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I brewed a single hop American pale ale with palisade. It's not the greatest beer in the world, but seemed passable to me. Another brewer tasted it and thought he picked up brett in it. Palmer says:

Brettanomyces is supposed to smell like horse sweat or a horse blanket. Raise your hand if you know what a horse smells like. From sweat, I mean. Anyone? I think Brettanomyces smells like leather, myself.

I've tasted my share of lambics, and I'm not getting any leathery or sourness. It's kegged in a 6 liter, so there's no traditional 'gusher test', but it seems to be pouring normally.

What ideas are available to attempt to prove or disprove that this beer has a brett contamination (brett infection).

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did you get any more info from the other brewer? frankly I'd be a little reserved about his claims if he can't substantiate them. –  mdma Apr 15 '12 at 1:23
    
PS, not to be a grammar nazi, but just for the record, you cannot infect a beer - the beer itself is not an organism. If there is brett in it, then we say the beer is contaminated, not infected. It's a common misnomer, so feel free to spread the word far and wide. –  mdma Apr 15 '12 at 1:34
    
agreed on contamination vs infection and updated the question. Several folks tonight tried it and got no indication of brett, but the question still might be worth exploring. –  Dale Apr 15 '12 at 4:55
    
In some cases a brett contamination may be favorable. Depends on your palette I suppose. –  brewchez Apr 15 '12 at 12:17
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I find with brett it typically gives the beer a slight sour aroma, but the sourness does not carry through to the taste of the beer. The taste tends to then be a bit barnyard or hay like. If you can, go buy a bottle of Orval. That should give you a bit of a guide as to what brett can do to a beer. –  roto Apr 16 '12 at 15:27
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1 Answer

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I've done intentional Brett brewing, and also have a friend who has a very persistent strain of Brett somewhere in her brewhouse that is popping up in all her beers. When young, Brett can taste kind of fruity (but not like normal ale yeast fruitiness) and starts to develop of flavor that kind of reminds me of vomit, but its not as bad as it sounds. Just kind of "off" and acidic, with a funky kind of edge. It becomes kind of "cherry pie" like with age, even in the unintentional infections from wild brett, and in some beers, this cherry pie flavor can be quite nice.

I've only ever smelled the 'leather' thing once in a sour, and it went away within a few weeks anyway. As I've never smelled a real horse blanket, I have no idea what that is supposed to be in beer.

I know this isn't particularly helpful, but you will learn to spot Brett, as its pretty unique. Anytime I taste a beer that's a little thinner than it should be for the style, and its got that subtle cherry pie flavor, I immediately think of Brett.

Another hint will be to look at the bottles (assuming you bottled this batch). Sour beers usually form a 'pelicle' or 'skin' on their surface, and its possible for them to form a tiny one in the bottle. If you see any film at the beer right in the neck of the bottle, then it's probably indeed Brett.

Brett works slowly over time to dry out the beer as well. You can monitor the gravity over the next few weeks. If its dropping at all, then you've got a bug and you'll be risking bottle bombs if you bottled this batch.

LAST THOUGHT: Palisade hops have a distinct kind of 'apricot' flavor when young (which I really love, btw). It's possible the other brewer tasted that flavor and thought it was Brett's fruity/cherry thing. If the fruit flavor fades over the next week or two, then it was just hop flavor, not an infection, that he/she spotted.


(Updated 4/17) One more thing, partially because of its high attenuation (but maybe other factors too), some Brett beers come across as dry and astringent at certain phases. So if you've got a beer that's getting more astringent over time, then you might have a Brett problem. Beers that are astringent because of mashing issues & dark grains always taste more astringent up front, and might loose a little sharp "bite" as they age, but not the other way around.

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what a fantastic answer. I'd +5 if I could. –  mdma Apr 16 '12 at 19:44
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