in a Brett IPA, no? I went with a small addition of Polaris at the beginning of the boil, and then added all of the Azacca (about 8 oz total) from flameout on, with almost half incorporated into a single dry-hop addition.

Once the brewing was complete, I pitched the Brett starter at about 66 F (Trois Vrai is listed as having an optimal temperature range of 70-85 F) and let 'er go. May (and frankly, the first half of June) was mostly cool in Fredericton, and I didn't use a heat belt, so the temperature never really rose above 72 F, but fermentation took off quickly. The FG didn't get to where I expected based on the listed attenuation; it made it to 1.014 and then stopped, so maybe keeping this strain warmer is an important point. After a couple of weeks or so, I dry-hopped in primary, and then kegged the beer about 5 days later. I strongly considered bottling this beer, but had space in my keezer and decided to go that route.

I've been drinking this beer for 3-4 weeks now, and I can say this: Brett brux Trois Vrai DEFINITELY contains Brettanomyces. Check out the picture below this paragraph... that's the pellicle on a small pour of this beer, 2-3 days after I poured it (I cleared the line in a small glass and forgot to toss it). Yikes! Aside from that, the Brett presence in the aroma and flavour is quite strong, and seems to grow stronger every few days. This beer is very unlike my first two Brett IPAs - with those beers, you really noticed the hops. While you can tell there are hops in this beer, they're definitely not in-your-face, and I'd never guess that Azacca was used. Simply put, the Brett dominates, and has since the first pour. I'd describe this beer as 75% Brett beer, 25% IPA. Think barnyard funk with a bit of tropical fruit.

Makes you wonder what's growing in the tap line...

I guess that just goes to show you how important yeast selection is in a beer; we all know that when we're choosing a Sacch strain, but when you think Brett, it's easier to just assume that any strain will do. Experiment a bit, read a little on Brett strains, and you'll see that they're easily as diverse as many strains of Saccharomyces... maybe even more so!

In the meantime, I've been enjoying this beer, and others who have tried it seem to be as well. Personally, I prefer the Amalgamation blend I've used before: it attenuated better, and had much more of that pineapple, tropical fruit character that I love in Brett IPAs. The Brett brux Vrai would probably work really well in other 100% Brett fermentations, but I'd recommend another strain for a Brett IPA, unless you're really curious for yourself. I plan to brew a Brett Table beer sometime soon with it, which I think would be a good match.

Recipe Targets: (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.010, IBU ~42, SRM 4.1, ABV ~6%

3.7 kg (71.8%) Canadian 2-row
1.1 kg (21.4%) Wheat malt
200 g (3.9%) Carapils
150 g (2.9%) Acid malt

Polaris - 10 g (20% AA) @ 60 min

Azacca - 70 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Azacca - 40 g @ 0 min (after started chilling)

Azacca - 105 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: WLP648 Brett brux Trois Vrai (with a starter, ~200 billion cells)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum and 5 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on May 4th, 2016, by myself. 50-minute mash with 15 L of strike water; mash temp on target of 153 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 6.75 L of boiling water to 167 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.045 (target 1.046). 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.5 gallons; OG on target at 1.057. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into Better Bottle. Aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2, pitched yeast at 66 F.

- Fermentation was going strong by the next evening, but airlock activity was complete within 48 hours later. Temp never got above 72 F.

- 16/5/16 - FG 1.014; added dry-hops into primary. Kegged five days later and started carbing.

Appearance: Pours with a moderate-large, white creamy head that shows very good retention - even after several minutes, it's still at least a finger-size thick. Body is a light gold colour, and after several weeks is showing very good clarity (although, admittedly it was quite hazy for a while at the beginning).

Aroma: Barnyard funk, light wheat character, moderate fruitiness; it all works well together, but you would expect more of that citrus, grapefruit, piney character because of all the Azacca used.

Taste: Funky, horse-blanket characters dominate; kind of tastes like Orval in a way, with more of a light fruitiness to back everything up. Shows a light tartness. Finishes with a medium-low to medium bitterness, fairly dry.

Mouthfeel: Medium-bodied, moderate carbonation.

Overall: An enjoyable Brett beer, but not the best Brett IPA by any means. I think this yeast strain would best be used in Brett beers that aren't supposed to center around hops.

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