Thursday, May 28, 2015


In case anyone is keeping an eye on this blog, I'm updating with some progress - well, the lack of it.

Reviving yeast from 20 year old bottles has proved difficult, even for professional yeast labs. We're giving it another shot soon and we'll see how it goes. We'll also be adding a bottle of pre-revival Courage Imperial Stout to our lineup. Hopefully we'll be able to get something out of these bottles. Stay tuned for individual articles on malt and hops in 19th century stock ales.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Brettan (British) + Myces (Fungus)

This blog is an exploration of English wild yeast strains and the strong ales they once made. I will be isolating yeasts, brewing historical beers with them, and documenting my process and results here.
English beers brewed with traditional mixed cultures

An Introduction
Until the late 19th century, British beer was brewed with complex and varied mixed yeast cultures, made up of Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, and many other yeasts and bacterias. These native cultures were created from decades of selective breeding and produced beers with a highly complex and and "unmistakable English character"1 that only came with aging. Through the 20th century, after the advent of single strain brewing, these complex beers died out.

What did that "English character" taste like?
Brett is known for its “funkiness” and extreme attenuation, but those beers were not necessarily funky and very dry. Brettanomyces has more variation between its strains than Saccharomyces does. Consider the difference between these two Sacc. strains: German hefeweizen (bananas and bubblegum) and Czech lager (very clean and a little sulfur). It’s possible that we are missing out on an enormous world of flavors yet to be discovered in English Brett strains. I would like to identify these strains and learn what they have to contribute to our beers.

Commercial English Brett. Strains
At the moment, these are the only English Brett. strains on the market:
White Labs - Brett Clausenii
Wyeast - Brett Clausenii (seasonal offering)

Slim pickings compared to the 20+ Belgian Brett. strains provided by yeast labs across the nation.

I am currently working with a yeast lab to isolate and study the microflora of several bottled traditional English strong ales, seen above. If all goes well, I will be brewing with them within a month. I'll post updates here.

My first big project documented here will be an October beer (essentially a barleywine, more details soon) brewed as historically as possible. After that, I am considering a historical IPA and a historical imperial stout.

For every beer I brew, I'll provide a detailed history and method. I hope to popularize these styles of beer and spread knowledge of how to brew them. Stay tuned!

1 N. Hjelte 
Claussen, "On a Method for the Application of Hansen's Pure Yeast System in the Manufacturing of Well-Conditioned English Stock Beers," Journal of the Institute of Brewing 10 (July-August 1904): 311.