I am a scientist in the real world, and today I am going to get a little science-nerdy here, so bear with me (or skip straight to the next paragraph to find out how I liked the beer). Most current beers are brewed with yeast strains from the genus Saccharomyces. Even before brewers understood microbiology they would cultivate strains of yeast from batches of beer that had minimal off-flavors, and re-use these yeasts for further batches. Other beers, especially some Belgian styles, are wild-fermented, where the natural yeasts present in the atmosphere are used to ferment the beer. One of the main types of yeast present in these beers (other than Saccharomyces) is Brettanomyces, nicknamed “Brett” by most brewers and beer geeks. While the funky/barnyard flavors produced by fermentation by Brett are considered off-flavors in most British and German beer styles, they add desireable complexity to saisons and other Belgian (and now American) beer varieties. Now many brewers intentionally “infect” their beers with Brett, either in combination with another yeast strain or as the sole microbe for fermentation. While there is occasionally some confusion, Brett beers are not sours, they don’t have the acidic compounds that give sour beers their tart flavor. If you like Belgian styles but are a little nervous about taking the plunge into the more exotic sour beers, Brett-fermented beers can be a good jumping off point. Many American craft brewers are now using Brett, often they will brew the same beer with and without Brett, allowing for an interesting comparison.
One Brett beer I tried recently is Lower Dens Re-Mastered with Brett, brewed by Stillwater Brewery. Lower Dens is part of Stillwater’s Sensory Series, where each beer is a tribute to a musical act. The first batch of this hibiscus infused ale was brewed with a more traditional Belgian yeast, while the second batch included Brett. Stillwater Lower Dens Re-Mastered with Brett pours a light orange with a massive white head and significant carbonation. The smell is funky and estery, lots of obvious yeast character. The yeast comes through clearly in the flavor too, with notes of barnyard, sour apple, clove and pepper. There are also some light malts here, crackers and whole grain bread. I don’t get a strong hibiscus flavor, it blends in pretty well with the expressive yeast character. The beer is light bodied, very easy to drink and not overly strong at 6.0% ABV. If you like saisons and other Belgian styles and want to start exploring some more exotically fermented styles this is a good place to start. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Stillwater Reviews: