Brewers Gone Wild: Taming Unpredictable Yeast For Flavorful Beer

This is Allagash’s coolship — an open, spontaneous fermentation tank with wort rushing in. When the Maine breeze passes over the liquid, wild yeast in the air around the brewery will begin to ferment the wort to make beer.

Crack the vast menu at any self-respecting beer bar, and you’re bound to run into a scientific name among the descriptions: Brettanomyces, affectionately known as Brett.

I’ve heard American brewers and beer geeks utter “Brett” in hushed, reverent tones before swooshing aromatic liquids made with it across their tongues. But this mysterious, mythic and increasingly popular strain of wild yeast also strikes fear in the hearts of brewers and microbiologists in the industry.

First, let’s review. Beer at its most basic is made up of four ingredients: water, barley malt, hops and yeast. Each one contributes to the overall taste and character, and they fuel the brewer’s creative palette.

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Beer Profile: Highland Brewing’s Razor Wit


Profiled by Ken Carman for PGA

This is a rather simplistic quaff that’s worth try if all you’re looking for is wheat, a slight Belgian sense. If you REALLY don’t give a damn about safety drink this while mowing a lawn, for this pretty much is what some call a “lawnmower beer.”

Light yellow with small bubble head that fades fast. Good clarity. Very slight Abbey yeast sense. Nose is a tad candy-ish. No wheat in nose but very strong on in taste. Pillow head. Slight carbonic bite. No phenols except maybe the slight bubblegum/candy sense, no hops.

Body is heavy side of medium. Light carbonation for style but about right, though “Belgian” may be considered a qualifier by the brewer. Not accurate, but I’m guessing that would be the reasoning.

The mouthfeel is fuller than it actually is due to wheat. A murky light yellow, despite overall clarity. Puts a sheen on the glass.

(Were you in my house licking my glasses again Charlie Sheen?)

Looking for complexity? Go elsewhere. Hey guys, you’re good brewers. Couldn’t you have done a tad more with this?

79@ BA. 72 and 89 at RB.

3.5 but I’ll do 4 glasses for those seeking simplicity.


Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”


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martianKen Carman was born of a deity named Bill many moons ago when his wife Winnie was fermenting well at the time. He is a beer judge, beer writer and reviewer of brew-based business, beer commentator and BEER GOD. Do not challenge the one who ate too many hops one year, hence the green pigment you see to the left!