Free Range Haggis

Studying, Eating, and Drinking in Scotland

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Growing Brettanomyces Cultures, Let’s Get Inoculated.

The past few days have been pretty intense in the lab. There is lots of prep work that needs to be done: autoclaving different medias to grow cells up on, pouring differential plates for strain analysis, making solutions, etc. A few set backs have pushed my start up date back a little, but now I should be all ready to roll tomorrow.

The assay I’m working with was originally developed for studying premature yeast flocculation, or PYF. This phenomenon causes some yeasts to randomly fall out of solution before primary fermentation is finished causing residual sugars to remain in solution, and possible off-flavor development. Some believe that PYF is caused by a fungal infection which begins in the germination process as a result of excessively high CO2 exposure, but thats another story for a different day. This assay has been subsequently accepted as the standard for comparing yeast fermentability characteristics by the American Society of Brewing Chemists (ASBC).

Like I said before I’ll be using a few different yeasts in my project this semester. Wyeast Laboratories in Oregon have graciously provided both a Brettanomyces lambicus and a Brettanomyces bruxellensis strain. In addition, I’ll be using additional B. lambicus and B. bruxellensis strains of my own. Finally as a control I’ll be using an American Ale yeast.


Plating and Propagation:

So far all strains have seemed to grow very well on YPD plates, which use dextrose as a sugar source. For the YPD plates I use in this project, I follow this recipe:

10 g/L Yeast Extract

20 g/L Bacteriological Peptone

20 g/L D-glucose

1.2 % w/v technical agar.


These plates seem to support good, rapid growth of both Brettanomyces and Saccharomyces strains


Shows good development of colonies after 5 days of growth.

Good development of colonies after 5 days of growth at 25 C.


The assay begins with a step up propagation in YPD broth. Initially 3-5 single colonies are removed from the streak plates like those above and are used to inoculate 50 mL of YPD broth in a 125-mL Erlenmeyer flask. This flask is grown on an orbital shaker at 100 rpm at 25 C for 24 hours, at which point the cells are centrifuged, washed, and used to inoculate a two more 250-mL flasks containing 100 mL YPD broth at a cell density of 1.5 million cells/mL. These flasks are again placed in a shaker for another 24 hours. At this point I’ll have enough cells to pitch into my test tubes.


Pulling colonies off of YPD plates for inoculation into propagation media.

Pulling colonies off of YPD plates for inoculation into propagation media.


Some things to consider:

Very little research has been done on primary fermentation of Brettanomyces. I’m hoping to look at the effects of dissolved oxygen, initial pH, growth medium, and propagation time as potential parameters for my growth trials. Brettanomyces is a notoriously slow fermenter, but with any luck maybe I’ll be able to figure out how to coax it along a bit more rapidly while retaining all the funky goodness this yeast brings to the table.




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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…

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Burns Night Dinner

As you might expect, being enrolled in a Masters program dedicated to brewing and distilling has its perks, namely great “social gatherings.” The highlights this year have been Canadian Thanksgiving, American Thanksgiving, and most recently Robert Burns Night. I’m always amazed at the spread offered at these events: beer, whisky, and endless amounts of homemade (or dormmade) goods. It’s enough to satisfy every hedonistic culinary tendency. Some obviously are better hands in the kitchen than others, however one thing is sure that everyone realizes the link between good food, good alcohol, and good company.

 Robert Burns is regarded Scotland’s national poet. The celebration of his birthday on January 25th marks a celebration of all things Scottish. The Burns Night supper is a staple celebration here in this country bringing everyone together in honor of neaps, tatties, kilts and tartans, beer and whisky, and sweet, sweet haggis.


I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard Scottish and English cuisine belittled. I believe these criticisms are without merit. The normal fare maybe doesn’t present itself with the same grace that French food does, but the thoughtful and consistent use of local ingredients create full flavors and mirror the national pride held by the people. There have been many efforts to raise the image of Scottish and English cuisine: like Tom Kitchin who uses classic French techniques and fresh, local Scottish ingredients.

For our Burns Night Supper, our gracious host prepared two of the most enormous haggis (haggi?) that I’ve ever seen. Together they were as big as my whole torso. To begin the night, Marc recited a Robert Burns poem in honor of the haggis. You can find a snippet of that magic moment HERE. Other party goers brought neeps and tatties (potatoes and turnips), Lisa and I brought Cullen Skink, which is not something you’d refer to your ex as, but rather a smoked haddock chowder of sorts. So good. You can find the recipe HERE. There was a cask of Real Ale, and endless bottles of whisky. What a night.