Chow.com today posted a very informative piece on the rise to fame of beers commonly described as “farmhouse funk”. These beers, which have been contaminated by Brettanomyces, or Brett for short — a wild yeast often found in the air that’s nearly impossible to get rid of once it invades your equipment — are gaining nationwide (or worldwide, really) notoriety due to their use in beers from such Craft Brewing Leaders as Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, California; Allagash in Portland, Maine; the Lost Abbey in San Marcos, California; and Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Michigan.
The Chow.com article explains the phenomenon, saying:
A growing number of small breweries are defying convention, using Brett rather than, or in addition to, traditional brewer’s yeast to produce beers with “funky farmhouse” flavors, as they’re often described. The breweries are also experimenting with souring bacteria—another class of infectious agents you learn how to avoid in school—to make beers that are bracingly acidic. More often than not, these beers are both sour and barnyardy.
The article also includes a little more background on the subject, stating,
“Brett is almost a taboo sort of a thing,” says Phil Markowski, brewmaster at Southampton, New York–based Southampton Ales & Lagers, whose Trappist IPA is brewed with Brett. “There’s an allure because there’s an unpredictability to it, and that’s exciting.”
Dubbed “American wild ales,” or sometimes simply “funky beers,” these brews are inspired by Belgian ales like Orval, lambics, and Flemish reds, which are brewed with Brett and bacteria. But American brewers are taking it one step further, mixing and matching microbes with beer styles that don’t usually get soured or funked up, experimenting with barrel aging, and throwing in unusual ingredients like chestnuts and figs. Their results have excited many in the beer geek community.
I think it is that unpredictability, coupled with the true uniqueness of the Brett beers I’ve had personally that do make them so alluring. Not only are no two funky beers ever the same (and very few are even similar), but they’re really not like anything else you’d ever drink. Every other beer and every other beverage, for that matter, is so closely regulated and controlled that the air of mystery that Brett gives funky beers is just fun.
Click here to read the Chow.com article, aptly named “Your Beer Smells Like Goat”, which also included a list of the Top 10 Funky Beers (topping the list is Ommegeddon by: Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, New York. which is described as tasting like “Band-Aids, straw, sour horse-blanket, roasted coffee”). Cheers.
[image via chow.com; it’s the same one from the article but just too fun to pass up]