A few months ago I brewed a kettle sour which I posted about here. On brew day I split the batch, 4 gallons to be dry hopped with Mosaic and Vic Secret and the other 2.5 gallons to be racked onto 2.5 pounds of pineapple. I fermented both batches with Brett Brux Trois Vrai.
This strain didn’t drop the gravity as quickly as some other Brett strains I’ve used in the past. So I was interested to see how well it would attenuate on the pineapple batch after an additional 10 weeks. When it came time to sample I was glad to see the gravity finally dropped to a level I was happy with, 1.005. I also happened to have a keg line open up a couple of days prior which was a Brett beer. I had originally planned to bottle this small batch but given I wouldn’t have to change the beer line I decided to keg instead.
I was very pleased with how this turned out. The pineapple really punched through the hops I had used on brew day and the Brett funk was more than subtle but not over powering. The Brett seemed to amplify the over ripe pineapple character and compliment the beer overall. The lower gravity seemed to make the perceived sourness a little more pronounced. The hops surprisingly still came through and added a little complexity. Although they were more restrained due to the time from brew day to kegging, they did add something. I rarely brew a recipe twice as I’m always looking to change and improve any aspect of a beer I can. But I think I would brew this again, pineapple and Brett seemed to be an especially good combination. I’d love to get the base a little more sour next time but otherwise this iteration from my kettle sour was very good.
Appearance: Pours with a light layer of white head which fades to a ring pretty quickly. Golden yellow in color.
Aroma: Sour up front with a moderate amount of ripe pineapple followed by restrained Brett funk.
Taste: Light to moderately sour, over ripe pineapple punches through followed by some light Brett funk. Pineapple, mango and some citrus.
Overall: This turned out really well, I was surprised to enjoy it more than the dry hopped version. I’d certainly try something similar again sometime. It kicked fairly quickly and it went over well with fellow beer geeks. It was certainly nice to have a sour on tap for a change. Although I did like what this Brett strain brought to the beer long term, it’s not one I would use as a primary strain again. Or at least not for a hop forward beer that I want to keg within two weeks. As I mentioned earlier it did drop the gravity to where I was hoping but it simply took too long to get there.
A Hefeweizen has to be one of the best styles to enjoy on a hot day. A good balance of clove and banana from the German yeast, silky mouth feel, yet still light and thirst quenching. Last summer I had a Hoppy Hefeweizen near the top of my list to brew.
I ordered a pack of Wyeast Weihenstephan Weizen 3068 ahead of time as special orders can take some time at my LHBS. I had my recipe written, yeast in hand and was comfortable with my hop choices. I was hoping for varieties that would compliment the German strain, not over power it. I decided on Cascade because of its citrus character, and I find it to be not overly punchy. I also wanted to use Mandarina Bavaria because it has peach and fruit character, and that sounded like it would all mesh well together. Again, I’ve used this hop before and found it to be mild to moderate in intensity.
The grain bill was fairly straight forward, the majority being Pilsner and wheat malt as well as some oats (not a traditional addition). The wheat and oats tend to give the beer moderate to full mouth feel and allows the yeast to push into that silky character. It also helps to contribute to the hazy look the style is so well known for. Finally some acid malt for ph adjustment.
With all of that planned, life happened as it always seems to, and this recipe got pushed back for so long that it was well into the fall before I thought about it again. By then I wasn’t in the mood for the style anymore and I ended up moving onto other styles.
Fast forward to a little while ago. I noticed that pack of 3068 still in my beer fridge. I knew it would take a while to order a new pack and I had always been curious about reviving an old yeast pack. This one was 15 months past the manufactured date. So I decided to start with a small starter (250ml) and build the culture from there. Next I stepped it up to 500ml, 1L, and 2L over a two week period. Each step up resulted in noticeable activity so I knew I had grown something.
Now to be honest, I didn’t do a ton of research into what would happen using an old yeast pack if I was able to get it going. Most of what I read said that the original yeast should be nearly impossible to propagate at this point. So I was happy just to see activity as I built up the culture.
Looking back I definitely should have asked myself and read more into the possible pitfalls of this approach I was taking. I assumed the yeast would be impacted but I had no idea just how much until I tasted the final product. Not only did this beer not taste like a Hefe in the slightest, it didn’t taste good at all. It had a host of off flavours. Ranging from wet cardboard, grassy notes and an odd mouth feel. I let it sit in keg for about two weeks, sampling every few days to see if any of them were starting to subside. I tried, but failed, on every attempt to drink more than a couple of ounces.
