Thursday, 21 May 2015

Modern Times Fortunate Islands clone - 1/2 fermented with US-05, 1/2 with non-Brett Trois

Back in December, Embrace the Funk reported that the popular White Labs yeast strain WLP644 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois was actually Saccharomyces; there was no Brett identified in the culture at all. For a nicely-detailed write-up about how this began and where it headed afterward, check out the post. A lot of homebrewers were fermenting their beers with WLP644 and reporting fantastic results, especially in beers where it was used on its own; most reported that it gave off lots of fruity esters, tropical, pineapple, etc. Shortly after I started writing this post, White Labs released a statement on their own research into the issue; they've concluded that Trois is basically a Sacch strain that "displays many properties similar to Brett", such as pellicle formation, low flocculation, and certain flavor characteristics. As a result, they're reclassifying the strain as a "wild Saccharomyces", and renaming it Saccharoymyces brux-like Trois.

Some people are irritated about this news, and other people don't care - they feel that the strain is still great, so who cares if it's Brett or not? Up until now, I had never used this yeast, but if I had I think I would be in the latter group. It's all about the end result, right? Not to mention that now, you don't have to worry about contamination of any of your equipment with Brett (if you're the type to worry about such things; and if this strain is a "wild" Sacch, is there still a worry about contamination?).

All the talk about Troisgate made me want to brew with Trois; not because of the arguments online, but because of the descriptions of the IPAs people have been brewing with it. Ed posted about his experiences back in February, and that was when I decided it was finally time to give it a try myself. Luckily, a friend was ordering some yeast and other supplies from an online homebrew shop, so I had a chance to order a vial without paying an equal amount in shipping. The question was: what do I brew?

I never have a shortage of hoppy beer recipes to brew; like probably every other homebrewer, I'm constantly thinking about what to try next, adding to an ever-growing list of new beers to clone, new recipes to try that I created from scratch, and beers that I've brewed before, and want to do again. The latter category, unfortunately, doesn't get tackled as often as I'd like. But when I was scrolling through the beers in this list, something caught my eye: Modern Times Fortunate Islands. This is an easy-drinking, super-hoppy American Wheat Ale that I cloned a couple of summers ago (before I had tried the commercial beer itself), and I loved it. Brewed with lots of late-addition hops (mainly Citra, with some Amarillo as well), it's very tropical, and has a really nice supporting malt character from some CaraVienne and the high proportion of Wheat malt. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that it would be a perfect beer to brew with Trois... maybe the yeast would make the beer even MORE tropical-tasting?

But, there was a bit of a problem. White Labs packages Trois as they do their all-Brett vials... that is, with the equivalent of 2-3 billion cells. Not the 100 billion cells that you see in Saccharomyces strains from Wyeast, for example. Two to three billion. Even for a 1.048 beer, that's a lot to step up. Talking with Ed about it, he suggested doing a small batch, and then I'd have plenty of Trois slurry to use for other beers. Great idea, but then I took it a bit further... what if I brewed a full batch (6 gallons), and split the wort into two: ferment one with US-05 as before, and the other with Trois? This way, I could compare the two side-by-side and see just how much extra fruitiness Trois offers in this beer, if any.

So, that's exactly what I did. I performed the hour-long mash as usual (at 155 F, it helps provide quite a good amount of body in an otherwise-refreshing beer), vorlaufed, drained into the kettle, sparged, boiled, and added the hops as usual. The original recipe actually called for a full 5 mL of hop extract to be added at the beginning of the boil; I did this the first time, and thought the higher IBUs worked well with this beer. But this time, I decided to cut back a little just to see the effect; I had planned on adding 3 mL, but realized too late that I only had 2 mL left in the syringe, so the IBUs will probably be significantly less with this batch (but still at ~35, really not low for a low-ABV wheat beer). There are no hops added until flameout, where lots of Citra and Amarillo are dumped in for a hop steep, and again when the chiller is turned on. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how amazing the wort smelled by the time pitching temp was reached.

After the temp was in the low 60s, I simply gave a slight stir to the wort (to ensure there was an equal amount of trub going in each fermentor) and poured half into one Better Bottle, and half into another. Both were aerated with 60 seconds of pure O2 each, and the yeasts were pitched. The White Labs website says the ideal fermentation temps for Trois are between 70-85 F; now, I'm not sure if this should be updated or not. I know others have used Trois and definitely weren't fermenting in the high 70s or beyond. But, to be sure, I set the BB with Trois in my water heater room, a small space with a baseboard heater controlled by a digital thermostat, and set it to 68-70 F. The US-05 fermentor, however, was set in my laundry sink, where the ambient temp was probably around 64 F.

Fermentation started relatively quickly for both beers; obviously, the Trois beer had more active fermentation at the beginning, as the temp kept steady in the high 60s and quickly reached 70-72 F, while the US-05 beer stayed in the low 60s for the first couple of days, before fermentation really took off. Trois finished faster, as expected, with US-05 a couple of days behind. After 10 days or so (no pellicle developed in this time; mind you, it probably takes longer than a week and a half, if it develops at all?), I took a FG reading - both finished at 1.013 (as you can see from the picture below, the US-05 beer dropped much clearer). I then dry-hopped directly in primary, twice, for 5 days at a time. Ideally, I would have moved both beers to "dry-hop kegs", as is my current routine for hoppy beers, but I only have one dry-hop keg, and I wanted to keep the procedure as consistent as possible between beers. At the time, I was also unsure if I was kegging the beers or bottling them, so dry-hopping in primary was my safest bet.

