Friday, 4 November 2016

Brett IPA with Citra and Vic Secret - 1/2 fermented with Amalgamation, 1/2 with Brett C

After the "eh" feelings I had about my last Brett IPA (hopped entirely with Azacca, and fermented with Brett brux Trois Vrai), I've been itching to try brewing the style again. When done well, 100% Brett IPAs are delicious beers, exhibiting the perfect balance between bright hoppiness and Brett funk. Unfortunately, the Trois Vrai used in my Azacca Brett IPA wasn't - in my opinion - a good strain to use in such a beer... the funk, while tasty, barrelled through the beer (even in the early days of pouring) and masked most of the Azacca hoppy goodness.

The first two Brett IPAs, however (here and here), were a different story. Fermented with Amalgamation from The Yeast Bay, both beers were closer to what I look for in a Brett IPA - especially the first one, hopped with Amarillo and Hallertau Blanc. For those who don't know, Amalgamation is a "Brett Super Blend" of six different Brettanomyces strains; it works fantastically well in 100% Brett beers. After those two beers, unfortunately my Amalgamation slurry seemed to go south, so I had to toss it. This was a special order online that I had piggy-backed on with someone else, so getting it again wasn't looking like it'd be easy anytime soon.

Luckily, a friend had purchased a vial fairly recently, and saved me a small amount of slurry to brew with. He also had some slurry of White Labs Brett claussenii that he gave me; he had used it recently in brewing a Brett Session IPA (hopped with Citra, Equinox, and Galaxy) which was quite tasty. I had never brewed with Brett C before; White Labs describes it as having "low intensity Brett character", with "more aroma (fruity, pineapple) than flavour contribution". Again, his beer was really good, and the description sounds ideal for a Brett IPA. I had planned to brew two separate Brett IPAs, fermenting one with Amalgamation and one with Brett C, but then I had a thought - what about splitting a batch and comparing two otherwise-exact beers after fermenting with different Brett strains? Done!

This involved a little more work than usual, because I had to grow up (via two starters each) both Brett strains to pitchable amounts (~100 billion cells each, plus a little more to save for another beer), starting from somewhere in the line of 3 billion cells. Of course, I had no idea how many cells I had, but it was a very small amount of slurry for each strain, so I erred on the conservative side.

For the recipe, I used the same grist as for all of the Brett IPAs I've brewed so far. Maybe it's time to change this up, but I find the simplicity of 71% 2-row, 21% Wheat malt (to help bump up the body), and small amounts of Carapils and Acid malt, all mashed at ~153 F, works well in Brett beers. So far with this style and this recipe, I haven't had an issue with the body being too thin, as can be a common problem in 100% Brett beers, due to the minimal production of glycerol.

I pretty much stuck with my normal hopping schedule as well, but I was back and forth on exactly which hops to use. I wanted to keep the hops the same throughout, since the main purpose of this brew is to compare 100% fermentation with two different Brett pitches. I quickly settled on using two varieties, and made the decision of which to go with basically based on inventory. I still had 6 oz of Vic Secret on hand, and some Citra to use up as well; I considered throwing in a third variety, but decided to go with Vic Secret and Citra on their own, in a 2:1 ratio, respectively. As with the other beers, a small bittering addition with Polaris at the beginning of the boil, and then large additions at flameout and when I started chilling, and a single dry-hop.

Once brewed, boiled, and chilled, I split the roughly 20 L of wort into two 3-gallon Better Bottles (yeah, I flip back and forth between metric when it comes to volume; that's just how I roll), and pitched the two starters. As you can see from the pics below, the two beers looked pretty much the same during fermentation. The temperature for both got to 74 F, and while fermentation started fairly quickly, it wasn't long before it was petering off. The airlock for the Brett C half was bubbling slightly more than the Amalgamation half, but otherwise there wasn't much of a difference. After a couple of weeks, I took a gravity reading of each: Brett C got to 1.005, and Amalgamation to 1.003. This was a big difference compared to my other Brett IPAs, especially the Amalgamation ones, where the first beer finished at 1.014, and the second at 1.008. Since the grist and pitching rates for all three are the same, I assume this has something to do with fermentation temperature (the first Brett beer never reached higher than 70 F).

