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.

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

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.