What is Brett fermentation?

What on this green earth is Brett fermentation? You probably have heard the term thrown around here and there, and is something that isn't done often. Only the boldest, most experienced brewers have the guts to tackle this process of fermentation. So what exactly is it? Why do brewers even bother with this? And why do some people absolutely hate it? 
Brett's technical name is brettanomyces, which is a very specific 'wild yeast' strain that can naturally occur during fermentation. If the beer is left in an open top fermentation tank the funky good bacteria or yeast that falls into the beer will create the fermentation process. Brett is just one of many types of yeast strains that can occur when wild fermentation takes place. The reason brewer's use this yeast strain is because it creates a very distinct and unique flavor profile. This is found in many sour beers or Belgian style beers. In fact, the first time the Brett yeast strain was discovered was way back in 1903 in England. The biochemist that discovered the strain, Niels Hielte Claussen, named it Brettanomyces, which translates to "British Fungus". 
However, there is a catch. Not everyone loves Brett fermentation; in fact some people loathe it. Some consumers don't enjoy

the off characteristic of Brett beer and there are plenty of brewers who want nothing to do with it. If Brett fermentation is unwanted and somehow sneaks into your brewing process, there is no turning back. It is notorious for ruining batches and entire brew houses. This bad boy can spread rather quickly throughout a brewery and ruin all batches that are being fermented. It is also incredibly hard to get rid of, very thorough sanitation must take place to get rid of Brett if it occurs unwillingly.

Fear not, most brewers know what they are doing when dealing with Brett fermentation and it usually turns out incredibly tasty and unique, which is why we love beer, right? Next time you check out your local brewpub ask for a Brett beer. If you've never had one I promise you will be in for quite a funky treat.







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