Not the prettiest laundry sink, I know.
I kegged the Amalgamation half, and bottled the Brett C half, simply because I didn't have two tap lines available at the time. Plus, this does allow you to let some of the bottles sit back and change with time, but right now, we're really more concerned with how these beers differ fresh. I mean, we're talking about a single-strain Brett IPA vs. one fermented with six strains, so these beers must have come out quite different, right?

Well, not so much, actually. Let me start off by saying that both of these beers are quite tasty, and in terms of Brett IPAs I've brewed, are rivalled only by the very first Amalgamation IPA. The Citra and Vic Secret work very well together, and with the Bretts, with a pleasant combination of pineapple, citrus and tropical fruit, and a bit of barnyard funk. The beers also look identical, as I expected. The main differences are in the mouthfeel (the Amalgamation is smoother and less carbonated; both of these may have to do with how they were carbonated?), and that the Brett C beer has a low level of phenolic spiciness in the aroma and flavour, that I don't really detect in the Amalgamation.

An interesting experiment! I'll continue to mess around in the future, but for now, Amalgamation remains my go-to fermenter when it comes to Brett IPAs.

Recipe Targets:
 (5.5 gallons, 75% efficiency) OG 1.057, FG ~1.005, IBU ~40-45, SRM 4.1, ABV ~6.8%

3.7 kg (71.2%) Canadian 2-row
1.1 kg (21.2%) Wheat malt
200 g (3.8%) Carapils
200 g (3.8%) Acid malt

Polaris - 10 g (17.7% AA) @ 60 min

Citra - 28 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)
Vic Secret - 42 g @ 0 min (with a 20 min hop steep)

Citra - 28 g @ 0 min (when started chilling)
Vic Secret - 42 g @ 0 min (when started chilling)

Citra - 28 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary, 14 g per fermentor)
Vic Secret - 86 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary, 43 g per fermentor)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: 1/2 batch Brett C, 1/2 Brett Amalgamation (with a starter, ~100 billion cells each)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 3 g Gypsum and 5 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on September 7th, 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 166 F. Sparged with ~3.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~6.75 gallons.

- Pre-boil gravity at 1.045. 60-minute boil. Final volume ~5.7 gallons; OG 1.056. Chilled to 64 F, then poured into two 3-gallon Better Bottles, ~10 L each. Aerated with 45 seconds of pure O2 per fermentor, pitched yeast at 66-68 F.

- 20/8/16 - Amalgamation FG 1.003, Brett C FG 1.005. Dry-hopped both in primary.

- 25/9/16 - Kegged Amalgamation portion, bottled Brett C portion (with 56 g table sugar, aiming for 2.4 vol CO2).

Appearance: Both beers look identical upon pouring - light-golden colour, hazy/downright cloudy, medium-sized stark-white head that shows very good retention, hanging around for minutes after pouring.

Aroma: Lots of citrus, lots of pineapple and tropical fruit in both, with a low background of barnyard (it's there, but not overly noticeable); very slight phenolic character as well, a little stronger in the Brett C beer.

Taste: Very similar, again, with a pineapple/citrus fruit character coming through strongest. Again, the Brett characteristics (barnyard funk) are there, but not strong... just enough to let you know what you're drinking. The Brett C beer has that slight phenolic spiciness carrying over into the flavour as well. Both finish with a medium-low bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Here's where the beers seem to differ the most - the Brett C beer is carbonated higher (likely because it was bottled) and isn't quite as smooth as the Amalgamation, exhibiting a bit of carbonic bite. Medium-bodied for the Amalgamation, medium-light for Brett C.

Overall: I enjoy both quite a bit, but Amalgamation is the winner, here.

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