Given the fact that the beer was treated properly in every way aside from the yeast, I had to conclude this was the culprit of all the off flavors. I decided to cut my losses and pour this down the drain. It was disheartening to say the least, I’m sure anyone that’s dumped a batch can attest to how that feels.
Recipe Targets: 4 Gallons, OG 1.048, FG 1.011, ABV 4.9%, IBU 24, SRM 3.5
0.15 kg Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) 1 4.4 %
1.90 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) 55.2 %
1.00 kg White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) 29.1 %
0.20 kg Oats, Flaked (Briess) (1.4 SRM) 5.8 %
0.19 kg Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) 5.5 %
14.00 g Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 10 min 4.6 IBUs
14.00 g Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 10 7.1 IBUs
28.00 g Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 5 min 5.1 IBUs
28.00 g Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 5 min 7.8 IBUs
28.00 g Cascade [5.50 %] - Boil 0 min 0.0 IBUs
28.00 g Mandarina Bavaria [8.50 %] - Boil 0 min 0.0 IBUs
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10 mins)
Weihenstephan Weizen (Wyeast Labs #3068)
No tasting notes, just what I mentioned earlier. I definitely want to try brewing this style next summer, with a fresh pack of yeast. Until then, this was yet another lesson learned. I do wonder if I had built the culture up a number of times over the winter if it would have behaved the same way. But the cost of DME alone would have out weighed that approach compared to simply ordering a fresh pack.
After this experience I can say without hesitation, use fresh yeast; always. When in doubt, buy a fresh pack, the relatively small cost is easily out weighed by the potential waste of grain and especially hops. Not to mention the hit your pride will take.
Grisette is a style I see popping up more and more lately. If you’re not familiar with it think light, or session Saison. Though there are some minor differences in the grain bill, the comparison is sound. While most Saisons have a fairly simple, and clean grain bill, a Grisette tends to have more adjuncts like wheat, oats, spelt, etc. Or at least that’s my approach. I won’t pretend to be a purist when it comes to traditional styles.
The first commercial example I had of the style was a great one, Grizacca by Oxbow in Maine. What I enjoyed most about the beer was how well the hops worked with their yeast strain. This is what I believe is the most difficult aspect of brewing hop forward styles with a Belgian strain. See my last blog post here where I made some choices that didn’t work so well.
Grisettes are especially enjoyable in the summer, having character of a Saison on a smaller scale. For me they tend to be pale in color, light to medium mouth feel, finishing dry with some subtle spice from a Saison yeast strain. Add some carefully chosen hop varieties to that, and you have a perfect beer for a hot summer day, or any day really.
While planning my recipe I remembered that I have also been wanting to brew a long term Brett Saison of late. I felt that a Grisette comes close enough that I could possibly take care of both beer on the same brew day. I’ve never brewed a mixed fermentation beer, certainly not with a Brett and Sacc strain combined. I’m not sure if I should have pitched either strain ahead of the other to give it a head start. Or simply pitch both at the same time. For simplicity’s sake, I decided to just pitch both as primary strains. I planned to leave this in carboy for a minimum of six months and see how it’s coming along. Most likely I would bottle half at that point and transfer the other half to a small carboy with a fruit addition. Either way both iterations should be ready by next spring.
The most recent commercial example of the style that I’ve enjoyed would be Saison Brett by Les Trois Mousquetaires out of Quebec, Canada. I loved how crisp and dry it was, backed by just enough Brett funk, yet still had some Saison character coming through as well. I really should have picked up a few extra bottles to age.
Those styles that need a good amount of time in primary are always hard to fit into my brew schedule. There never seems to be enough time to get everything I have planned into a carboy. Family time takes priority and now with two kids in the picture, brew time is harder and harder to come by. So when I do get the chance to get a brew day in, I tend to go for something hoppy to keep my taps flowing. A solution to this would be to simply brew larger batches. My system can accommodate 10 gallons of low to moderate abv wort. But, like I said, I have too many ideas and I tend to get tired of drinking the same beer after a while. Especially when those delicious hoppy beer start fading off after a few weeks.
But, why not get two different batches from the same mash, split prior to the boil and voila! A hoppy beer to drink in two weeks and another incorporating both a Saison and Brett strain that I could ferment long term. This does take a little more work and time in BeerSmith, or whatever software you use. You need to plan the 10 gallon batch for the mash, then each 5 gallon batch for the boil and fermentation. It’s not really that much more to take on really, just a few extra things to keep in mind and take note of on brew day. With that decided, I went ahead planning both recipes.
