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!

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I Love @greenflashbrew Rayon Vert and Recipes For Good Saisons and Session IPA

Hi brewing brothers and sisters!

I’m writing this with 2 whistling airlocks serenading me, which I’d bet most of you agree is a beautiful thing. Anyway, I was working on a (still incomplete) piece for Hooked On Hops the other day about the coming wave of Brett beers and couldn’t quite remember the exact beer that got me interested in Brettanomyces. Today it hit me. Meet Rayon Vert!

Today I found Green Flash Rayon Vert had made its way to town and that gorgeous little 4 pack of goodness jogged my memory. Rayon Vert appears to be Green Flash doing its version of Orval: a fairly straightforward Belgian Pale bottled with Brett. Of course I prefer Rayon Vert because it was my first love, but also because its hopping is a little fruitier & base probably just a touch lighter. Rest assured Orval, your (fairly thick) bowling pin bottle will always be my first choice in a bar fight.

All of that segues (amazingly I knew how to spell that) into yesterday’s double brew day. After a strong 2 hours of post SNAFU meeting sleep I arose and brewed the second coming of my first beer on the White Labs 670 American Farmhouse strain (Hay Gurl) to bring the world Hay Gurl 2: My Boyfriend Brett Is Back. Labeling someday will be a nightmare.

Besides that, anybody that follows my brewing at all knows re-brewing any batch is almost unheard of. I’m too busy bouncing around from one Platinum strain to the next with the latest hops etc etc. I’m a big ball of brewing creativity which results in the occasional amazing beer, a lot of mediocre beer, & a fair amount of back-to-the-drawing-board beer.

But what can I say? I’m a sucker for fruity hops, saison yeast with Brett, & people enjoying my creations. That sums up Hay Gurl. RECIPE HERE. Also, yes…I do wish I’d have given the beer a slightly less ridiculous name that didn’t involve a Ryan Gosling reference.

But beyond that, getting to taste Rayon Vert nearly a year after my first encounter makes it clear that I’m striving to brew a fruitier hoppier version of my first love. While my beer knowledge & brewing abilities have probably quadrupled, I realize I’m unconsciously trying to tweak an ‘old’ favorite. The less romantic version of that story is that I love hoppy Belgians, fairly clean malt bills, & Brett. Of course I’m trying to combine all of the above.

At any rate, I shot for more sessionable (OG 1.052) with a bigger hop addition at flameout for Hay Gurl Deuce. (You may recall that Hay Gurl aka the 48% efficiency batch was originally going to be more on the sessionable side, but a broken hydrometer made me think it was less than banging.) Anyway, the aroma of my last 4oz of Citra wasn’t as killer as usual, but the Simcoe is still holding its shooting arm in the air on account of how baller it is. So yep yep, Hay Gurl 2 is off and running. It’s actually trying to blow off its lid 2 feet away from me. Good times.

My second batch of the doubleheader was the brainchild of myself, Aaron from The HopHead Report & Luis from Hooked On Hops. Everybody seemed interested in a lighter bodied Double IPA using my newly acquired pile of 21% AA Polaris hops, so I went ahead and whipped something up (using Jamil’s DIPA base recipe). Hopefully it’s yummy and we all agree it should be proudly poured at the Montelago Beerfest on 11/10. At 284 IBU with a hop that big and danky, I’m just excited to try it period. Worst case I’ll age half the batch on Brett and throw the other half at passing motorists in Ziplock bags. 🙂

Besides Hay Gurl, I have 10 other entries in this Saturday’s SNAFU competition. I have 2 others that have enough promise to share the recipes for. The Saison De Starter side of my 585 experiment (recipe here) turned out to be fairly popular and my Purring Kitten Session IPA #1 (recipe here) on White Labs 006 Bedford has earned high praise so far as well.

Wish me luck in the big competition this weekend! I’ll be judging Friday & Saturday and since I failed to enter a beer in EVERY single category, they’ll likely put me to good use. As always, feel free to ask for any help or guidance on the Cicerone test.

Proost y’all!

New Zealand Hops, Bottling, and My Brett Collection

Big news! I received a box of New Zealand hops from Farmhouse Brewing Supply today! Better yet, four of the varieties were hops I’ve never used/smelled or even chewed on!

Of course I thought it would be fun to bust them open and record my initial impressions, then look up the descriptors for each & smell them again to see if I could pick those things out.

Riwaka 5.2% AA – Got a little spice followed by fruity. A little grassy with a very present citrusy watermelon note. It’s described as a big grapefruity citrus ride. I may be identifying that big note as watermelon-like. Riwaka seems like a very intriguing little hop.

Wakatu 7% AA – Starts a little earthy/musty then goes big artificial cherry. I’m very excited about this hop. Its descriptors are rounded floral with hints of lime. I’d still lean more towards cherry, but an awesome hop nonetheless. Can’t wait to use it!

Southern Cross  12.7% AA – They use this hop in Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere. Hits me mostly grassy with a little unidentifiable fruit. Supposed to be citrus and spice but I’m getting more grass/earth and I’m not blown away by it.

Topaz 16.4% AA – I get a hint of peacheyness followed by slightly dank grassy notes. Descriptors are earthy and lychee. I’ve never had lychee that I know of. Mostly get earthy/grassy. Should be fine for bittering.

Other than burying my poor nose in crazy new NZ hops, I bottled 3 batches in the last 2 days. Cleaning & sanitizing all those bottles in my kitchen sink is not my favorite thing in the world but it did give me a chance to catch up on a decent amount of Brewing Network Sunday Sessions. I have to get a chest freezer & more kegging equipment sooner or later though. Just to preserve my sanity.

All 3 batches were decent or better at the time of bottling. The 6/23 Tripel was nothing mind-blowing from the bucket. Tasted a little grainy. I’m hoping it develops a little in the bottle. The 6/14 Dubbel had promise. A little burnt raisin aroma. Looking forward to that carbing up. The 6/27 Nelson Sauvin Pale was pretty nice. Firm bitterness and plenty of hoppyness. A little cloudy from all the late & dry hopping, but pleasant out of the bucket. So far I’m thinking a touch more crystal/sweetness could be nice, but the point of the beer was a clean canvass to experience the marvelous Nelson hop. In that category I did not disappoint!

I’m still tinkering with names for all 3 beers. My lovely girlfriend wasn’t too impressed with my initial naming efforts. Dubbel For Nothing earned a blank stare. Raisin The Roof is being reserved for a future effort with raisins. The Tripel seemed a little bland so it may spend its days known as The Agnostic.

My other mission of the day was getting all 3 year-round Brett strains (B, C, L) from White Labs stepped up and/or into starters. I’m not entirely sure what Bretted out experiment I’ll pursue in the coming weeks just yet. I’m still shaping a plan to use all 3 as 100% Brett fermentations on the same base recipe. Feel free to comment on what style of grain bill you’d lean towards, dear readers.

Brett B had quite a turpentine-esque aroma and Brett C is looking especially fun. I’d be worried if it weren’t Brett. And even still I’m a little worried.

Speaking of fun with Brett, I checked in on Sink Spoon Rye IPA today as well. Sink Spoon is the 100% Brett batch on WLP644 Brett B Trois that I brewed with Joe 12 days ago. The gravity is down to 1.020 at room temp and there is definitely some delightful funk in the aroma. No sign of sink-related bacteria acting wild.

That’s all this mild-mannered homebrewer has to report for now. I’ll probably tinker around with a recipe for a New Zealand hopped version of Union Jack IPA tonight. One can never have too many IPAs.

Alright, I’m out. Be well y’all. 🙂