“Funky.” It’s the go-to word when describing beers fermented with Brettanomyces yeast rather than the traditional saccharomyces yeast. (For a run down on how the two differ, check out this mixed fermentation overview.) But like describing a beer as ‘hoppy’ or ‘malty,’ calling a beer ‘funky’ doesn’t acknowledge the full spectrum of Brett flavor. There are many Brett strains out there, each with its own calling cards: some are like wet hay; others smell of barnyard manure; still others impart fruit notes to a beer. For a wide-ranging taste of what the spectrum can be, Brett geeks should seek out Trinity‘s Magical Brettanomyces Tour, a series of seven cabernet barrel-aged saisons that all begin with the same base wort fermented by seven separate strains of Brett. Some are delicious; others are near-offensively manure-y. It’s a sort of beer concept album, like “Tommy” or “Yoshimi.” Trinity began releasing the beers (one per month) in March in markets including Denver, Seattle, Portland, Columbus, and New York City; we tasted through all seven. If you’re really into Brett fermentation, it’s worth seeking out the whole series.
No. 1 B. Drie:
This was universally our favorite of the series for its complexity as well as its overall pleasant character. This specific Brett strain is responsible for a peach and minerally graphite aroma, with sweet-tart peach flavor and a woody dryness on the swallow. It’s tart, but not overpowering, and displays the more aromatic qualities of the yeast.
No. 2. B. Bruxellensis:
Mustier than many of the other offerings, the beer fermented by Brett Bruxellensis gives off an earthy green apple aroma with white wine minerality, peppery spice and a light tartness on the sip. It’s light in body and relatively subtle in flavor, making it one of the more approachable bottles in the series.
No. 3 B. Bouckaertii:
OK, proceed with caution. Even as a fan of the heavier, more intense Bretts, I struggled with this beer. We unanimously found the aroma manurelike; another editor likened it to epoisse cheese. You almost have to override your own instincts to push this glass away. On the sip, it’s tart and slightly enteric, with a catbox flavor that lingers on the tongue. Nope, it wasn’t near the top of our list, but it’s still a fascinating exploration of Brett’s range…for the adventurous.
No. 4 Afro Brett:
Two “feral” strains of Brett, isolated by Bootleg Biology’s Jeff Mello, ferment this beer. The nose is super musty, like an old library’s stacks, with passion fruit woven throughout. The sip delivers more of that pleasant tropical fruit and chardonnay butter (potentially from the barrel), with a lightly enteric finish that knocked this off-kilter for us.
No. 5 B. Naardenensis:
Tasting No. 5 alongside the others in this series makes it seem tame by comparison. The aroma is of sweaty socks, with some raspberry underneath. But the sip is quiet and easy, with a pleasing tartness at the front that eases off quickly. It’s the easiest drinking of the whole line-up, which could count against it if you’re in search of a crazy Brett ride. Still and not very effervescent, the beer’s flavors hew close to the saison’s lemon notes with some berry at the finish.
No. 6 Farmhouse Brett:
This is the most distinctly Belgian of the Brett strains, with classic Belgian yeast aromas of lemon, light bubblegum, sweet sugar, strawberry and hay. It was also our second-favorite of the series, with a pleasant farmhouse mustiness coating classic saison flavors with a dry, white wine center.
No. 7 B. Anomala:
This intense strain was first isolated in Australia, and Trinity brewer Jason Yester admits that this beer marks his first experience brewing with it. The overwhelming aroma and flavors are movie theater butter and salt air, with some light melon under the aroma that fails to appear on the sip. The overall impression was of lobster with drawn butter, which certainly illustrates the contrasting experiences (consider the flavors of No. 1) that Brett can contribute.