One week after pitching
I ended up kegging both, as I had two free taps in my keezer. The tasting notes for both beers are below; really, they came out pretty similar. That being said, I think most people could definitely tell the difference between the two, and I've had several friends try the beer, all of whom had no problem telling the beers apart. The general consensus is that the Trois-fermented beer is slightly better, with a bit more tangy, juicy fruitiness to it, but the US-05 version is pretty great, too. Personally, I find the US-05 beer has a bit more of a "bite" to it in the finish; not sure why - like I said, both beers finished at 1.013 - but there it is. Just my opinion.

Whether you have access to Trois or not, this is still a great recipe... one of the perfect hoppy summer beers, in my opinion. Big on hop aroma and flavor, low on alcohol. But if you DO have Trois, I find it gives the beer a slightly small push towards greatness, even from where it was before.

Now, White Labs, how about packaging more than 2-3 billion cells of Trois in a vial?

Recipe Targets: (6 gallons, 73% efficiency) OG 1.048, FG ~1.012, IBU ~35, SRM 5.3, ABV ~4.7%

2.6 kg (54.1%) Wheat malt
1.7 kg (35.3%) Canadian 2-row
330 g (6.9%) CaraVienne
80 g (1.7%) Acid malt
100 g (2.1%) Rice hulls

Hop extract - 2 mL @ 60 min (or 11 g of a 10% AA hop variety)

Citra - 56 g (12.4% AA) @ 0 min (with a 10 min hop steep)
Amarillo - 28 g (7.9% AA) @ 0 min (with a 10 min hop steep)
Citra - 56 g @ 0 min (when start chilling)
Amarillo - 28 g @ 0 min (when start chilling)

Citra - 56 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
Amarillo - 14 g dry-hop for 5 days (in primary)
                                                                          *Both dry-hop additions halved for each fermentor
Citra - 56 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in primary)
Amarillo - 14 g dry-hop for 5 more days (in primary)

Misc: 1/2 tab Irish Moss at 5 min

Yeast: US-05 Safale (1/2 pack, rehydrated) for half the wort, WLP644 Brett Trois (with a 900 mL starter, stepped up with another 1.5 L)

Water: Fredericton city water, carbon-filtered; 5 g Gypsum and 5 g calcium chloride added to mash

- Brewed on March 22nd, 2015, by myself. 50-minute mash with 14 L of strike water, mashed in at target of 155 F. Mashed-out for 10 minutes with 5.5 L of boiling water. Sparged with ~4.5 gallons of 168 F water for final volume of ~7.25 gallons.

- SG on target, 1.040. 90-minute boil. Flameout hops had a 10-minute steep before turning on the chiller. Final volume a bit high at ~6.25 gallons; OG 1.048. Chilled to low-60s F, stirred gently to evenly distribute trub, then poured into two Better Bottles. Aerated each with 60 seconds of pure O2, and pitched decanted yeast starter in one fermentor, and the rehydrated US-05 in the other, at 64 F for each. The Trois fermentor was set in the water heater room (ambient temp ~68 F), US-05 fermentor in laundry room (ambient ~64 F).

- Fermentation for the Trois batch took off quickly, with visible activity complete after only 3 days (temp reached as high as 70 F). US-05 started slower and continued longer, eventually reaching a high of 70 F as well, albeit over several days. FG for both beers was 1.013.

- 2/4/15 - Added first dry-hop addition to primary for both beers.

- 7/4/15 - Second dry-hop addition, also into both primaries.

- 12/4/15 - Racked both beers to kegs, purged with CO2 before and after, set in keezer to chill down overnight. Started carbing the next day.

Appearance: Both poured with a medium-sized, white head that sticks around for a while before fading to 1/4-finger. Bodies are both golden-coloured with pretty good clarity. Seem identical to me.

Aroma: The aroma between the two is quite similar. I find the dankness/cat pee characters of the Citra comes through more in the US-05, while the Trois is slightly more fruity/juicy smelling. Bit of supporting sweetness in both beers, but obviously the hops dominate.

Taste: Trois - Starts off with a touch of sweetness and tartness, and then a really nice tropical fruit character takes over, with some supporting pineapple working with it. Very juicy. Finishes with a moderate-light bitterness, nice balance between dry and sweet.

US-05 - Ditto with the malt character, but the hop flavors are more dank; definitely still fruity from all that Citra, but not quite as tropical as the Trois. Like the Trois, finishes moderate-lightly bitter, but it has a bit more "bite" to it; slightly drier.

Mouthfeel: Both are medium-bodied with moderate carbonation.

Overall: Interesting experiment; at first I was more a fan of the US-05 half, as I didn't think the Trois was overly dominant at the beginning. But after a few weeks, I think I prefer the Trois; I really like the extra juiciness the yeast adds to the beer. That being said, I don't detect any Brett characteristics (funky, barnyard) in the beer at all.