Planning the hoppy Grisette half was pretty easy. I had brewed a clone of Oxbow’s Grizacca following a friend’s recipe (found here) about a year and a half ago. At the time it was the best beer I had brewed to date, likely setting my expectations a little too high this time around. It is fairly consistent with how I brew any hop forward style. Low bitterness with most of the hops used at 10 minute, steep and dry hop additions. I decided to keep most of the recipe intact, though I did want to change the hops a little. That beer was brewed using mostly Azacca (another favorite on mine), and Falconer’s Flight, though the original recipe was a little different. I did have Simcoe, so I could have brewed that exact clone, but I felt using another favorite variety of mine with Azacca would make for an interesting combination.
The descriptors for Azacca are as follows. Aromas of tropical fruit, fruit and citrus. Flavors of pineapple, mango, citrus, lemon and pine. I keep meaning to brew a single hop beer with it, I think it would certainly work well in a SMaSH recipe. I wanted to keep the majority of the hop bill to be Azacca because it worked well the first time around. I also wanted to keep the yeast strain consistent with last time because it’s my favorite Saison strain and it’s always reliable. My favorite hop to pair with the Wyeast 3711 French Saison strain has to be Nelson Sauvin. It’s an elusive hop to describe though goose berry, and sauvignon blanc is commonly cited. I did want to use some Nelson in this recipe, but I only wanted it to add a little complexity and compliment the beer overall, instead of being the stand out flavor.
I kept the grist close to a recipe I brewed before. Bohemian Pilsner for the base backed up with a small amount of malted wheat and flaked wheat along with some acid malt for water chemistry adjustment. I would have liked to use spelt this time around but my LHBS didn’t have any in stock. I also used a small amount of rice hulls as I routinely do anytime I add wheat to a recipe. I’ve only ever had one stuck sparge and I plan to never repeat that awful brew day.
This did turn out fairly well, though I remember enjoying the original version with Falconer’s Flight a little more. This was a big surprise to me considering how much I enjoy both of these hops. Perhaps next time I will just stick with Simcoe, I’m sure it would work really well with Azacca, it obviously did for Oxbow.
As for the Brett Grisette half, I had a hop addition at 75 (beginning of the boil) and of course the grist had to be the same. Only time will tell how that turns out, I’ll update when I finally get to taste it.
Recipe Targets: 5 gallons, OG 1.042, FG 1.006, ABV 4.8%, IBU 34, SRM 3.0
0.06 kg Rice Hulls 1.8 %
1.80 kg Pilsner Bohemian 52.4 %
0.75 kg Wheat, Flaked 21.8 %
0.75 kg White Wheat Malt 21.8 %
0.07 kg Acid Malt 2.2 %
40.00 g Azacca [8.24 %] - Boil 10 min 17.0 IBUs
40.00 g Azacca [8.24 %] - Steep 10 min 8.5 IBUs
30.00 g Nelson Sauvin [11.40 %] - Steep 10 min 8.8 IBUs
40.00 g Azacca CHILLER [8.24 %] 0.0 IBUs
30.00 g Nelson Sauvin CHILLER [11.40 %] 0.0 IBUs
50.00 g Azacca Day 4 [8.24 %] Dry Hop
25.00 g Nelson Sauvin Day 4 [11.40 %] Dry Hop
50.00 g Azacca Day 8 [8.24 %] Dry Hop
25.00 g Nelson Sauvin Day 8 [11.40 %] Dry Hop
1.0 pkg French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711)
1.00 Items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10.0 mins)
Brewed on June 5th with my son, mashed in with 19L of strike water to hit mash temp of 148F for 50 minutes. Mashed out with 11L of 208F water for 10 minutes. Batch sparged with 6.6 gallons of 168F water. Two points low on pre-boil gravity at 1.030. Wort split between two kettles.
Hoppy Grisette – 75 minute boil, OG 11 points high at 1.052. Chilled to 60F, transferred to primary which was shaken prior to and after pitching yeast starter. Fermentation temperature peaked at 72F. Vigorous within 36 hours, and seemed to be winding down within 72 hours.
June 8th – 1st dry hop addition
June 13th – 2nd dry hop addition
June 17th – Kegged (FG 1.005), pressure set to 35 for 48 hours then reduced to serving
Brett Grisette – 75 minute boil, OG high at 1.045, chilled to 60F and both the Saison and Brett starters were added.
I realized when I measured the OG’s that I neglected to take into account the greater boil-off volume loss splitting this batch. As opposed to simply doing a single kettle boil and splitting afterwards. Lesson learned.
Appearance: Pours with a medium white, fluffy head which fades to a ring after several minutes. Golden yellow/light orange in color.
Aroma: Moderate hop aroma. Mango, slight pineapple and citrus.
