For the post-event update, click here.
On November 13th I participated in brew session at Arbor Brewing Company‘s Ypsilanti location to make a beer for a semi-regular event/competition called Rat Fest. The goal is to come up with something off the wall, yet enjoyable, and you brew enough to fill couple of 5 gal kegs on their ‘Rat Pad’, which is basically just a 10 gal home brew setup. The event invites brewers from brew clubs around the area and due to our size, the AABG is split into two teams, with four groups of 2 on each team. At least one group from each team has to make a sour. Oddly, they consider any alternative fermentation satisfactory for the sour category, but that does allow us more freedom I guess.
My partner and I decided on an old ale with two ‘twists’. First we’ll add 2 gal of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes post-boil (crushed, sulfited, frozen, thawed). Second, we’re fermenting with a blend of Brettanomyces only; we used all White Labs and went with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (WLP650), Claussenii (WLP645), and Bruxellensis Trois Vrai (WLP648). An interesting side note to using these three strains at the same time was that we got to do a sniff test to see how their vial-aroma compares. We found Brett C to be most subtle (though only in comparison), Brett B was a frutier, and Brett BTV was the funkiest.
Our Rat Fest Recipe
Update: Link to Recipe
- 76.9% Golden Promise
- 7.7% Crystal 60L
- 7.7% Golden Naked Oats
- 3.8% Crystal 120L
- 1 lb of Lyle’s Treacle straight into the fermentor
- 2 gal of crushed wine grapes straight into the fermentor
Mashed moderately hot, around 156F. Went with a lower IBU, though we only roughed the calculation and threw in 2 oz of ~5% EKG for 60 mins, and don’t know exactly what we hit there, but it should be below 20. The grapes and treacle were added directly to the fermentor and the cooled beer was racked on top from the kettle.
Our Rat Fest Brew Session
The whole brew session was fairly off the cuff, go with instinct and rely on experience, which seemed right given the quirky nature of Rat Fest. Kind of surprisingly it all worked out pretty well, and we ended up with around a 1.070 after estimating the contribution of the grapes. I think that is a little lower efficiency than I would be happy with at home, but we guessed and assumed a lot to get there and for that level of effort I’m perfectly happy with the end result.
It’s three months until the beer is served, so that is hopefully enough time to get something interesting from the ‘mixed’ culture, and extract and develop some complexity from the grapes.