Partial Mash Sour Beer

So having not brewed beer about a year, I decided to get back into brewing with a partial mash. Here’s the problem; I’ve never been able to make a brew day simple. So here is the evolution of this project.

Firstly I knew I wanted to brew a sour beer because I wanted something low maintenance that I could leave kicking around untill I really began brewing more seriously again. On top of that, the aging time on sours make them a priority on my brewing schedule.  Now, considering that I haven’t unpacked my brewing equipment since I moved to Florida a year ago, I originally thought about brewing a 3 gallon extract batch. Then all of a sudden, I re-discovered around 20 lb of nice base malts that I totally forgot about. Doing the taste test I found the we’re still fresh (SCORE). So, with new found treasure, it would be a sin not to use it, thus the 3 gallon extract became a 3 gallon partial mash. 

Then, the danger started, I began thinking. If I’m going to the trouble of making a partial mash AND it’s going to get diluted anyway… why not go whole hog and make it a 6 gallon batch (what the hell right). Thank god I didn’t feel like getting my mash tun out or this could have gotten out of hand. So finally we have 6 gallons of wort that I split into two 3 gallon batches.

The first batch is my “control” group and is fermented with one of Wyeast seasonal releases. The second is a lot more weird and hopefully more funky. It has dregs from a couple of bottles and aincent smack packs of old wyeast sour strains. Additionally, for a bit of insurance, I added some Belgian dry yeast which I discovered in the back of the fridge. I cultured them all up in a flask with a mini started. I left behind 200 ml of starter to keep it going, just to see what happens.

Overall it was a fantastic brew day (amazingly) temperatures were all spot on and I got surprisingly great efficiency. The wort tasted nice, a hint of bitterness but not much, with a good malty backbone. I even had an assistant, Jim, through the brew day.

Odin Sour Red (6 Gallons)

  • 3 Lb Pilsner Malt
  • 8 oz Wheat Malt
  • 10 oz Each: Caramunich II, Special B, and Aromatic
  • 4.5 Lb Golden DME
  • 1 oz Aged Hops (approx 7 IBU)

OG: 1.052

Fermentation #1 (Sacrifice): Wyeast 3789 Trappist Blend, I’m hoping it will provide a stable “control” Sour that will be reasonably clean and minimally funky

Fermentation #2 (Resurection): Dregs from Wyeast De Bom, Wyeast Old Ale, Alsop IPA, Cantillon and Prarrie Brewery, Safale T-58. This is the experimental wild. Hopefully it will be plenty Sour and plenty funky.

Brewery Tour – Charlotte, NC

The Unknown Brewing Company

IMG_3376The Unknown Brewing Company has a fun atmosphere combining good music with a young crowed. As you sit down, through large glass windows you can see into the brewery. When I visited, there were people playing corn hole in the foreground with huge conicals in the background. The staff was friendly and helpful without being overbearing. Their Sweet Tea Beer was awesome, blending malt with the sweetness of honey and balancing it with the dark overtones of black tea. Having had many cups of sweet tea while in the south, I can say that this is a pretty good take on the original. Although their house IPA was pleasant, I think that ‘Scratch and sniff’, one of their session IPAs, was superior. I was sharp and refreshing with a mint and pine front and a dank nose. IMG_3378Finally, among their line up they had a few surprises such as ‘Kitten Snuggles’. Kitten Snuggles… the name says it all. It contained catnip, milk sugar, and apricots. Although its super weird, I genuinely enjoyed it. Hit had cherry pie type notes and a hint of sour, but was brewed without brettanomyces according to the staff. Overall it’s a fun place to hangout. The only improvement I could suggest would be the addition of some king of food.

Overall: 8/10

Web Page: http://www.unknownbrewing.com/

Address: 1327 S Mint St, Charlotte, NC 28203

Wooden Robot Brewery

IMG_3387On the night that I visited, the Wooden Robot was packed to the gills. However, much to their credit, there was still ample table room to put down your beer. The place has a very vibrant atmosphere, not taking itself too seriously but providing a great place to enjoy some refreshing beer in good company. The servers were incredibly friendly and eager to talk about beer and make suggestions. They all had an extensive knowledge about the line up and seemed genuinely interested in the patrons enjoyment of their beer. Their Mocha beer was awesome,  with a touch of Ovaltine and instant coffee. It brings to mind memories of chai latte and morning cups Joe. This beer brought a genuine  smile to my mouth while i was sipping it. IMG_3386I wish I could wake up to that beer in the morning. Also top-notch was their  ‘Renegade sour’. It was mouth puckering with great nose and solid flavor. It is a no frills beer with nothing to hide any fermentation flaws behind. It is tart with clean fruit character and a solid funk. The rest of the line up included good old reliable beers that while they did not stand out, were obviously brewed with care by knowledgable brewers. I wish that I lived closer to this brewery and could visit it more often. This is a must visit brewery to anyone in Charlotte!

