Maybe you’ve tasted it in a sour ale. Perhaps you’ve detected it in a unique Trappist ale. Or maybe you noticed it in one of your favorite brewery’s newest experiments. If you taste something funky, there’s a good chance Brettanomyces is showing one of its many faces.
Brettanomyces, whose name comes from the Greek word for “British fungus,” was first studied as a spoilage yeast. Winemakers the world over go to incredible lengths to get rid of it, and until very recently, so did most brewers. But now pros and homebrewers alike are taming this so-called wild yeast and inventing new styles that have about as much in common with mass-market beer as today’s HDTV does with the very first cathode ray models of the 1930s.
What’s So Different about Brett?
Strains of Brettanomyces are ubiquitous. They live all around us, not just in the Senne valley of Belgium, but on our fruit trees and in our homes. So why do we go out of our way to label something as “Brett-conditioned” or “100% Brett-fermented?” After all, Sierra Nevada’s labels don’t proclaim, “Proudly fermented with the Chico strain.”