Over the past few years Grand Teton Brewing has developed a respectable sour beer program. My first exposure to the Grand Teton sour program was the 2012 Cellar Reserve Release of Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, which is also the beer that led me to hunt down all Grand Teton releases. To check out reviews of past releases, or to read my interview with Grand Teton’s Brewmaster Rob Mullin, click the tags at the bottom of this post. Given the limited availability of Grand Teton beer in Wisconsin, I was particularly excited to be able to try the newest Grand Teton Sour, Brett Saison.
Released in February 2016, you might still be able to find a bottle or two lingering on liquor store shelves if you are lucky. Brett Saison is a dry hopped, barrel aged saison that is 100% fermented with two strains of Brettanomyces, drie and bruxellensis, each of which provides different characteristics in the final beer, much the same way that different strains of Saccharomyces (brewer’s yeast) can. The blending of different strains of Brettanomyces, or Brettanomyces and a strain of bacteria, such as Lactobacillus, can produce remarkably complex beers that are often not for the faint of heart.
The 2015 Cellar Reserve release of the delicious Sour Grand Saison was a similar blended fermentation which used Saison yeast, Brettanomyces drie, and Lactobacillus, so it’s fair to say the Grand Teton crew has experience with blended fermentations. In the case of Brett Saison, the two strains of Brettanomyces used have their own unique legacies. Brettanomyces drie is a pro-only strain that was supposedly isolated by the Belgian brewery Drie Fonteinen, a world-renowned Lambic brewer, the strain is known for producing tropical, fruity flavors that offer a more pleasant invitation to sour beers. Brettanomyces bruxellensis is supposedly the strain that Orval uses for bottle conditioning, and it imparts notes of horse blanket and barnyard.
The combination of the two can produce a wonderfully complex beer that should only get better with age, as any good cellar-able beer should. I am far from an expert on sour beers, but fortunately, if you are interested in learning more about the different strains of Brettanomyces and bacteria used to ferment beers, The Mad Fermentationist, The Brettanomyces Project, Milk the Funk, Embrace the Funk, and Funk Factory all have tons of great information on wild fermentations. Of the blogs mentioned above, Milk the Funk is a well-respected source of information, and the founders of the others release their product professionally.
On to the review!
Our second release in the Brewers’ Series is a Dry Hopped Brett Saison aged in Wine Barrels. We brewed a Saison using traditional malts and hops. However, we decided to stray from traditional yeast and pitched a very simple yet complex strain: Brettanomyces Drei (Brett). Brett was recently classified as a brewer’s yeast and not a true Brett. At Grand Teton Brewing we feel the aroma and flavor profile is like nothing any of our typical brewer’s yeast produces, which is why we used Brett for our primary fermentation.
Once the beer reached an incredibly low gravity resulting in a crisp, clean and dry beer, we transferred it to wine barrels that house a healthy culture of Brettanomyces Bruxellensis. It was at this point we waited for the Brett in the barrels to transform an already great beer into a truly special and delicious beer.
As the beer aged it took on more traditional Brett characteristics, we knew it was time to package this beer. A few weeks before packaging we added a blend of hops at a rate of 5 pounds per wooden barrel. We chose Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand and Hallertau Blanc hops from Germany. Both of these varietals impart complex fruit flavors and aromas as well as earthy undertones: pineapple, white grapes, gooseberry and black pepper.
The live Brett in this beer, as well as generous amounts of unique and flavorful hops, make this a great beer to drink fresh. It may also be cellared to develop for years to come.
On behalf of the Grand Teton Brewing Team
Brett Saison pours a crystal clear golden amber with a moderately thin small bubbled white head. The head lasts only briefly in the glass before fading to a ½” thick bubbly collar that leaves intricate lacing behind in the glass. Gooseberries and white grapes lead in the aroma with a hint of pineapple rounding out the fruitiness. Subtle woody notes, white stone fruits, and a hint of dry white wine round out the aroma. The rich fruitiness in the aroma provides an excellent introduction to this beer prior to the first sip.
Passion fruit and gooseberry flavors lead in the first sip, with a slight barnyard funkiness. Lime zest, grapefruit and peach meld with black pepper, white grapes and tart, fresh gooseberries round out the flavor. The finish is tart with notes grapefruit, lime, and peach. Tart gooseberries and a subtle funkiness lingers long after the first sip with the funkiness becoming more pronounced as the beer warms. With a medium body and a moderately high level of carbonation, this beer fits nicely in where a young sour should be, yet there is still enough carbonation to provide a slight effervescence, which serves to enhance the tartness of the finish.
At this stage in its development, the flavor and aroma of Brett Saison still retain the tropical fruitiness that Brettanomyces drie and the combined Nelson Sauvin and Hallertau Blanc dry hopping provides. As the beer ages, the fruitiness from the dry hop additions will fade while the horse blanket character of Brett b. should become more dominant. This beer has remarkable aging potential, but if you aren’t a fan of barnyard flavors in your beer you might not want to let this sit around too long.
With Brett Saison, Grand Teton Brewing has released another excellent beer. I can only hope that like Snarling Badger Berliner Weisse, Brett Saison, or a similar beer, will become an annual seasonal offering. I wish I had a few extra bottles on hand to track the progression of this excellent beer as it ages, but it is proving quite difficult to track down. If you do find a bottle or two on a shelf in your favorite liquor store, this is definitely a release worth picking up.
Be sure to check back early next week when I post my review of the latest Grand Teton Cellar Release beer, Gose. Until then, Happy Drinking!