In order to understand and appreciate the influence of Brettanomyces on beer, one must first become acquainted with the history of beer itself. Beer was more discovered than invented, at least 3,900 years ago, by the ancient Sumerians who called the Fertile Crescent home. Predominant historical theory tells us that a large clay pot, (known as an amphora), was left exposed to the elements after being filled with a nomadic harvest of grain. Rain set in, and after a few days the Sumerians found the vessel bubbling mysteriously. Some brave soul then put their lips to the vessel for a sip, and for the first time in Human history, felt the effects of alcohol. These effects were so profound that the Sumerians attributed them to a Goddess, Ninkasi, and inscribed the recipe for their beer in stone. This was the first recipe ever recorded. As time passed, and the secrets of this miraculous beverage spread over the globe, many cultures would thank many gods for its creation. The Greeks praised Silenus and Dionysus, the Egyptians, Osiris, the Norse Aegir, the Aztecs, Tezcatsontecatl, the Zulus Mbaba Mwan Waresa, the Czech, Radgest, and so on. Whether or not any of these Deities actually played a role in the beverage’s creation we may never know, but for much of what we now understand about fermentation we have a French Microbiologist, (among the first in his field), and a Danish Brewery, to thank. Louis Pasteur worked with the Carlsberg brewery in the late 1800’s to isolate the origins of what they called “Beer Disease,” the propensity of their Lager to sour over time. They went on to prove that many different organisms present in the environment, (including Brettanomyces), had, for centuries, contributed to fermentation, and that only by ensuring that but one yeast, which they named Sacchromyces Carlbergensis, (now widely known simply as lager yeast), was allowed access to their beer, could they avoid the “off” flavors that were not always unpleasant, but always landed outside of their specifications. Carlsberg Brewery shared their findings, (and their yeast), freely, and as the industrial revolution swept through civilization, so did “clean” fermenting Lagers and Ales.
The Belgians, however, had a different take on beer altogether. They willfully ignored the microbiological discoveries of the time and continued to pass their brewing knowledge verbally from parent to progeny, and from monk to monk, as they had for centuries. Rather than cast out the microorganisms deemed “wild” by their European peers, they regarded their resident microflora with reverence. They became Masters of managing their microbiological terroir, and, in turn, continue to produce some of the most intriguing and sought after beers in the world.
Brett (short for Brettanomyces) has played an important role in beer production throughout history. Brett is wild yeast and lives comfortably on fruit skins to breweries. Pre-industrial revolution Brett played a major role in beer fermentation. The progression of modern science created the ability to make technical, sanitary, and controlled beer. These invocations recognized that Brett was hard to control and was considered to give the beer “off flavors”. Meanwhile, historically made beers such as Lambics have continued to rely on Brett for a large portion of their fermentation and flavors. In addition, a beer such as Orval has used Brett as secondary yeast to bottle condition its beer, which creates a extra layer of complexity and flavor. In new American Craft brewing, brewers are experimenting with Brett and exploring new flavors in beer.
pFriem Brett Wit is our Belgian inspired Wit that we aged with Brett Brux for 6 months. The spice, wheat characters, and the Brett play wonderfully together creating a very unique beer.