Author Topic: First sour - planning stage  (Read 1045 times)

Offline erockrph

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First sour - planning stage
« on: June 17, 2013, 08:18:05 AM »
With my recent acquisition of several bottles of Red Poppy, I'm finally ready to make the jump into brewing sour beer. I've decided to start planning for gueuze-blending right off the bat. I'm hoping some of the more experienced sour brewers can weigh in on what I'm planning and let me know if anything sounds like it won't work.

I've already chosen the dregs I want to build my house blend from (Gueuze Girardin, Gueuze Fond Tradition and Red Poppy). My plan is to brew 4 gallons of 1.045ish wort using 60% Pils and 40% torrified wheat, mashed really high (162-164 range). I'm thinking of using US-05 for my primary yeast unless someone has a convincing reason otherwise. Then, starting on brew night I'll be drinking the bottles I want the dregs from and pitching the dregs. I'm planning on using two bottles from each, so by the 6th night all the dregs will be in primary.

I was thinking of leaving it in primary for a few weeks to a month to give the dregs time to grow and start doing their thing, then racking to 4 separate 1-gallon jugs for long-term aging. The first year I plan on bottling 2 gallons, brewing 3 more gallons and pitching the dregs into that. Year 2 I'll bottle a blend of year 1 and year 2's brew's and for Year 3 I'll be able to get my gueuze on.

So, does this sound like it should work out OK? And how vital is oak in this process? I'm on the fence about whether I want to add some oak chips that have been boiled in a couple changes of water to mellow them out a bit. Any other insight is always appreciated. Thanks!
Eric B.

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Online AmandaK

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2013, 08:34:50 AM »
It looks like you've got a good plan there. I don't bother with oak that much, being that I did once and it wasn't one of my better batches, so I've shied away from it going forward - this has nothing to do with the oak but more of personal preference.

One note though... 4 gallons is not going to be nearly enough. I usually brew 10 at a time, 1-2 times a year, bottle some straight, blend some and fruit the last bits. It's almost never enough by the time the next batch becomes ready.
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2013, 10:25:18 AM »
Def. agree with Amanda here. Pump out as much wort as you can on brewday. If you're going to put in the time, why not have more to work with? More quantity yields more blending options. Its also easier to

Do you keg? Its much easier to pull specific quantities at different times from a single keg than several small containers. The keg also significantly reduces oxygen exposure vs. small containers. As your stash of lambic grows, you can blend by transferring into an empty keg. Pull off samples, blend samples to find desired percentages, measure amount of each vintage into blend keg by weight (BeerSmith has a nice tool for this).

EDIT: If you're not using a yeast blend, I would suggest working up the dregs with a few steps in the bottle before brewday. If a few bottles show good activity, just pitch them in primary and leave out US-05.

If not, make sure you take care to have a clean primary ferment with US-05. Most flavor compounds produced by yeast stress will not 'age out' or be metabolized by Brett. A crummy base beer will not make good sour beer.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2013, 10:30:39 AM by kylekohlmorgen »
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Offline erockrph

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2013, 08:51:09 PM »
Thanks for the tips. I'd definitely take your suggestion to brew a bigger batch if I had the means to do it. I'm a 3-gallon brewer as it is, so 4 gallons is already going to require dilution post-boil. Plus, this just means I'll have to follow up with another batch of sour beer shortly thereafter. I was greedy and bought all but 1 bottle of the Red Poppy they had on sale. I'm thinking of doing an Oud Bruin followed by a Flanders Red using Roselaire + Red Poppy dregs.
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Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #4 on: June 18, 2013, 07:35:44 AM »
You will probably wish you brewed more than four gallons at a time but it is enough if you plan on blending several gallons from each year and you are very selective about drinking your beer. I have a lambic solera in a six gallon BB and I pull three gallons each year (but I pulled four the first year) and replace it. I bottle one gallon, put one on fruit for several months and held out a gallon for gueuze. I'm three years in so this winter when I make the third pull I am going to bottle one gallon straight and blend two gallons of year three with one gallon or year one and one gallon of year two. I works well but my wife and I are very selective about opening bottles and very more selective about opening bottles with other people.

I do have several other sour beers I make and have made over the past couple years so it's not like that's the only sour beer in the house. So you'll probably want to play around with trying other sour beers. Once your first batch of lambic gets fermented out you can use some of those dregs to inoculate other batches of beer.

I think your plan is ok as long as you have the jugs and the space for them. You might want to try to fit in a separate bottling of each year to see how each year tastes on its own and how it evolves separate of the blending. I have made small changes to the recipe each year (year one had malted red wheat, year two had malted white wheat, year three has unmalted wheat and all were mashed with a decoction mash) but there are huge differences in flavor. Part of the drift in flavor has to do with the available fermenters. The first year had the WY lambic blend with dregs so there was a strong sacc strain. It is acidic with a strong cherry pie flavor. Year two didn't get any sacc so it was mostly fermented by pedio and brett. It is more funky with a gentle acidity. Year three got some new sacc and although it isn't done or bottled it seems to be more like year one which everybody prefers over year two. Sacc provides a lot of available flavor components so I suggest brewing with a more expressive yeast like a Belgian strain. Brett will play with the available esters to develop more complex flavors.