Flavour: Carries over from the aroma. Mango, pineapple, lemon, light to moderate intensity. Something near the end that detracts from the beer. Perhaps very light astringency. Light bitterness.
Overall: This turned out pretty well, though not nearly as well as I had hoped. I felt it wasn’t quite as punchy as I expected given the hops I used. The possible slight astringency it barely noticeable, not at all by some that tasted it. Still, something I’ll be looking for in my next batch. The beer you have the highest hopes for always seem to be the ones that fall short of expectations. Still good, but as I mentioned earlier, I remember enjoying my first shot at this clone just a little more.
Recipe Targets: 5 Gallons, OG 1.042, FG 1.002, ABV 5.6%, IBU 21, SRM 3.0
0.06 kg Rice Hulls 1.8 %
1.80 kg Pilsner Bohemian 52.4 %
0.75 kg Wheat, Flaked 21.8 %
0.75 kg White Wheat Malt 21.8 %
0.07 kg Acid Malt 2.2 %
28.00 g East Kent Goldings [5.26 %] Boil 75mins 21.9 IBUs
1.0 pkg French Saison (Wyeast Labs #3711)
1.0 pkg Brettanomyces Amalgamation (The Yeast Bay)
Not too long ago I brewed my first session IPA of the summer. I hopped that beer with Citra, and Galaxy, both of which are some of my favorite varieties. It was fermented with LAIII, and it turned out quite well if I do say so myself. I wondered, as I was enjoying it one day, how it would taste if fermented with a Brett strain. So, this is a very similar recipe, though I did add in equinox (another favorite of mine) as well. I thought its fruit and lime character would mesh well with Citra and Galaxy. Turns out I was right, this turned out at least as well, though it seemed to need a little extra time to come together. That seems counter intuitive for a hop forward style, but I have found that to be consistent when fermented with a Brett strain. It could be that Brett just needs a little more time to help punch out the over ripe fruit character I love so much.
About six months ago I decided to have a dedicated line for beers fermented with Brett strains. It’s nice not having to worry about scrubbing or changing tap lines every time they kick. Especially during the summer when my brewing schedule slows down, it’s helpful to have a beer on tap that doesn’t have to be enjoyed as fast as possible. I do enjoy how these beer change over a couple of months, instead of simply fading as most hoppy styles do. Brett IPA’s seem to gain complexity over time and continue to be delicious to the last drop.
I don’t need to go into much detail with respect to the three varieties of hops I used for this beer. I’ve talked about them in previous posts, and they are generally all “winners”. Used in any hop forward style, you can’t really go wrong with any of them. Though, I have been told before by a fellow home brewer that Citra adds too much mango flavor, but what the fuck is that all about? If I’m getting a ton of tropical fruit character from any hop, I’m really happy. Anyway, I digress. Here’s what I love about Citra, Galaxy, and Equinox.
Citra- Tropical, mainly mango, and pineapple as well as citrus character. I find it to be very punchy, and a little dank at times.
Galaxy- Fruit, passionfruit, peach, and citrus. I don’t think it’s quite as punchy as Citra, but it is a fantastic hop.
Equinox- Citrus, especially lime, tropical, and yes green pepper. This is such a unique hop, it really helps your beer stand out from the usual hop forward styles.
As the title suggests this was fermented with a Brett Strain. My favorites so far are Brett C and Brett Amalgamation for hoppy styles. They both display high attenuation, and they seem to get to terminal gravity quickly, meaning they can be turned around in a short amount of time. This helps maximize those hop flavors and aromas we all love so much. I went with Brett C this time, not because I felt it was a better choice, but because I use those two strains interchangeably so I can maintain them more easily. This allows me to build them every couple of months, and I don’t have to worry about doing starters simply to feed those cultures.
The grist was kept fairly simple, and consistent with how I normally brew an IPA. Base malt is almost always 2-row, but this time I split it half and half with Maris Otter. I like to mash fairly low so that the beer finishes dry, because of this I like to add some malted wheat, or flaked oats to re-gain some mouth feel. I opted for the latter this time, along with some Carapils for head retention, Acid malt for water chemistry adjustment, and finally a little Carared.
I was happy with how this turned out. I did find it needed an extra week or so after kegging, before it really came together and hit its stride. While I could pick up on Citra quite easily, Galaxy and Equinox seemed to blend, and were a little more elusive. If you have any experience using these hops you likely could pick them out, but otherwise they mixed to a nice fruity character.
