Free Range Haggis

Studying, Eating, and Drinking in Scotland

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And So It Begins…. Brettanomyces Fermentation Speed Analysis


This week has been a big one. I was finally able to get out of the library and into the lab to begin experiments for my dissertation. I’ll be working with several Brettanomyces yeasts this summer to determine if their primary fermentation kinetics mirror those of traditional ale and lager strains. My advisor, Dr. Alex Speers, has developed a miniature fermentation assay for determining fermentation speeds and modeling them with a “simple” logistical equation. Because Brettanomyces species are so, well… funky… I’m interested in seeing if they metabolize sugars in the same way that their more traditional counterparts have been shown to do. After the initial experiments are complete I should have enough data to show that they do ferment similarly to ale and lager strains, or if not, I’ll be able to create a new equation to describe the new fermentation model. The second step will be to monitor the change in fermentation as a function of changing pH, sugar polymerization number, available nitrogen, or maybe even the presence of Maillard reaction products.

While attending classes at Heriot-Watt University, I’ve been lucky enough to run the Alpha Project nano-brewery associated with The Hanging Bat Beer Cafe. It has been really helpful to experiment with the different brewing parameters we’re learning about in class and see how they affect the downstream product. In addition to running my own practical experiments in the brewhouse, I’ve also been able to help with food and whisky pairings, and give beer knowledge training sessions to staff and customers. It turns out I like to teach significantly more than I thought I would, it’s fun to turn people on to something you have real passion for.

Anyway, recently I’ve been experimenting with the practical aspects of both primary and secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces yeasts. My classmate, Jonathan Hamilton, and I collaborated on a Saison recipe that used citrusy hops, a shed load of seville orange zest, and was finished with a 16 week secondary fermentation with Brettanomyces bruxellensis. It’s going on tap tonight at The Hanging Bat, I can’t wait. The other Brett project I have going at the moment is a 1.072 Belgian Pale Ale. This beer is fermented with a really nice Brettanomyces lambicus strain, that gives it a rich (but still subtle), cherry-pie-like aroma. This beer will be featured in a pairing event featuring 5 beers that I’ve brewed and 5 whiskies from Compass Box blending house. Should be crackin. I’ll keep you posted.

Be on the look out for more Brettanomyces related posts in the next few days!





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I’m going, going, back, back to Caley, Caley.

Couldn’t resist the Notorious reference there. It’s been too long since FRH has had an update! So much has been going on lately, I’ve been buried with end of term assignments, “field trips,” and I’ve always gotta eat.

First up: The Caledonian Brewery

The Caley Brewery as it’s affectionately known around here was first established in 1869. The victorian-era brewing kit is still inside. Large 70 barrel direct-fired copper brew kettles equipped with internal calandrias. Very cool.


We stopped by the brewery after class, partly to listen to a presentation from Heineken on Total Product Management but mostly because of the open bar and tell of free meat pies. The tour ended up being my favorite part of the whole evening. Open square fermenters, whole leaf hops, old school cask operations. It was great.


Here’s an open top fermenter. You can see the krausen line where the yeast climbed the walls during the height of fermentation. The darker parallel lines show where the glycol chilling tubes run through the fermenter.


The Caledonian uses whole leaf hops in their operation. Here’s Archie and Theo rubbing some Super Styrian hops. They smelled exactly like watermelon jolly ranchers. So sticky… they turned my hands bright green. After the tour we headed over to The Diggers. A proper old man’s drinking pub. They have a “Summer Whisky Festival” that runs all year round, 35 whiskies that go for 2.50 GBP for 35 mL. Pretty good deal…