Refuge Gone Wild: Fun With Brettanomyces!

Hi fellow heroes!

My apologies for the long absence. I have a tendency to get very wrapped up in my work when my work includes fun, funk & barrels.

Today I want to get everybody up to speed on what we’ve been doing at Refuge with Brettanomyces because we’re really excited to be a part of the new wave of American Wild Ales.

 freebird art

Our first foray into the world of Brett beers was Free Bird, a beer pre-determined to pour for our second Summer Nights event on June 21st. I will admit it was rather nerve-racking to promise a potentially slow-fermenting (funky) beer within a 6 week window, but you don’t start making Brett beers unless you like to live dangerously to begin with.

The barrel chosen was a wine barrel that had previously imparted very little character and produced very neutral beer. While that wasn’t great for a lot of what we were doing with our barrel program, it worked just fine for Brett beer.

Free Bird started as simply a barrel fermented 100% WLP 644 Brett B Trois version of our flagship beer, Blood Orange Wit. We filled the barrel right off the brewhouse with wort and let the beer ferment predominantly in our storage space, as there are always concerns of cross-contamination with such a super-attenuating yeast (that can eat wood proteins).

brett note

In this case the term ‘burn’ just means immerse everything in 180 degree water so we limit our chances of ‘clean’ beers getting extra funky flavors and attenuation from Brett.

So with caution Free Bird proceeded. I was a proud father. I photographed some of his first CO2 bubbles:

freebird bubbling

And when he was kegged:

kegging freebird

And finally his first pint:

freebird pint

Along the way Free Bird morphed from a strictly Brett version of our Blood Orange Wit, to include a 5 gallon batch of 100% WLP 645 Brett C Wit & some pineapples and grapefruit blended in for good measure.

I also made a 5 gallon batch of 100% WLP 650 Brett B Wit and that ended up being its own entity with blood oranges and limes, called What The Funk?

The really fun thing about all of this was that we added the Brett C Wit & fruit to a new barrel and transferred all but 5 or so gallons of the Free Bird onto that. We then immediately re-filled the initial barrel full of Brett B Trois with the wort from an Illusion Belgian IPA brew. That new enterprise, now called Delusion, was rocking right away the next morning:

delusion krausen

I’ve never seen a Brett B Trois fermentation take off that fast, but then again this was my first time re-pitching it. At any rate, we dry hopped Delusion with a healthy amount of Galaxy, Columbus, & Centennial and we’re all enjoying its bouquet of danky bubblegum and slightly funky melon notes.

Rest assured funk fans, there’s more in the works. Some upcoming projects include:

– 5 gallons of Refugee Tripel with limes & mangoes on Yeast Bay’s Beersel Brett blend.

– 100% Brett B Trois version of our awesome Shelter 9 IPA dry hopped big with some fun things that may include El Dorado, Mosaic, Huell Melon, etc. This will be released at the August 16th Summer Nights event.

– Sauvignon Blanc barrel aged Citra Saison with kumquats on the Yeast Bay’s Lochristi Brett blend.

– White wine barrel aged Imperial Saison with strawberries and cherries on WLP 645 Brett C.

– All sorts of permutations and experiments using new strains and blends like the ones The Yeast Bay is offering.

I also want to mention, since it will get dragged into Brett territory here and there, that our Citra Saison should be out and about on draft pretty soon. I was so excited to see it pouring at one of my favorite watering holes, Public House, that I took a picture:

citra on public house menu

While we’re veering from the path of funk I should also mention that we were really excited to take 3 medals at this year’s San Diego International Beer Festival!

103871sd fair awards

Finally, I want to say a big thanks to The Mad Fermentationist, Michael Tonsmeire, for always being helpful and assuring me I wouldn’t have to worry about too much oxygen pick up if I fermented Free Bird in a barrel. There’s some beer that’ll be getting bottled and sent your way buddy!

Jester King, as always, deserves a shout out too as they always open their brains for picking about many things farmhouse. They should be expecting beermail too!

That’s all for now. If you find yourself in Southern California, come and drink all this funk so we can make more!

