Who's afraid of the big bad "brett"?
Brettanomyces yeast, used in conjunction with bacteria in many sour beers, is known to impart flavors with lovely descriptors such as "horse blanket" and "petting zoo." As old wives' tales go, winemakers who visit sour beer production sites must immediately burn their clothing and pray to Bacchus in hope that they don't transport the wild yeast home and contaminate their wine.
Despite its reputation, many brewers and beer aficionados become addicted to the earthy flavors imparted by the yeast. An inscription over the barrel room at San Diego's Lost Abbey brewery reads "In Illa Brettanomyces, Nos Fides," or "In the Wild Yeast We Believe."
One brewer from Alaska's Midnight Sun Brewing was so enamored with brettanomyces that he founded Anchorage Brewing as an homage to the yeast. Operating under the motto, "Where brewing is an art and brettanomyces is king," the brewery makes numerous styles of beer that all employ wild yeast and barrel aging as a common denominator.
The Bay Area is one of the few distribution markets for Anchorage Brewing, so we have a shot at three recently released brews:
Whiteout - wit beer brewed with lemon peel, coriander and brettanomyces, aged in French oak barrels that previously held Chardonnay, 6.5% abv
Bitter Monk - dry hopped Belgian style Double IPA with brettanomyces, aged in French oak Chardonnay barrels, 9% abv
Lovebuzz - saison brewed with rose hips, peppercorns, orange peel and brettanomyces, aged in French oak Pinot Noir barrels, 8% abv
Inquire about availability at better beer shops such as City Beer Store, Beer Revolution, and Healthy Spirits, and soon you could be taking your own Alaskan vacation in the privacy of your own home. Drink enough and you may even see the Northern Lights.