Brett and Sour Saison Split Batch Experiment


**2/22/11 Update** 

I sent the Brett B version of the saison (renamed Monsoon Season) to the Batch 300 competition put on by The Bruery. It didn’t get Best of Show, but it did come in first in Category 16. All and all, very cool. The results. 

The second split batch experiment happened on Sunday night with my latest saison. 

I’ve done a few saison homebrews, and I always find I enjoy the bretted and soured batches just a little bit more. Saisons are not complete strangers to wildness and sourness, and some of the more famous examples of the style from Brasserie Fantôme and Brasserie à Vapeur  are amazing because of those notes.  I think it adds more complexity to the beer, and I find myself ramping up the acidulated malt that I put into the mash a little more each time.  The idea behind this experiment was to ferment a saison and then to add a pure brettanomyces culture to one and brett and some souring bacteria into the other. 

The beer started out as one of my standard saison batches with the not-so-secret ingredient of some acidulated malt.  It started out with an OG of 1.068, and I fermented it at around 80 degrees.  It dropped down to a 1.006 less than a week later, and then I let it sit for another week just to clean itself up and let the yeasts drop out.  (I say “yeasts” because I pitch a saison yeast, in this case WLP565, and then a clean Cal ale yeast, the Safale US-05, 48 hours later to insure the beer dries out enough.) 

On Sunday (8/23/09), I split the batch evenly between two 3-gallon carboys.  Into one carboy I pitched a vial of White Labs Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (WLP650), and into the other I pitched a starter I had ramped up from the dregs of an Avery Brabant.  (Yes, this is deviation from the original souring gameplan.) 

 Split Brett Saison Batch

The Brett B is a pure culture of that brettanomyces strain and it is often used for secondary fermentation of Belgian beers and lambics.  It creates a medium intensity funk, and it is some pitched at bottling by brewers.  The Avery culture is a bit more of a wildcard.  It is my understanding that the Brabant undergoes a secondary fermentation brett b, too, but it isn’t the same culture as the tube.  The bottle dregs likely include lactobacillus (lacto) and pediococcus (pedio) bacteria. These can add extra tartness and perhaps add a vinegar quality to the beer. 

Since the final gravity of the beer was so low, the bretts shouldn’t have too much to feast upon and that should control the funkiness to a certain degree.  As of two nights later, the brett b carboy doesn’t appear to be doing anything visually, but its airlock seems to be under a bit more pressure.  The Brabant carboy is getting a white foaminess to it, and may be forming a pellicle.  

I’m not sure how long I will let these beers age and evolve.  I will likely taste them every so often and see if they are in a place where I want to bottle them.  

We’ll see where this one ends up.  

As a sidenote, I did use my wine thief a few weeks ago to fill up a few bottles of the pre-brett saison for tasting and a homebrew competition.  I tasted one right before the split and it was very, very good.  It made it harder to pitch uncertainty into what was an amazing beer, but at least I know I have the recipe I want dialed in for the future. 

The recipe for giggles: 

Le Moribond – (Saison) 2009

Starting Gravity: 1.068 (8/2/09) Days @ 80° F
Final Gravity:  1.006 (8/23/09)
8.15% alcohol (by volume)
Apparent Attenuation: 90.71
Real Attenuation: 73.35

Mash (147° 60 min)
10 lb Pilsener Malt
2 lb Golden Promise
1 lb Munich Malt
0.75 Wheat Malt
0.25 CaraMunich 40
0.25 Acidulated Malt (Sauer)
1 lb Cane Sugar

Boil (70 minute boil)
2.0 Hallertauer Leaves (4.3 AA) (60 min)
0.75 Hallertauer Leaves (4.3 AA) (0 min)
1 tablet Whirlfloc (Boil – 15 min.)
½ tsp Brewer’s Choice Wyeast Nutrient Blend (Boil – 10 min.)

Primary (>80° F)

White Labs WLP565 – Starter made
Safale-05 – Packet pitched after 48 hours in primary


9 Responses to “Brett and Sour Saison Split Batch Experiment”

  • Simply Beer Says:

    Curious as to how this has developed. Wanted to try something like this. I’ve never used the Brett yeast in brewing, any tips or advise?

  • Barlow Brewing Says:

    I was actually just checking into these last night.

    They are only a month old, but both had both dropped ~0.0002, and they are developing some complex sourness. The samples are different though. The Brabant batch is a tad harsher and more bitter. I don’t have a theory about that yet. I am hoping those qualities work themselves out, but time will be the judge of that.

    I’m not sure how long I will leave these to sour. Since they were added to the very end of a very dry (1.006) saison beer, I’m treating these like an at-bottling brett addition. I will likely bottle them within the next month. That makes sense to me and I will need to do so just to free up my mad scientist 3g carboys for more split batches.

    I’ll post something more detailed when they are bottled and tasted.

    Tips or advise for using brett? What do you want to do? Some brewers do brett-only beers. Most will ferment with a neutral yeast and pitch the brett when fermentation is about 75% complete to control the souring,. Some will do a bottling-only addition (like Orval).

    But I am oversimplifying all this.

    What do you want to make?

  • Simply Beer Says:

    I wasn’t sure on the style of beer, but I wanted to use 2 yeasts. The Saison sounds great.

    Looking forward to the outcome of your experiment.

  • Gary D Says:

    this is a cool experiment! i’d be stoked if you continue to update the blog as to how the beer came out and what it’s characteristics are. i’ve only made 2 ‘brett’ beers so far, one orval-esque beer & one wit, both made with the wyeast orval seasonal yeast that was released last summer. both beers are awesome (if u like brett). i am thinking about doing a saison myself. how did you build up the yeast dregs from the brabant?

  • BarlowBrewing Says:

    @Gary – Building up the Brabant starter was pretty easy. It is just like a yeast starter but you are pouring in the last bits of the bottle, instead of yeast, after you have poured out 9/10 of the beer into a glass. To be safe a little alcohol and flame on the lips of the bottle go a long way to keeping things sanitary, too. Swirl it up, and pour it in. And be patient.

  • Tweets that mention Brett and Sour Saison Split Batch Experiment | Barlow Brewing -- Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jamey Barlow, Joseph Lemnah. Joseph Lemnah said: RT @BarlowBrewing: My 2009 post & brett saison recipe that got a 1st place (not BOS) in The Bruery's Batch 300 comp … […]

  • Alan Says:

    Yeah, digging this one up.

    Not even sure what I searched for to get here but, I read this a few times. I had to modify a few ingredients but, I have pretty much the same recipe int he primary as I type.

    How long did you let or rather, did it take for the Brett addition batch to taste ready to bottle?

    This is my first Brett brew and just didn’t see that information.

    And congrats on your win!

  • BarlowBrewing Says:

    Hey Alan,


    After 9 months, it tasted pretty good and I went ahead an bottled it. But it was around the 18th month mark (9 months in the bottle) that it became amazing.

    So, hold on to it as long as you can, but it can do some aging in the bottle.


  • Alan Says:

    Wow two years almost. Good thing I have three carboys. I guess I’ll brew up a non Brett batch soon so we’ll have something to drink next spring.


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