Overall: 9/10

Web Page: http://woodenrobotbrewery.com

Address: 1440 S Tryon St #110, Charlotte, NC 28203

Sourdough Kvass

I’ve recently been experimenting with making sourdough breads. Now, while I haven’t perfected it to the point of blogging (hopefully that will come soon) I have made some tasty product. However, for every one success, there are probably three failures. Personally, I hate wasting food, especially failed cooking experiments. While I was pondering what to do with the bread besides trying to compost it, I remembered the relatively obscure Russian beer kvass.

FullSizeRender_1Classically, a kvass is a low alcohol beer brewed from old rye bread. The bread is mashed and the resulting slurry is fermented and consumed in a thick, often lumpy, smoothie. In more modern variations, the bread is separated from the sugary liquid and then the resulting wort is fermented. Being low in alcohol and before the time of “modern” brewing, it is likely that kvass developed a level of sourness after only a few days. It makes sense that a sour dough bread, having had lactobacillus already sour the mix, would be a perfect choice for a more modern take on the classic Kavas.

In order to extract as much sugar from the wheat as possible, I mashed with a bit of brewers malt just to make sure that the enzyme level was high enough. I had relatively poor control over the mash temperature so the temp ranged from the mid 150s to the low 140s. After an hour I did a quick sparge and then squeezed the brewing bag to extract a fair amount of liquid. I then boiled for an hour with a single bittering hop addition.

FullSizeRender.jpgI wanted to take this one step further. Since this beer is about as far from Reinheitsgebot as you can get, a bit of experimentation was in order. I chose to make this beer into an herbal beer, adding thyme and basil to complement the bready characteristics. I wanted the beer to remind the drinker of bread sticks and salad (sounds a bit weird, but its a combo that has worked for Olive Garden for years). Going above and beyond I wanted to see what this beer tasted like in both a “clean” and “soured” form. One gallon went to a clean German wheat fermentation, the other went onto some jolly pumpkin dregs I had kicking around the house.

Recipe: San-Fran Kvass

Weird… Yah, Tasty… depends on who you ask. The clan version is very pleasant, with a freshly baked bread flavor and a hint of herbs on the finish. It only has a mild level of sourness, just enough to give a slight twang on the tongue. Overall, it is dry and refreshing, perfect after a day under the sun! The sour beer will be ready in a few months and will hopefully be drinkable. This modern take on a Russian kvass brings together San Francisco sour dough flavors with a nice basil and thyme backbone. At such a low, ABV this is a good session beverage which has a sour tang without the need to mess with sour bugs…. unless you want to.

Recipe: 2 Gallons

OG: 1.036 —- FG: 1.000 —- ABV: 4.73%

  • FullSizeRender2.5 Lb Sour Dough Bread
  • 0.5 Lb Brewer’s Malt
  • 10 g Tradition
  • 10 Basil Leaves
  • 3 Sprigs Thyme

1 Gallon with Wyeast 3056

1 Gallon with Jolly Pumpkin Dregs

Historic IPA

Recipe: Historic IPA

This beer is my attempt to recreate a historic IPA. It is based on an article from Craft Beer & Brewing. The excessive level of hops and long aging should help to define the character of this beer as well as give it an extra level of complexity. Brett should give interesting aromatics and change the perception of the hops slowly over time. It is a bit of a risk bottling this beer considering the highly unpredictable nature of brettanomyces but it will allow the beer to age and go through flavor and aroma changes that should be fun to observe.

OG: 1.066 —- FG: 1.0?? —- ABV: ?.?%

  Recipe (5 gallons):

  • 14 lb Marris Otter
  • 3 oz East Kent Goldings – 60 min
  • 1 oz East Kent Goldings – 10 Min
  • 2 oz East Kent Goldings – Secondary for 14 Days
  • 2 oz East Kent Goldings – Tertiary for 7 Days

Yeast: Wyeast 1203 (Burton IPA Blend) & WLP645 (Brettanomyces Claussenii)

Mashed at 150 for 75 minutes. Boiled for 65 minutes. Fermented at 68 F for 2 weeks. Brewed 1/29/16 with 68% efficiency. Racked to Secondary 2/13/16 and added a vial of WLP645. Dry hopped 3/6/16 with 2 oz EKG. Racked to Tertiary 3/20/16. Dry hopped 4/4/16 with 2 oz EKG and 2 oz American Oak soaked in Vodka. Bottled 4/14/16.


Tasting Note 10/24/2017: it’s almost a year and a half old and in my opinion coming into its own. In the early days it was very hop forward and relatively clean. Now hops and Malt blend in the background (amazing that there are still hop notes after all this time). It has a strong estery-funky nose with clean barnyard and maybe some leather. Tastes great with a initial lactic sourness without any acetic quality. Fruity notes, not too much hop bite, very well balanced. Apearance… speaks for itself.

Sour, Berliner Weisse, and Lambic Festival – Tampa Bay, FL

IMG_4452It’s no wonder with the growing popularity of sour beers, that there should be events dedicated to this mouth puckering beer style. When a brewery cracks a sour, freshly kegged from a barrel, it’s often celebrated by a release party. Many bars will celebrate sours with a special tap night, putting 10 to 15 of these superb brews on draft for a single evening only. Although all of these events do homage to wild beers, it’s my belief that the Sour Beer Fest at the Cajun Cafe on the Bayou is one of the greatest expressions of admiration for the sour and wild beer style. With over twenty-five breweries and one hundred beers represented, it can hardly be argued that this festival ranks as one of the top sour celebrations of the year. Brewery’s from Anderson Valley in California to local heroes like Cigar City, and near by celebrities like NOLA Brewing gathered to put their beers on display for the public and celebrate the renaissance of sour beer.

FullSizeRender_4As I walked into the event, I had no idea what to expect. I had first heard of the festival while visiting NOLA brewery a few weeks ago. As I looked at the web page, it seemed to be a fun event, with sour and wild beers from across the US converging to create a totally unique celebration. Waiting in line with several other eager drinkers to receive my tasting glass and token for free meal, I couldnt help but feel a sense of both anticipation and a little doubt. I was no stranger to beer festivals, but all the previous experiences I had were general gatherings with styles represented across the BJCP spectrum. ‘100 sours’ I thought, ‘Im going to be sick of them by the 20th taste’… Oh how wrong I was!

FullSizeRender_1Upon my entrance to the festival, I found a veritable wonderland of sour beers, with famous brands from across the country united to celebrate the style. My samplings ranged from classic interpretations of sours, such as traditional Flanders Reds, Lambics, and  Berliner Weisse (served with the classic woodruff and raspberry syrups) to the bizarre and unusual like the cucumber gose and the bourbon barrel aged imperial sour. The festival was the usual collection of people, spanning all across the age gap; from the barley old enough to drink to seasoned veterans of the brewing world. In short is was a classic beer festival, with all walks of life represented and united in their love of beer. The line up proved to be as diverse as the drinkers assembled at this festival. Some notable examples have been highlighted below.