Brewed by my son, and I June 13th, mashed in with 8.5L of strike water to hit mash temp of 152F for 50 minutes. Mashed out with 4.5L of 200F water for 10 minutes, and finally batch sparged with 3.9 gallons of 168F water. 60 minute boil, 15 minute hop steep, chilled to 62F, and transferred to primary. Carboy was shaken for two minutes prior to, and after pitching yeast slurry. I really need to get an oxygen system someday. OG was 1.044, fermentation was starting within 12 hours, and going strong within 24. Primary fermentation was winding down within 72hours, and the first charge of dry hops were added at this point, second round of dry hops added on day 8. On day 12 beer was transferred to a co2 purged keg, seal added, and keg was purged again (multiple times). FG 1.005. Pressure was set to 30psi, shaken lightly and left in kegerator for 24 hours, pressure then reduced to serving.
Brewed – June 13th
First Dry Hop addition – June 17th
Second Dry Hop addition – June 21st
Kegged – June 25th
Appearance: Pours with a white head, half finger, and fades to quarter finger within a few minutes before fading to a thin ring eventually. Golden in color, and lightly hazy.
Aroma: Over ripe, and tropical fruit followed by some mild Brett funk.
Taste: Moderate fruit, and tropical hop flavors, mostly pineapple, and mango. Mid taste Brett makes its presence known, but never over takes the hops, light bitterness.
Overall: This turned out pretty well. Honestly, I was slightly underwhelmed when this was first carbed. A friend told me it tasted like it needed a little time to come together, and he was right. About a week or so later the hop flavors and Brett character really merged, became increasingly tasty, and slightly more complex. Like all the good beer one brews, this didn’t last nearly long enough. I would brew this again, maybe with Brett Amalgamation, just to see how different it could be. I know I’ve talked about how much I love Equinox on it’s own previously. But, I’m really enjoying what it adds to other fruity, and tropical varieties. I wish it was easier to come by because I would definitely use it more frequently.
Well, it was bound to happen at some point. I’ve fallen behind on blog posts, and as I’m writing this post this beer has already kicked, weeks ago. Summer is such a busy time, as I’m sure it is for everyone, and one of the last things on my priority list is putting aside time for writing, unfortunately. I do have a new respect for brewers that post on a timely, and consistent basis.
A little while ago I had mentioned that I still hadn’t brewed any iteration of a Belgian IPA. It’s something I’ve always had in my line up, but I kept pushing it back again, and again. Of course, I’m not talking traditional Belgian IPA, though those are very enjoyable in their own right. I mean a hop forward IPA, similar to the American styles I brew, fermented with a Belgian strain that would hopefully compliment the hops used in the recipe. This, I believe, is the most challenging aspect, mixing a Belgian strain with American, Aussie, etc hops.
To be completely honest I haven’t had many super hoppy Belgian IPA’s, only a few each of commercial, and home brew examples. The best iteration I’ve sampled has to be a home brew made by a friend of mine, he termed it a Belgian APA, the recipe can be found here. I highly recommend trying that recipe if you’re inclined to brew something along this “style”.
This beer was yet another learning experience for me in brewing. I have come to the realization that when brewing a new style for the first time that it is very helpful to brew someone else’s recipe, and preferably something you’ve sampled previously, and enjoyed. Using the recipe I mentioned above would have been the safe, and smart move. Unfortunately, I decided to throw caution to the wind and craft my own recipe, and this is where I went wrong.
Not to say this particular beer was undrinkable, or that I dumped any of it. Let’s just say that I was happy to see it go, and I gave away as much as possible (with fair warning, of course). I believe the grain bill, and hops I used should have produced a reasonably good beer, but my choice of yeast strain is what lead me astray.
Getting specialty strains at my LHBS can be a challenge at times, so when the strain I wanted wasn’t available I decided to go with what they had in stock, Wyeast 3522 Belgian Ardennes. I had used this strain previously for my attempt at a Houblon Chouffe clone, and although I didn’t exactly hit the mark that time, it did have similarities to the real deal. I had thought I could at least partially remember what to expect from this strain, and that it would work well with my hop choices.
If you read the product description from the Wyeast website it sounds like a very reasonable, and safe strain choice for an IPA. Here is how it reads on their site:
“One of the great and versatile strains for the production of classic Belgian style ales. This strain produces a beautiful balance of delicate fruit esters and subtle spicy notes, with neither one dominating.”
I had decided early on I wanted to use Amarillo, and Waimea for this beer. Amarillo is known for its floral, and citrus character, though I tend to get a lot of fruit as well when it’s used correctly. Waimea is a hop I’ve only used once previously, but it has descriptors of citrus, and pine. I’m still confident these two hops would work well together, citrus, fruit, and pine sound like qualities that would mesh well with a strain known for mild fruity esters backed with light spice. I’m certainly not looking to brew this recipe again any time soon, but I will try to brew a Belgian IPA again at some point with a different yeast strain. Maybe I’ll even take my own advice, and use the recipe I mentioned above.
Recipe Targets: 4.0 Gallons, OG 1.043, FG 1.010, IBU 45, ABV 4.3%, SRM 4.7
2.30 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) 79.1 %
0.14 kg Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM) 5.0 %
0.14 kg Oats, Flaked (1.0 SRM) 4.9 %
0.14 kg White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) 4.9 %
0.09 kg Carared (20.0 SRM) 3.1 %
0.09 kg Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) 3.0 %
4.00 g Waimea [17.20 %] - Boil 60.0 min
14.00 g Amarillo [8.20 %] - Boil 10.0 min
14.00 g Waimea [17.20 %] - Boil 10.0 min
28.00 g Amarillo [8.20 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 10 min
28.00 g Waimea [17.20 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 10 min
28.00 g Amarillo CHILLER [8.20 %]
28.00 g Waimea CHILLER [17.20 %]
14.00 g Amarillo - Dry Hop (Day 5)
14.00 g Waimea - Dry Hop (Day5)
28.00 g Amarillo - Dry Hop (Day 9-14)
28.00 g Waimea - Dry Hop (Day 9-14)
1.0 pkg Belgian Ardennes (Wyeast Labs #3522)
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient (Boil 10.0 mins)
1.00 Item Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 10.0 mins)
Brewed by myself May 23rd, mashed in with 7.5L of strike water to hit mash temp of 152F for 50 minutes. Mashed out with 4.3L of 200F water for 10 minutes, and finally batch sparged with 3.8 gallons of 168F water. 60 minute boil, chilled to 62F, and transferred to carboy. Wort shaken for approximately two minutes prior to and after pitching yeast starter. OG hit the mark at 1.043. Fermentation active within 36 hours, temperature never rising above 72F.
May 26th – 28g each Waimea, and Amarillo added to primary.
May 30th – 42g each Waimea, and Amarillo added to primary.
June 3rd – FG reached 1.006, a few points lower than expected.
June 4th – Transferred to CO2 purged keg, set to 30psi.
June 6th – Lowered CO2 to serving pressure.
Appearance: Pours with a white head, quarter finger that fades to a thin ring after several minutes. Light orange/copper in color, mostly clear with only slight haze.
Aroma: Phenolic, mainly clove initially. Followed by some light hop aroma coming through afterwards, they seem a bit muddled and somewhat difficult to describe. Light fruit, and floral is the best I can do.
Taste: Follows the aroma, phenloic with light fruit, and floral hops. Something near the end that’s off putting, more than bitterness, and a little harsh. This faded some what with time, and eventually the fruit character of Amarillo seemed to punch through.
Mouth feel: Medium carbonation, with light-medium mouth feel, finishing slightly dry.
Overall: As mentioned above, this was decent, but not at all what I had hoped it would be. It did get better with time, when the yeast flavor seemed to subside, at which point I enjoyed what Amarillo brought to the beer. But, I couldn’t pick out Waimea really, or it was muddled by the yeast strain. Not to mention that harsh and/or bitter finish. I will come back to this style at some point. But for now I’m going to brew something in my comfort zone to get my confidence back up.
Last summer I tried my first hop forward sour beer, Funky Gold Amarillo by Prairie Artisan Ales. To be honest, I was blown away. It was moderately sour, quite clean with lots of Amarillo aroma and flavor. It was simple, but at the same time it had a good amount of complexity. It was intriguing, and I really wanted to re-create this style for myself at some point. Little did I know at the time, this style would give me far more trouble than any other, testing my patience and confidence on numerous occasions. I’ve had a handful of hoppy sours from commercial breweries since, but that beer still stands out for me, as does Funky Gold Mosaic. A very similar beer but with mosaic hops instead of Amarillo, obviously.
Now when I say “salvaged” in the title, I mean it a little loosely. This post is mostly about my attempts, and subsequent failures trying to produce a super hoppy, sour beer. Though I did end up with a drinkable sour that was indeed hoppy, it did not proceed how I expected.
I’ve read countless blogs regarding fast souring with Lacto, and I’ve attempted this style previously, albeit with minimal success. After much reading on Milk the Funk, The Mad Fermentationist , and Ales of the Riverwards, not to mention American Sour Beers by Tonsmeire, I decided kettle souring was best suited to my current set up.
It seemed as though home brewers everywhere are turning these styles around in less than two weeks. But there are numerous options available to build your Lacto culture. I came across this post from Derek Springer of Five Blades Brewing. It’s a great step by step instructional for a Lacto starter.
Next I had to decide what type of Lacto I wanted to sour with, there were a few options I was interested in. There are other options of course, yogurt, sauerkraut, and so on, but these were the three I was most comfortable with at the time.
Pure strain – Such as L.Brevis
Probiotic Capsules – L.Plantarum
After deciding which type of Lacto I wanted to use, I had to settle on a yeast strain to ferment the wort with once it had reached a ph level I was happy with. If you’ve had a kettle sour, or any fast soured beer for that matter, you know that while they are quite tasty, they are not overly complex like a Flanders. This is one of the reasons why Berliner Weisse is traditionally served with raspberry or woodruff-flavored syrup, they also help to balance sourness. I thought the use of a Brett strain may add a little complexity, and luckily a friend had just ordered a vial of White Labs Brett Brux Trois Vrai for me. This is not a strain I had used before, but I felt it would be well suited for this style. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, but more on that a little later.
Now I turned my attention to hop choices. For a little while I’ve been wanting to use Mosaic and Vic Secret together. They’re both very expressive and tasty on their own. I find Mosaic to be a little dank with lots of fruit, and tropical character. Vic Secret seems to be tropical as well, mainly pineapple with some pine character. So I was fairly confident these two would work well together, especially playing off some sourness and a restrained malt bill.
Speaking of malt bill, I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I was going to build. Prairie doesn’t list the grain they use on their site as many other breweries do, not that I was looking to clone Funky Gold, but it would have been great to know where to start. I also didn’t take any tasting notes at the time I had that particular beer, unfortunately. I do remember it being a light orange hue, and I don’t recall much contribution from the grain flavor wise. It was almost entirely the sourness, and delicious hops that intrigued me. With this all in mind, I tried to keep things relatively simple. Pilsner as the base, some Vienna, and Munich for a little biscuit, and bread respectively. Wheat malt for added mouth feel as I was planning on mashing quite low, and finally acid malt for water chemistry adjustment.
The very last variable I had to decide on was batch size. I brew many different amounts based on my needs. I tend to brew hop forward styles in four gallon batches because I want to get through those kegs before the hop character fades significantly. This time around I thought about brewing more and taking some of the wort for a fruit addition, as I didn’t want to go the syrup route I mentioned earlier. I thought a pineapple sour sounded good for the upcoming summer weather, and I thought it would go well with the tropical character of the hops I had chosen. Keeping this in mind I decided to brew 6.5 gallons, 4 gallons for the hoppy sour with heavy dry hopping, and the other 2.5 gallons would receive chunks of pineapple at a rate of 1.25lb/gal.
With all of that decided, I was eager to get my fast sour brew into a keg, so I got a starter going right away with Lacto Brevis. I had assumed that I would have a starter ready to go in less than a week, wort soured in a few days, and the batch completed within three weeks. I matched fermentation temperature to the strain, but even after a week the ph had not dropped below 3.8.
My next attempt involved using L.Plantarum, a probiotic, which was recommended by a friend after reading this post by Ed Coffey on brewing a Gose. I decided to use four capsules instead of the three he used, simply because of my issues in the past. Again this starter stalled, only reaching a ph of 3.9. So I tried again with a pure strain of Lacto Brevis, and I got the starter to 4.0. At this point the frustration was setting in, so I decided to go the grain route. First with 2-row, then acid malt, then a mix of those two with three L.Plantarum capsules. Fail, fail, and fail. None of them got below 3.8.
As a last ditch effort, I attempted one more starter with grain only, and after a week it had still only dropped to 3.8. At this point I decided to just walk away for a little while, I had family coming to visit, plus I wasn’t making any progress. I decided to leave the starter at around 105F for two full weeks. When my visitors left I thought about just dumping the starter, but my curiosity got the better of me. I tested the ph, and to my surprise it was down to 3.58, so the next day I mashed in, and collected my wort. I then brought the wort temp up to 180F to kill any potential bugs, chilled to 120F, and pitched the starter. I poured in 1L of seltzer water to purge the kettle (hopefully) of oxygen. Making some effort to purge the oxygen in your fermenting vessel is important to minimize butyric acid from being produced. I then covered the lid with saran wrap, placed the lid on, and watched the temperature closely. Every time it dropped below 90F I turned the stove burner on low-medium heat, and brought it back up to 120F. I repeated this for an entire week, and checked the ph at 36 hours, then about every 12 hours for a few days.
I know this was less than an ideal method, but I thought if the starter was below 3.8 it was worth a shot. Unfortunately the wort never got below 4.2, despite giving it a head start down to 4.8 with my mash adjustment. Then I had a full batch of non sour wort and I wasn’t sure if I should proceed with the boil, or cut my losses and dump the entire thing. By now I had spent a lot of time attempting to build starters and sour my wort. In the end, I decided to use all of the lactic acid I had left, 120ml, and it got the wort ph down to 3.5. From here I did a 60 minute boil, added a good amount of hops to steep and again when I started to chill.
0.15 kg Rice Hulls (0.0 SRM) 2.7 %
3.50 kg Pilsner (2 Row) Bel (2.0 SRM) 62.0 %
0.50 kg Munich Malt (9.0 SRM) 8.9 %
0.50 kg Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) 8.9 %
0.50 kg White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM) 8.9 %
0.50 kg Acid Malt (3.0 SRM) 8.8 %
10 g Mosaic [12.25 %] - Boil 10min
10 g Vic Secret [15.50 %] - Boil 10min
20 g Mosaic [12.25 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 15min
20 g Vic Secret [15.50 %] - Steep/Whirlpool 15min
28 g Mosaic [12.25 %] - Dry Hop Day 7
28 g Vic Secret [15.50 %] - Dry Hop Day 7
42 g Mosaic [12.25%] - Dry Hop - Day 15
21 g Vic Secret [15.5%] - Dry Hop - Day 15
1.00 Whirlfloc Tablet Boil 10 mins
2.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient Boil 10 mins
WLP 648 Brettanomyces Brux Trois Vrai
Brewed with my son, mashed in with 15L of strike water to hit mash temperature of 149F. Mashed out with 8L of 206F water, and finally batch sparged with 4 gallons of 170F water. Wort temperature brought up to 180F for 15 minutes, then chilled to 120F, Pitched Lacto starter, added 1L seltzer water, covered with saran wrap, and placed lid on the kettle. Kettle was put on stove top. Temperature was kept between 90-120F for a week. Ph stable at 4.2 from day 3 through day 7. 120ml Lactic acid (88%) added, wort ph reduced to 3.5. Moved kettle to burner and proceeded with 60 minute boil, chilled to 62F, split batch, and pitched Brett starter.
Now you would think with all the trouble I had getting a starter, and wort ph to drop, that I would have been in the clear at this point. But oh no, this finicky beer was not done with me yet.
One week after pitching Brett, gravity was stable at 1.018. First dry hop charge added. The next day an active starter of US-05 added, one week later gravity down to 1.012, and second dry hop charge was added. Four days later gravity was down to 1.010, beer transferred to CO2 purged keg. Force carbed at 35psi for 48 hours, then reduced to serving pressure.
Appearance: Pours with a white head, half finger that fades to a thin ring very quickly. Pale, golden yellow in color, and moderately hazy.
Aroma: Sourness seems to stun the aroma initially, then lemon, grapefruit, and pineapple come through, light to moderate in intensity. Very slightly dank as well.
Taste: Light to moderate sourness is front and center, which is followed my a moderate hop presence. Pineapple, meyer lemon, followed by lighter notes of mango, papaya, orange, and lime.
Overall: I like this, I just don’t love it. I’m enjoying it now that it’s had a few weeks to settle in, but initially it had a near offensive chemical or metallic note that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I assumed at the time it was due to using so much lactic acid to sour, instead of taking the natural route. But, it has faded, I’d say almost entirely. I think the Mosaic and Vic Secret work well together, definitely a combination I’ll be using again, I’d love to see how those would work with a strain like London Ale III.
I doubt I’ll be using Brett Brux Trois Vrai again any time soon, you’ll notice in my tasting notes I didn’t mention anything regarding flavors typical of Brett strains. That’s because it has absolutely no Brett character, at least none that I can pick up on. Not to mention it stalled fairly high for a moderate gravity wort, though had I done more reading ahead of time I would have known to ferment this strain at a higher temperature. White Labs recommends 70-85F, and I never let this beer get above 72F.
The worst part of the process to brew this type of beer was that I had so much trouble, yet I still have no idea why that is. I followed every guide, recommendation, etc that I could find with no little to no success. I would like to brew kettle sours on a fairly regular basis, but there’s little I could do differently next time. There is a Lacto blend from Omega that I’d love to try, though it’s difficult for me to get my hands on. Until then I am going to try another starter, this time using RO water. I brought up the issue of water chemistry with Derek Springer, Mike Tonsmeire, and a friend, and they all can’t see a reason for my particular water profile to deter the growth of Lacto. But, just to be safe, and rule out every possibility, I’ll give it a shot.
Coming Up: How to ruin an IPA with one simple ingredient choice. I’m on a roll!