Monday, February 20, 2012

Home Grown Sour Ale

Gross? No, Delicious.
One of the perks of the American Homebrewers Association membership (Thanks Roo) is an online backlog of Zymurgy Magazines. The month before I bought my first copy of Zymurgy they had an article about making sour beers at home with home grown sour starter. Matt Lange writes a great article where he describes how he is less than impressed with other short cuts. The method in question is to grow a home made sour starter to give your beer a lacto and pedio feel without exposing the beer to any nasty bugs like E. Coli or Salmonella. This is done by growing your own sour starter and adding it to another beer.

To grow a Sour Starter:
Take a vessel, such as a mason jar, and add a few table spoons of pale malt to your jar. Mix in enough sugar, honey, or malt extract to get the the gravity of the starter jar to 1.030. To coax the starter to start place it in a warm place, 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit, to get started. The article suggest that a time frame of three days is appropriated to make this. The real scientific key is to get the starter below a PH of 4.3 to kill the nasty bacteria and above 3.8 to protect the Lacto which you presumably want in your beer. You could get a Pedio only sample by letting it descend to 3.8 but not below 3.4.

My Sour Starter:
I took a mason jar and put in 3 tsp of Maris Otter (hoping to get the bacteria I want). I mixed in malt extract until the gravity was 1.030. I set the starter on top of my fridge and waited 2.5 days. I took a reading saturday evening and it wasn't quite ready, by sunday afternoon it might have been just past perfect. Alas I am not going to put this on hold though, I need to see if this is an idiot proof method or if I should just use bottle dregs.

The Brew:
The article suggests a Berliner Weiss or a Oude Bruin as being appropriate styles to try with the starter. I am going to make a Flanders Red Ale (happy compromise). My big batch of Flanders Red is the perfect color, so I'm rebrewing it.

(read more after the break.)

Nice layer of scum after 12 hours.
The Stats
Post Boil Volume: 1.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.049 SG
Estimated Color: 13.7 SRM
Estimated IBU: 11.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Est Mash Efficiency: 72.0 %
Boil Time: 90 Minutes

The Recipe:
6.7 oz Vienna Malt (3.5 SRM) 22.7 %
6.7 oz Wheat Malt, Ger (2.0 SRM) 22.7 %
6.3 oz Munich Malt (9.0 SRM) 21.4 %
6.3 oz Pilsner (2 Row) Ger (2.0 SRM) 21.4 %
1.1 oz Aromatic Malt (26.0 SRM) 3.9 %
1.1 oz Caramunich Malt (56.0 SRM) 3.9 %
1.1 oz Special B Malt (180.0 SRM) 3.9 %
0.10 oz Goldings, East Kent [5.00 %] - Boil 90.0 11.9 IBUs
0.2 US - 05 Safale American ale yeast
1 item Sour Starter

Saccharification Add 6.10 qt of water at 158.3 F 152.0 F 75 min
Mash Out Heat to 168.0 F over 7 min 168.0 F 10 min

It got Nasty.
Time Line:
Day 1:
Started my sour starter
Day 3:
Mashed my beer in the mid 150's for 90 minutes and drained the brew bag. I did not boil it at this point. I poured it through my funnel with a screen into the fermentor. Added the starter to the wort.
Day 5:
Brewed as normal, chilled, etc.; smelled terrible
Day 6:
Added Brett in the form of Orval Dregs.
Day 8:
Fermentation has really calmed down. There is nothing to do now but give the brettanomyces a few weeks to clean up the sugars. I can't really change the flavors now. If it tastes how it smelled when it was boiling I'll be very disapointed. If it keeps the lactic sourness while adding a soft brett funk and then finishes dry; I'd be overjoyed.

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