secondary brettanomyces addition analysis, tasting

after sampling an older bottle of temptation last week, I was inspired to delve more into secondary brettanomyces fermentations.

  • initially, I read up on temptation’s powerful effervescence and dry, earthy funk.  it turns out that although most all clone recipes for temptation call for healthy additions of lacto and pedio, the real star in temptation is the brett.  in fact, vinnie himself notes that he “like[s] the Temptation for its straightforward Brett character” and that “[o]ver time, some Lacto and Pedio have infused in the beer, but it is minimal.”
  • tasting temptation made me realize that having a brett-specific beer in the lineup could be a refreshing accompaniment to sour-focused beers.  in fact, although I only detected a mild acidity in the beer, the complexity of the oak, carbonation, and earth made for a great experience.  therefore, I compiled a group of beers that included brett-based secondary fermentations for comparison:
    • orval (~1 yr old based on label)
      • appearance: amazing fluffy head that keeps expanding after the pour, vigorous fine carbonation, darker golden color (likely from an extended boil)
      • aroma: subtle, rich earth with spicy european hop notes
      • taste: spicy hop back with subtle, balanced earthy brett notes, delicate esters when glass warms
      • overall: I can see why this brew’s reputation precedes it – there is a very well balanced interplay between the hop bitterness and brett
    • rayon vert (relatively fresh)
      • appearance: slightly lighter than orval, still a solid gold with great head and carbonation
      • aroma: fresh, vibrant earthy hops
      • taste: less bitter hop back than orval, more assertive funk, still well balanced
      • overall: a great west-coast twist on a classic, fresh, balanced, and drinkable
    • matilda (2010)
      • appearance: golden color, almost identical to rayon vert (orval is darker)
      • aroma: sweet, oxidized malt
      • taste: sweet (almost cloying), slightly estery, oxidixed like an old barleywine
      • overall: not in the same ballpark as the other two, no brett character at all (maybe earlier versions are more bretty?)
  • In the end, I walked away with some observations and a few ideas for the future:
    • I was amazed by how well the fresh earthy dry-hop character of rayon vert complemented the earthy funk provided by the brett.  it was my favorite of the bunch, and gave me a little insight as to what orval may taste like before its journey westward.  I definitely need to set aside a four-pack to see what some age does to the bottles.
    • as much as I enjoyed the “slight brett in the pale ale” profile, I preferred the overwhelming brett character provided by the long-term oaked secondary fermentation of temptation to the at-bottling brett dosage from orval and rayon vert.  as a compromise, I’m thinking of mashing high (~155F), fermenting out with a belgian sacc strain for a week (or maybe just 2-3 days), adding brett B and orval dregs, letting the brett work itself out for six months, then dry hopping for a week and bottling/kegging.  that, and darkening the grist to add a little more body.  stay tuned…

 

              

              

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