More often than not, I have been against trying to brew sour beers quickly. In my opinion, they don’t taste as great as a beer that undergoes a longer fermentation. Additionally, I have found many of the fast-soured beer I tried at various breweries have more off flavors than I care to stomach. Longer aged beers sit in the cellar waiting, fermenting, and enjoying the seasons until they have achieved their final flavor – without being rushed. Usually these beers are well balanced and have amazing complexity. Long term aging is something I find appealing – in fact, I enjoy the idea of what I call “time capsule” food immensely. Whether its an 18 hour smoked pork butt, a month long rice wine fermentation, bread dough proofing, or a years old barrel aged beer; I love it all. There’s something that causes me to pause and reflect on where I was when that beer was made (or after a rough night, where I was 18 hours ago.)
All that sentimental crap aside, there is a demand for making sour beer quicker. In my humble, yet accurate opinion, the problem is it just isn’t as good as a lengthy fermented sour beer. There are great beers out there that are kettle soured, some that are funkified with brettanomyces – but a really great sour beer takes TIME! [Or does it?]
I love a good challenge, so with all of the above in mind I’m going to try and create the best damn “fast sour/wild beer” I can. Without further ado…
Introducing the ‘Fast and Dirty’ Sour Series!
Lets set up the groundwork:
F&D Sours 101.
The Fast and Dirty Series will look at unique yeast sources, mixed fermentation methods, and blending to produce more complex sour beers (in a shorter amount of time.) I’m currently on Batch 8 and 9 will be brewed this week (so there are more to come!) After their initial evaluation, each of these beers will be aged for a longer period of time and reported upon as flavors change. The ultimate goal is to provide an additional resource for wild fermented beers and flavors a brewer can expect from various yeasts/bacteria.
The malt bill for each of these will be 60% 2-Row/40% malted wheat, as they are easy to work with and a simple infusion mash can be done. (This may change as time goes on, I figure its a good start thought.) Hops will be aged hops that have an AA of ~0%. Ingredients are simple because the purpose of this is also to provide recipes and methods for any brewer, not necessarily someone with specialized knowledge or equipment. Some of the yeast may be from odd sources, but I will keep strains on hand in the event something works out well. If it does, I’ll make that strain available to anyone who wants to try it.
Lets start with Batch 1.
/ Batch 1 No-Hop, No Boil, Cool-Side-Soured Brettanomyces\
This batch was made using the standard malt bill described above, 60% Pilsner and 40% Malted Wheat. It was brewed on my stovetop brew in a bag (BIAB) system I’ve been using during the winter months. I don’t really have a particular method I’m trying to nail down, nor do I have a strategic approach to seeing what works in the beginning. As batches are made and I find things I like, I’ll look at narrowing down whats working more systematically. The first batch I decided to try the absolute simplest approach I could to brewing: No boil, No hops.
Brew day was a non event. I mashed in at 152F, and let it convert for an hour.
I then hoisted out the bag, let it drain, and rinsed with 170F water. The wort was then chilled to 110F, and placed in a carboy within a water bath.
I used my Anova Immersion Sous Vide to keep the temperature at a constant 105F. I put in a tablespoon of Lactic Acid (88%) to lower the pH below 4.5, and introduced a starter of WYeast Lactobacillus (L. buchneri) into the mix and let it sit. I monitored the pH until it was around 3.4.
While the beer was souring, I ramped up a starter of what I’m calling the Partial Eclipse (PE) Blend [which is all brett/pedio], and when I was done souring the beer and PE blend met. Fermentation took off within a day and I let it subside then sit for a month before kegging.
1 week in: Beer tastes like bready (not brett-y) pineapple juice. Not bad, quite sweet. But pineapple juice all the same. I could pasteurize it (to halt fermentation) and sophomores would guzzle it like Boone’s Farm.
One month out:
Appearance is slightly hazy. I imagine without a boil this will take time to clear. (My Berliner did the same thing and was clear within 9 months.) A great head lasts for a few minutes then subsides to nothing.
Aroma is bready, with some tropical fruit notes. Light sourness. Reminds me of an acidic bakery, about a 6/10 on the Subway scale. Not crisp.
Mouthfeel is fuller than I expected, but finishes dry with an acidic bite.
Taste is where this beer is slightly behind where I’d like it. It has a more complex sourness than a Berliner Weisse, but no funk to speak of. I know the PE blend has (had?) some Pediococcus in it at one point, I’m guessing it didn’t get to work. No diacetyl, no dms. Taste is grainy-earthy. Some tropical notes, some lemon notes. Sourness is tart but not complex. Maltiness of the beer finishes fine, but the sourness finishes… dirty for lack of a better word. Hard to explain. No baby diapers, no nail polish, just rough.
I’m thankful I’ve boiled the other batches so far (and added hops). While I enjoy a Berliner every now and again, this beer isn’t quite hitting the spot – perhaps due to the yeast blend I put in, or the lacto used – but I really want a cleaner beer to have regularly. Even my Berliner came out more refreshing than this one. I’ll let it age to see how it finishes, but I’m not keeping my hopes up.