  • Lemon Grass Gose (Rapp Brewing): Beautiful expression of lemon grass. This beer has a nose of lemon and suntan lotion (sounds weird but it was very pleasant) and a beautiful hazy pale straw color. Its flavor reminded me of lemon candy, like sucking on a citrus warhead. Herbal aftertaste with a hint of Lemon Drops. Reminds me of the beach on a summer day.
  • Whiskey Barrel Aged King Calus Imperial Sour (Point Ybel): Weighing in at a lofty 10% abv, this beer deserves its royal status. With distinctive Bourbon notes in the nose, and a chocolate aroma worthy of an Aztec god, it’s hard to believe this is a sour. One sip however, and you are transported into a world subtle sour flavor. Amazing rich notes of cocoa complement a delicate sour flavor of funk and malt. As I drink it I can’t believe the amazing velvety overtones of the bourbon oak. This is a game changer of a sour!
  • Blended Lambic 2016 (Dam Raynes): This beer was brewed by a local home brewer, and it is positively amazing.  The beer has a very classic lambic taste, highlighting sour notes with a restrained oak presence in the background. This is the more sour of the two blends Dam brought, highlighting acid over funk. It is an amazingly clean example of style with only ha hint of funk among a distinctive sour tone. It represents the best of Belgium… in America.
  • Cheeky Otter IPA (Hourglass): This is a very fun interpretation of the sour style, accentuating guava and leeches notes. As their head brewer described, it has a strong sour note which can be very refreshing; acting as a pallet cleanser even among its sour compatriots. Even the nose has an element of tart salad dressing; giving you the impression that you already for your main course.
  • Tropical Thunder (Hidden Springs): In a lineup of powerful sours, this beer may not be as overstated as some but it delivers on quality; which at the end of the day is what you’re looking for. As a kettle brewed sour, it has all the clean flavors you’re looking for, without any garbage or trash can flavors which can come about with this temperamental technique. It has a very subtle fruit overtone coming from strawberry, mango and pineapple, which lends a very refreshing note to the otherwise clean sour profile. While it wasn’t the most sour, nor the most powerful, nor the highest in abv; this beer is a classic example of what sour beer is all about.

FullSizeRenderUnfortunately, there were few beers that fell on the sword of the creativity; such as one blend of barrel beers (from Chardonnay to Bourbon)  which proved to be more muttled than masterful; or the smoked Berliner (cough… sour gratzer… cough). Fortunately though, the majority of beers were beyond any critique or criticism. I happily sipped my way through glass after glass, marveling in how much unique flavor there was even among this seemingly homogenous group of beers. The event was truly eye-opening in that it gave me a new perspective on the depth of sour and wild brewed beer and has given me food (well drink) for thought in my future sour endeavors.

FullSizeRender_3Overall this was a fantastic venue, providing a fun atmosphere, excellent food, and extraordinary beer. I will certainly be back next year if they decide to continue this amazing festival. I encourage anyone who enjoy sour beers to make the Tampa Bay their next vacation destination in order to enjoy this fantastic line up of brews.

Simple Sour

I love a full brew day, the challenge and complexity of all grain brewing; but sometimes I come home and I want to take a step back and brew an easy extract batch. Although sometimes complexity and depth of flavor can be lost in an extract brew day, the benefits of ease can more than compensate for a few points off of judging score sheet. There are also other times when I have a desire to brew an extract batch for more than just ease of use. This was the case for my latest sour brewing endeavor.

I found myself I possession of a small sample of Brett Brux starter wort generously donated by a friend. Over the last few months I have been kicking around this yeast, moving it from starter to starter and never quite knowing what to do with it. It had come that this yeast had gone though around 3 starters and I still had not found a use for it. Now, I am very careful when I’m making yeast starters, but even with care an infection can occur. For this beer, I was too dubious of the quality of the Brett to use it in something I would slave over for hours then age for several months to years. It is for situations like this that extract brews make the perfect caliper of beer.

The brew day itself only took around 2 1/2 to 3 hours, and I probably could have shaved off even more time. I chose to do a small partial mash to impart flavor. Since it was so small, I did  a brew in a bag mash which saved on both time, labor, and equipment clean up. While I may have payed a few bucks extra for the extract rather than grain, I think my time was worth the investment. I was incredibly happy with the final result of this beer, especially after it was dry hoped. The beer had a fantastic, yet restrained, level of funk which complemented the tropical tones of the hops quite nicely.

Have you ever made an extract sour beer? Tell us more about it below!


 

Recipe: Dumpy The Waste Sour

Who says a sour has to be a time intensive beer? This dry hoped brett beer is a relatively quick turn around wild beer. The hops lend definition to the funk of the beer, giving it a bit more structure. This easy brew will produce a decent sour in less than 3 months.

OG: 1.045 —- FG: 1.0## —- ABV: #.##%

FullSizeRenderRecipe: 5 Gallons

  • 3 Lb Pilsner DME
  • 1 Lb Golden Light DME
  • 1 Lb Dark Wheat
  • 1 Lb Avangard Vienna
  • 18 g Magnum at 60 min
  • 28 g Saaz at 10 min
  • 28 g each of Citra, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin Dry Hop for 7 Days

Yeast: Brettanomyces bruxellensis (Starter) and Safale US-O5

Mini-Mashed the Wheat and Vienna in 2 gallons at 152 F. Beer was brewed on 1/10/16, Racked to 2ndary on 2/10/16, Dry hopped on 3/25/16, and Kegged on 4/3/16. The beer was force carbonated to a highly effervescent level. Overall the beer took approximately 3 months to complete. 

