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

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. 

The Funk and the Fruit: Split Batch Brewing

Minion Fruit HatFor me, one of the most frustrating aspects to brewing sour beers is the wait time before you get to drink the beer. Even the quickest turn around sours will still take around 3 months to finish (with the exception of sour mashing, but that’s a different story). More often than not, I’m willing to take on a long wait for a big payout. However, there are occasions where my brewing schedule wont allow me to use a brew day making something I wont be able to enjoy for a year or more. On these rare but regretful occasions, I take the middle path and do a split batch.

The concept of split batch brewing is incredibly simple. Take one wort, put it in two different fermenters then BOOM you have a split batch. With this grossly simple overview covered, there are a number of options for you to choose from. The first thing to decide is what sour you want to start out with. From there you can determine what your non-sour beer will become. I’ve outlined a few options for transforming a sour base beer into something unique and exciting.

One idea is to match your sour style with a complementary non-sour style. Many beers in the sour category line up very well with the “standard” beers set forth by the BJCP guidelines. If your making a Lambic or Geuze, you can make the other half of your batch a wiezen. Considering that a large portion of a lambic’s grain bill is wheat malt, and the hopping rate is low, transforming the recipe into wheat beer is an easy shift. I would stick with a classic German krystal or hefeweizen, rather than an American wheat, as these styles most closely match the lambic malt and hop bill. Oud bruin’s vital statistics are almost in lock step with those of a Northern English Brown ale. By using a nice hearty English yeast strain you could easily make this beer into a complex malty version of the classic English staple. Unfortunately,  Flemish Red ales do not have a perfect correlate, but they can become the base of a number of excellent beers. You could turn your Flemish Red into a rustic Saison, a Belgian Specialty ale, or even a fruit beer. Other than matching style you can add a number of adjuncts to transform part of your wort into something completely unique.

Apart from matching style, you could also doctor your wort to make something completely new. In an episode of Brewing TV, the guys used Dark Belgian Candy Sugar as one of the sole darkening agents with a very light beer base. Since Belgian candy sugar can be used after the boil, it provides an excellent adjunct in the carboy. Along this line, you can use another sugar to boost up the alcohol of your non sour beer without changing any color. You could use light Belgian candy sugar to transform a lambic into a Belgian golden ale or ample honey to create a braggot. Finally, you can use cold steeping of dark grains to transform a Flanders red or oud bruin into a Belgian stout.

Costco Fruit MixThere are a number of other ways to doctor your non-sour beer in order to make it something unique. One excellent way of doing this is by adding Fruit. The choice of what you add is up to your personal preferences and possibly what is growing at the time. I think that exotic fruits and fruit blends are a lot of fun and can give you something rare. If you want to stick with tradition, cherries (for a kriek like beer) or raspberries (for frambois type style) would be the way to go. Very interesting beers can be created by the addition of oak. It can turn a boring and bland beer into a rich blend of vanilla, smoke, and coconut. Finally, if you find that your base beer lacks a any interesting character, you can try dosing it with some tinctures.

One final thing to keep in mind is the how much of an effect temperature has on the fermentation. If you are lucky enough to have multiple areas to ferment, you can pick a specific area for your sour and another for your non-sour beer. If you limited to one area to ferment, you have to decide what temperature to keep your beers at. Most sours ferment best and fastest in a slightly warmer environment. That being said, they will ferment at lower temperatures but it may be sluggish. Now, it is possible to ferment your non-sour beer at higher temperatures and have the best of both worlds. Strains that work very well at higher temperatures include wheat beers, Belgian strains, and saisons.


Recipe: Funk and Fruit Split Batch

Doing a split batch gives you one beer that you can drink in a short amount of time and another that you can savor in a year or two. The fruit beer provides an intense bouquet of tropical fruit and a slightly sour undertone. The flavors of the fruit evolve over time, giving you a new beer every few months. The sour beer is a basic Flanders Red, with a nice solid amount of funkiness and a pleasantly subtle sourness that makes this an incredibly easy drinker.

The FruitOG: 1.054 —- FG: 1.000 —- ABV: 7.0%

Malt and Hops: 8 Gallons

  • 7 lb Pilsner Malt
  • 7 lb Vienna Malt
  • 10.5 oz Aromatic
  • 10.5 oz Cara Munich
  • 10.5 oz Special B
  • 10.5 oz Wheat Malt
  • 1.33 Lb Munich Malt
  • 1 oz Hallertau – 90 min

Yeast: Sour Beer (Wyeast De Bom) and Fruit Beer (Wyeast French Saison)

Notes: The fruit beer component was racked onto 6 lb of Mango/Strawberry/Pineapple/Peach Mix from Costco after the primary fermentation was complete. The Fruit beer was then racked to tertiary to age. The sour beer was fermented in primary for two months then aged in a 6 gallon carboy for another ten months. After a year the beer was kegged and put on the infamous golden sour tap.

Champaign, Illinois – Brewery Reviews

map_of_champaign_ilOut of the wisdom of my Medical School, I was sent to Illinois to participate in a medical board preparation course. Like Napoleon, I was sent away to dwell on a small island. Instead of being surrounded by the crashing waves of the sea, I was surrounded by waves of corn. During my temporary exile I decided that it would be appropriate to evaluate the local brew scene. I discovered that Champaign has a very active beer scene, with 3 excellent microbreweries close by. If you are passing through Illinois, I would definitely stop by this college town for a pint.

TriptychTriptych Brewing: This small brewery offers a very pleasant bar feel, while providing a great selection of beer. As you walk into the brewery, you are greeted by fermentation tanks to your left and comfortable seating to your right. The bar offers a very wide selection of beers ranging from sours to stouts. Particularly of note is one of the brewery’s flagship beers the “Golden Oatie”. This unique beer is a coffee and chocolate flavored blond. While it is not my favorite beer in their line up, I have to applaud their execution of this one of a kind brew. My personal favorite is their dark sour, with a hint of dark fruit with a powerful kick of lactic sourness. One awesome aspect of this brewery is that they will can draft beer for you at your request. So, even if you are just passing through, you can grab a can or two of their delicious brews.

IMG_2751Desthil Brewery: This brew pub is an excellent place to grab a burger and a beer. What impressed me most is  the vast variety of beer served at this establishment. During my visit there were over 20 beers to choose from. For the person wanting to sample a variety of brews, this brewery offers numerous sizes of beer: 4 oz, 8 oz, 12 oz, and 16 oz. As far as food goes, this place has some of the best bar food around. My burger was perfect in both size and preparation. The combination of beer and food makes this a great one stop destination. If you are just passing through, a number of local liquor stores sell the brewery’s beer. I highly recommend their sour series, with styles including Gose, Berliner, and Flanders Red.

IMG_2722Blind Pig Brewing Company: The Blind Pig is a great little brewery in downtown Champaign. Their personally brewed beer selection is small, but they make up for this by having a number of bottles available for patrons. One of the greatest aspects of this brewery is their outdoor beer garden which is quite extensive. The beer is very solid and quite refreshing. Although the selection is small, the  beers that they have available are quite diverse. I think that this brewery stole my heart with their reference to the chewbacca defense. The beer in question is Wookie Snacks, a delicious Black Rye IPA which is both rich and well hopped with a pleasant bitterness and spice. I would also highly recommend their pilsner, which proved to be a refreshing beer for a hot summer night.