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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A nice whisky is good for the soul.


Having just posted about clean living… here’s something about drinking good whisky.

Ben Nevis 17 yo Highland single malt. 510 bottles available. 46 %, aged in a bourbon hogshead.

Ben Nevis Distillery is situated near the bottom of Ben Nevis peak (1,344 m; 4409 ft.) the highest point in Scotland.

I purchased this fine bottle from Cadenheads on The Royal Mile the other day. If you’re heading to Edinburgh for a visit and fancy picking up some whisky, make sure you stop and talk to Marc at the shop. They are knowledgable beyond belief and are sure to point you in the direction of something you will enjoy.

This particular tipple isn’t chill filtered or artificially colored. There is a certain pleasant stickiness to it that I associate with non-filtered whiskies. This one in particular has a long finish that rolls across your tongue. The aroma is slightly buttery. The notes say soft spearmint and white chocolate. The taste is slightly fruity and has a pleasant citrus edge to it. This is a fine dram.