100% Brett Rye IPA is delicious and other updates

Well, it’s time for an update! I’d been waiting to have a big announcement of when & where I’d be working as an assistant brewer, but things are developing more slowly than expected. Stay tuned on that front.

However, just because I haven’t been blogging doesn’t mean I haven’t been brewing!

Batches since my last post:

– 8/29 All Galaxy Belgian IPA on WLP 530/570 mix

– 9/2 All 2-row Palisade Pale on WLP 002 (potential R&D for Laughlin)

– 9/14 Guard De Gumball on WLP 072 French Ale – finally brewed my version of Gumballhead!

– 9/15 Wit on WLP 410 using 2oz of Pacific Jade at flameout in place of orange peel

I’d like to advise caution with that Wit strain. I woke up to open fermenting and the bucket’s lid trying to surf the web in my computer chair. I’m just happy my trusty cat assistant seemed unscathed. She usually sleeps in this chair.

 

In the coming days I’ll also be brewing a Session IPA (4.2%) but I still haven’t decided what yeast to run it on. I’ve stepped up some expired vials of WLP 009 Australian Ale (& the starter wort was nice and mellow), but I also have some WLP 006 Bedford British Ale ready to rock. Basically everything limited release Platinum strain that I’ll have a hard time getting again. Here are links that I found helpful during recipe formulation: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3.

I should also update my adoring fans on how the 4 beers I bottled on 9/3 are shaping up! The Sink Spoon 100% Brett Rye IPA is by far the star of the show. Very delicious. I had someone request a 6 pack to take to their wine club on the 20th. The idea of wine people being brought into beer by their most hated enemy, Brettanomyces, is almost more than I can handle. Anyway, here’s the recipe!

The saisons on WLP 585 & 670 were both pretty good. I think American Farmhouse 670 definitely has some future potential for me. The idea of slowly getting more Brett-ed out is just too exciting to pass up.

My New Zealand Union Jack didn’t taste terribly cloying & under-attenuated when I bottled, but now it’s just way too sweet. WLP 002 English Ale has so far proven to be an interesting animal to deal with. I bottled 3 gallons of NZ Union Jack & put the remaining gallon plus directly onto the WLP 644 Brett cake. I’m looking forward to seeing if that dries it out much & potentially playing around with the 002/644 mix.

In other news, my homebrewing award & score sheets from the So Cal Regional showed up! Lazy But Belgian (recipe here) got a 38 and 33, Lake Water For Chocolate Imperial Amber got 33 and 31, & Hops Ate My Homework got 31 & 30.

 

I think my favorite comments were from the judge that gave me a 38, but knocked me for glue on the bottle and the judge who told me that Hops Ate My Homework could use more aroma hops. The aroma hops comment made me laugh especially hard because that beer had 1.5lbs of hops in it & most of them were late or dry hops. At any rate, I’m just excited to have a ribbon to my name and can’t wait to rack up more.

Otherwise I have a lot of random beerliciousness ongoing. The 100% Brett C Tripel still tastes like umami & sweaty sloppy joes after 3 months, so I gave it the big pile of random Brett & sour dregs I’d amassed. So far in 2 attempts with Brett C as a primary strain I’ve found it to be a little disgusting.

My English IPA on WLP 023 Burton Ale appears crapped out at 1.020 despite a few vigorous attempts at rousing, so it got dry hops last night. I probably should’ve pulled the Lime Saison off of the limes when it tasted good, because now it’s a little overboard. I’m debating between pitching some Flanders style mix on it or hitting it with my big mess of stepped up Brett B & L. My 8/24 Hef isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as the 8/20 so I gave it an ounce of Nelson Sauvin dry hops. Nelson fixes everything in my book.

Anyway, as you can see the operation just keeps cranking along. I may whip up a few smaller, quicker turnaround beers to have more entries for the SNAFU Memorial a month from now. Surely I can dominate the non-existent session IPA category!

Before I sign off I want to say I love my girlfriend like crazy and I’m very happy to be celebrating our 1 year anniversary today! Pickle loves you Penguin! 😀

Proost y’all!