Rye Saison

Recipe: Rye Saison

This beer accentuates the funky and interesting flavors that Belgian beers are renowned for. It pours a very pale gold with a lovely white and lacy head. The rye adds a slightly spicy note while the flaked grains adds a bit of body to the otherwise dry beer.

Rye SaisonOG: 1.064 —- FG: 1.001 —- ABV: 8.25%

Recipe: 5 Gallons

  • 10 Lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
  • 2 Lb American Rye Malt
  • 1 Lb Flaked Rye
  • 4 oz Aromatic
  • 1 oz East Kent Golding at 90 min

Yeast: Belgian Saison at Day 1, Belle Saison at Day 7

Cold Steeping Grains

Cold steeping dark grains is a great way of adding smooth clean flavor a to your porters and stouts without the risk of leaching tannins or disturbing your mash pH. First off, I think we should go into what cold steeping actually is. Most simply, cold steeping is the process of extracting the flavor and color of specialty grains through steeping in cold water.

Why Cold Steep?

There are two major reasons for cold steeping, Mash pH and Astringency. Dark, highly modified grains go through a very hot killing process. The effect of this roasting is not just flavor and color changes, but also changes in the chemical structure of the grain. Dark grains tend to lend more acidity to the mash. Now this is not always a bad thing, especially when brewing with highly alkaline (High pH) water. Unfortunately most water is relatively balanced in its pH. This means that the dark grains will bring your mash below the sweet spot of 5.2. This low pH will give your beer a very sharp character and will inhibit the enzymes of your mash. Cold steeping negates this issue by mashing only the base grains and light specialty malt; this way the mash is unaffected by the low pH grains.

The other aspect which makes cold brewing a useful tool is its ability to bypass the astringent aspect of roast grains. When exposed to hot water, dark grains tend to leach out acrid and astringent flavors. When cold steeping, the dark grains are exposed to no more than ten minutes of heat, and may even be exposed to no heat under certain conditions.

Cold Steep Process

There are numerous ways to conduct a cold steep. Experiment and see what process works best for you and your brew house. I have outlined my basic cold steeping process below.

1) Select your Grains: For the choice of grains, you want to stick with highly killed malt that will not require any heat to extract or convert sugars. At this point you just want color and flavor extraction. Good choices are black, black patent, special b, and chocolate malts.

2) Grind the Grains: If you don’t have access to your own mill, don’t worry about this step and go with the local homebrew shop’s mill setting. If you have control, go with a more coarse grind. Since you don’t have hulls to work with, clumping can be more of an issue so a more course grind will help prevent this issue.

3) Conduct the Steep: add the grains to your steeping bag. When it comes to the bag, bigger is better to allow more room for circulation in the steep. Fill a good grade bucket with 2 quarts of good quality water per pound of grain. Add the grain bag to the water and let steep over night, mixing occasionally to allow better extraction.

Cold Steep

4) Remove the Grain Bag: Carefully remove the grain bag from the steeping liquid. It’s fine to squeeze the bag at this point, just try not to allow any husk material to enter the mix.

Remove bag

5) Add Cold Steep to Boil: With a minute left in the boil, add the steeping liquid. You should notice that the color changes dramatically when it is added. Stir gently till the mixture is well incorporated.

Before Picture        After

6) Finish the Brew Day as per normal.


Recipe: Chocolate Coffee Oatmeal Stout

This beer is based on a classic oatmeal stout but with some twists. Firstly it uses the cold steep technique for the chocolate malt and black printz. Secondly 3 shots of espresso were added at kegging to add a caffeine buzz. While this makes a very smooth beer, it is possible that the roasted flavors of a stout are lost in this recipe.

  • 10 Lb Marris Otter
  • 1 Lb Flaked Oats
  • 0.75 Lb Chocolate Malt
  • 0.75 Lb Black Printz
  • 1.5 oz East Kent Golding – 60 Minutes
  • Wyeast 1469

Mashed at 155 for 60 Minutes. Fermented at ambient temperatures.


References