In the autumn of 2016 the endlessly creative Michael Novo from La Brasserie du Mont Saleve made the journey from the mountains of Haute Savoie to the lowlands of tropical Picardy (l'Oise) for a collaboration brew.
We wanted to try a 100% Brettanomyces fermentation which neither brewery had attempted before. I had kept alive the Orval-derived Brettanomyces Bruxellensis culture that had been used in the Time and Tide brew with Grand Paris and upon tasting a glass of beer that resulted from this propagation Michael had the idea of cutting up and adding freshly harvested Colapuy apples to the glass. This variety of small red apple originally from Crimea is well adapted to the Picardy orchards and can be used in cider production. It is less popular than before due to its small size and the unreliable annual harvest. The apples are however very juicy and aromatic.
We brewed a golden ale @ 1052 original gravity (13°Plato) with pale ale, light munich and acid malts and around 15% flaked oats; hopping was fairly discreet at around 25IBUs. The primary fermentation was very long and steady and a test of patience and even faith for a British brewer! After three weeks with the gravity near 1009 the beer was chilled to leave some fermentable sugars for a slow secondary fermentation is casks with the addition of apple juice.
About 75 litres of apple juice was collected and allowed to start fermenting for a few days before being split into 3 casks with the addition of the base beer. This contributed fermentable sugar as well as some indigenous microorganisms from the apples.
The fermentables from the apple juice and those left over from the brewery wort were consumed over the next couple of months before a period of inactivity during the winter.. With the arrival of spring the beer reawoke for a late flurry before going silent. A final gravity reading of just under 1°Plato was judged low enough to bottle the beer without too much fear of exploding bottles. Fresh yeast + sugar was added for bottle conditioning and the beer at last ready to taste at the end of May.
The final result presents an inviting golden ale with notes of fresh apple and farmhouse cider; the apple juice and barrel ageing have lent a certain roundness to the original beer. With a bit of time in the glass the initial cidery aromas give way to a more rustic / farmhouse character from the Brett. However as is apparently the case when using Brett in a primary fermentation the wild character is not overstated. The finish is relatively dry with a dash of spices.
Initial tastings point to an obvious pairing with the classic French desert Tarte Tatin ideally served with Madagascar vanilla ice cream.
As for the label design this was a result of a coincidental visit to Plessier de Roye by two Australian descendants of the artist Raphaël Lardeurwho made the beautiful stained glass windows in the village church in the 1930's.
The beer will be available soon either directly at the two respective breweries or from the usual cave a bières / cavistes / restaurants etc.
Cheers / Santé from Craig & Michael