You could go either way with the oak. I'm not a big believer that oak plays a huge flavor component in lambic but the oxygenation through oak barrels affects the beer. However, I think it plays a small effect so I do toss in some oak chips in my solera. The first two years had chardonnay-soaked oak chips. This last brew I cleaned out the BB and added new chips soaked in canadian whisky. If you do use chips use a small amount. I use like half an ounce in six gallons and I boil the chips a lot before soaking them to get a lot of the woody character out.

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Offline erockrph

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2013, 07:48:56 AM »
Sacc provides a lot of available flavor components so I suggest brewing with a more expressive yeast like a Belgian strain. Brett will play with the available esters to develop more complex flavors.

My other thought instead of US-05 was to use WY3711 as I will be brewing with it a lot this summer and I've really grown to like it a lot. My only fear is that wouldn't leave a lot for lacto to chew on, and I like my sours seriously tart. Any thoughts on that?
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Offline kylekohlmorgen

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #6 on: June 18, 2013, 02:04:58 PM »
Sacc provides a lot of available flavor components so I suggest brewing with a more expressive yeast like a Belgian strain. Brett will play with the available esters to develop more complex flavors.

My other thought instead of US-05 was to use WY3711 as I will be brewing with it a lot this summer and I've really grown to like it a lot. My only fear is that wouldn't leave a lot for lacto to chew on, and I like my sours seriously tart. Any thoughts on that?

Knock out and chill to 110F.
Pitch lacto starter.
Insulate fermentor (blanket, heated wrap, etc.).
Allow a week or two for lactic fermentation. You should be able to get berliner weisse-levels of acidity in a week at > 90F or so.
Allow wort to cool to pitch temps.
Aerate and pitch primary strain OR pitch mixed culture / dregs (no aeration).
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Offline dertiefster

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2014, 02:48:07 PM »
I'm considering my first sour, too.  Already bought some WLP665 and have the malt in hand to make 10-12 gallons.  I'm really leaning toward using one of the blue poly 15 gal. barrels used to ship malt extract.  I know of concerns about O2 permeation, and have been thinking about preventing it during long-term aging.  I'm trying to control costs (poly barrels would be cheap for long-term aging).  O2 is a concern of mine.  I'm a physicist by trade and _think_ that a body ought to be able to cut the O2 diffusion rate by at least an order of magnitude with a wrap of heavy-duty Reynolds Wrap, taping the seams with aluminum duct tape.  Any necessary tear protection could be made with some canvas-backed tape on the outside/bottom of the barrel.  Recognize that I'm still in the speculative stages,  I have two of these barrels an may look into getting more.  Anyone with experience?  Sours seem to like multiple years of aging, and this looks like a really affordable route compared to wooden barrels or big glass carboys.  But I can see a carboy being good.

I use such aluminum foil to make light shields for my ~5-gallon carboys.  The aluminum tape I mentioned ought to stick to anything of interest, and the long passages along the adhesive layer should prevent O2 permeation through the seams.  It would be easy to cover more than 90% of the barrel surface.  The dead space between Aluminum and the barrel holds a small amount of O2 compared to the head space, and a body _could_ vent the fermentation in place through the fermentation lock via a tube down into the body as a CO2 flush.  A second fermentation lock _could_ be plumbed in as a final vent if one wanted a "belt and suspenders" approach with essentially 100% coverage of the barrel.

Thinking and soliciting feedback.  If it's a good idea, maybe it'll help someone else, too.  If not, I'd like to know why.  For example, maybe there are sufficiently cheap sources for 15 gallon bottles that have eluded me.

Michael T.

Offline reverseapachemaster

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2014, 09:03:08 AM »
There are those 15 gallon carboys used to transport various industrial fluids but I have not seen them at a cheap price, even used.

I have long considered whether those demijohns used for malt extract would be a good way to step up my sour production. I haven't tried it yet because I don't have the space. You could probably contact one of the manufacturers and ask about their specs on oxygen permeability. I seem to think the plastic on those demijohns is considerably thicker than the usual 7.9 gallon ale pale so the permeability would be much lower. You also have to consider that you do want some oxygenation of the beer over time, otherwise you will have a hard time reaching the level of sourness you desire.
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Offline Jeff M

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2014, 10:02:49 AM »
THe Wine industry has 15G Glass demijohns for about 80 bucks IIRC.  Find a local provider as they are expensive as hell to ship.  IF you cant find them, LEt me know, i can get them in the boston area if you are willing to take the drive to get them.
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Offline dertiefster

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Re: First sour - planning stage
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2014, 09:36:52 PM »
The 15 gal barrels are HDPE, according to the label on the bottom.  They have two screw bungs, one with 3/4" pipe thread and the other with 1-1//2"(2"?) pipe thread.  They are tough, thick-walled, and relatively available.  I thought they could be OK.  I gave one to another local brewer and have two left.  They've done well as fermentation tanks.

The permeation tables I've seen indicate that they're within a factor of a few of wooden barrels, but I'd have to look at the thickness and look up some info to validate that.  I thought that if O2 permeation was a big issue, it would be easy to cut down the permeation by an order of magnitude with Al foil and Al tape.  I think I'll try it, as it shouldn't be hard.  Next brew day will probably be for a 12 gal sour batch, to be topped off later to 15 gal.  I don't want to find myself a year from now still wishing I'd done this.

Large pieces of glass scare me, and I"m in VA, so I can't readily exploit a Boston connection, anyway.  But thanks for your kind offer.

Michael T.