The debut release under Bridge Road Brewers’ new farmhouse beer label, Mayday Hills, aims to showcase Brettanomyces in a new light, according to founder Ben Kraus.
Mayday Hills is a new series of 100 per cent Brettanomyces beers fermented in a traditional wooden foeder tank made to Bridge Road’s specifications by Foeder Crafters of America.
Kraus told Australian Brews News that he had been inspired by the modern farmhouse ales being brewed in the USA on two recent visits.
“There were some really texturally interesting beers that were fermented with Brettanomyces, but they weren’t like you’d expect a Brett beer to be – they were really clean,” he said.
“They’re all using Brett for primary fermentation rather than in barrel ageing.”
Kraus said that further investigation suggested the beers owed their approachability to a particular strain of Brettanomyces that does not tend to impart the funkier, more polarising characters the yeast is renowned for.
“Brettanomyces is a whole range of yeasts just like Saccharomyces [traditional brewer’s yeast]. We don’t say we have a ‘Saccharomyces beer’ because there’s so many different strains to choose from. And the world of Brett is similar but not as well received or regarded or researched,” said Krauss.
“So there are lots of different Brett strains that are being identified and then being cultured. We use ‘Brett C’, it’s called, Brett Claussenii. Most brewers were using that as their primary fermenter because it didn’t seem to throw those off characters.”
Clean and fruity and textural
The first Mayday Hills beer is Yee-Hah!, a 100 per cent Brettanomyces Pale Ale that is still undergoing fermentation, but Krauss said it is not yet exhibiting any ‘bad’ Brett characters whatsoever.
“It tastes a bit like we’ve used some sort of Belgian ale [yeast] strain, so very fruity and tropical and pineapple-y,” he said.
“It doesn’t have a high hop content, it’s just fruity as if it has been produced by the yeast, by the Brettanomyces.”
Krauss said the brewing team aims to demonstrate that Brettanomyces beers can be, “clean and fruity and textural, rather than funky, horsey, earthy”.
“It’s really just to play with people’s perceptions a bit. We’ll probably see some people comment, ‘where’s the Brett? It’s not Bretty enough’,” he said.
“It’s always good to be able to be part of people’s learning experience and say well, ‘yeah it is, it’s 100 per cent Brett, but here’s the reason why it’s different’.
“I certainly remember when I had Brett beers in the States and how they influenced me. So hopefully we can do the same thing over here for a few people,” said Krauss.
He said the debut beer is definitely showing some oak influence from the virgin foeder.
“We don’t imagine it’ll happen after a couple of brews, it’ll all be gone, that oaky character,” he said.
“The idea behind it too, is that we start getting a bit of our own culture happening in the tank itself, so we see some character from the fermenter creep in over time.”
Krauss said he is confident that Bridge Road’s rigorous cleaning protocol will prevent any cross-contamination of Brettanomyces into his other beers.
“We’ve done stuff with Brett in the past plenty of times… We use lots of different yeast strains and how do we stop the regular yeast strain getting into all the other beers?”
“That’s through cleanliness and sterilisation and basic brewery hygiene routine. And we couldn’t see any reason that Brett was any more resistant to the current cleaning practices that we have.”
Mayday Hills was the original name for the Beechworth locale and Krauss said the range will in the future introduce different ingredients from local growers.
“We’re always trying to champion Aussie hops… so it just sort of flows on from that,” he said.
“It will be a limited release thing. We’ll make the beer as often or as little as we need to and release probably six times a year.
“We just thought that because our portfolio is so big and we’ve already got a calendar of limited releases, it’s a way to separate this part of what we do,” said Krauss.
Mayday Hills Yee-Hah! 100 per cent Brettanomyces Pale Ale will be available both in keg and bottles through independent retailers.