Category Archives: Experimental

Wild Yeast Harvesting Experiment

All this brewing of sour beers has got me thinking about real Belgian Lambic beers. Spontaneous fermentation produces such amazingly complex and flavorful beers due to the unique yeast and bacteria present in the air. I wanted to try something similar but a little more controlled so that I have somewhat of a guess as to what will be fermenting my beer, rather than just sitting it outside and hoping for the best. I sought out to make a wild yeast starter.

The mad fermentationist has a good post on how he collected wild yeast using a small scale version of a “cool-ship”, where he basically created a mini batch of wort, let it cool naturally, collect microbes, and start fermenting. This seemed risky to me so I tried a different method that I’ve heard about for creating sourdough starters that uses pineapple juice. The acidity of the juice helps to ward off mold and allow just the “good guys” to hangout.

IMG_1027I cut a fresh, ripe pineapple and saved the juice. This came out to only a few ounces, so I squeezed some of the pulp to get some more (a few chunks got in the juice). Split that up into two wide and shallow tupperware containers (more surface area the better, I guessed) and cover in a hop sack to keep insects out. One outside on my back deck, and one inside in my “sour room” where all of my long term beers sit, figuring there must be a lot of bugs floating around in there. The ambient temperature was about 80F outside and about 72F inside. Let the dishes of juice sit out for 24 hours to hopefully collect as much good yeast and bacteria as possible.

I gave each container a good whiff after their stand. Remarkably, they both smelled like yeast! Almost like dry bread yeast after it’s been rehydrated. And, barely like pineapple anymore. This was a good sign, so I went ahead and made two separate 1L yeast starters with 1/2 cup of DME and the pineapple juice cultures. I put the inside culture starter on a stir plate just because.

IMG_1036Within 12 hours both showed signs of fermentation. The stir plate fermented out in about 24 hours, so I gave it a taste. Not terrible! Lots of esters, some apple, mostly banana, and reminded me of a hefeweizen. It had a little bit of corny/DMS flavor, not totally sure what that was. I drained off as much liquid as i could without disturbing the yeast at the bottom and pitched another 1L of fresh wort. That fermented out quickly, so i turned off the stir plate and just let it settle out for a day before tasting. At this point it had developed some lactic sourness already! Very lemony and wonderful for only a few days. I tasted the outside starter and it had taken on very similar flavors – banana, some funk, and pleasantly tart. I drained off as much liquid as i could from both, combined them into the stir plate starter, and added another 1L of fresh starter wort, making about a total of 5L of starter wort condense into about 1.5 L after draining of excess fermented starter. After 48 hours, there was still a good amount of activity – I’m wondering if this is Brett that is slowly coming alive and fermeneting. I pitched the whole thing into an APA recipe, and hoped for the best!

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Filed under Experimental, Funky / Sour

Dry-hopped Sour w/ Bottle Dregs

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One issue I’ve found with “quick souring” methods is the lack of complexity and depth of flavor compared to a properly aged sour. Lactobacillus plantarum can create enough lactic acid to sour a beer quickly in 48 hours at room temp, but the slower working organisms like Pedio and Brett generally do not work as fast. Those guys, however, are what add lots of other good flavors we commonly associate with complex Gueuze-like sour beers. This batch is yet another variation, to see if I can coax some character out of bottle dregs in a short period of time after souring with Lacto. The Mad Fermentationist has a big list of unpasteurized sour beers that contain harvestable bottle dregs. I went with Gueuze Girardin since my bottle shop had it, it’s on the bottle dreg list, and I’ve never tasted it before (why not drink something new, too?). The general process will be:

  1. Mash, short boil. Chill to 90F.
  2. Add Omega Lacto blend. Let sit 72 hours at room temp.
  3. Once sourness is acheived, boil 60 minutes and add hops. Chill to 90F.
  4. Add bottle dregs. Let sit for 2 weeks or so, letting the (hopefully still alive) bugs do some work.
  5. Add Brett and/or Sacch to help finish fermentation.

3 gallon batch. 3 IBU. 3 SRM. 1065 OG. BIAB.

  • 6 lb Pils malt
  • 0.5 lb Biscuit malt
  • 0.25 oz Saaz hops (60 min)
  • 1 packet Omega Lacto Blend
  • (2) Bottle Dregs from Gueuze Girardin

// Mash in 1.4 qt/gal 60 min at 152F. Boil 15 min and chill to 90F overnight. Brewed 3/28/16. Kettle sour for 3 days with the Omega blend. Finished boil on 4/1/16, boiled hard for 60 minutes, chill to 85F w/ wort chiller, collected around 2.5 gallons. Pitch bottle dregs and seal. Wound up transferring a fair amount of trub from the kettle. //

Both bottles of Girardin were extremely flat. Barley even a *pop* when de-corking. Hmmm.  I’m not sure if this is by design, but that doesn’t give me high hopes for the dregs being alive and healthy. Maybe the cork seal was bad and the carbonation leaked out, maybe the beer never re-fermented in the bottle, who knows. Sourness was fairly mild, but overall a wonderful tasting gueuze. Hopefully I can at least pick up some of that character in this beer.

4/8/16:  A weird layer of tan sludge has formed on the surface, with some pellicle-like growths underneath. At this point, who knows if this a result of the bottle dregs and not an accidental infection on my part. I’ll wait another week, taste, assess the level of active fermentation and flavors, and decide whether or not it needs Brett to help clean things up.

4/12/16:  The sludge layer is gone, and some large bubble/pellicles are forming on the surface. Gravity at 1038. Very, very sour to taste. Some funk, but also very cloudy and apple-y. Added a vial of WLP650 Brett Brux to the carboy.

4/20/16:  started to drop clear, Gravity is at 1014. Flavor isn’t ideal. Funky, but also has a sort of apple-ish cider thing that isn’t great. No Gueuze character. Shook the carboy and sealed again.

7/1/16:  The gravity dropped to 1011, flavors have improved a little bit but not really. The level of sourness is great, but still that overly funky cheese thing going on. Not happy with how things are and not willing to wait any longer, I added 0.3 oz each of Citra, Mosaic and Equinox that I had left over in the fridge from previous batches. Let that sit 5 days before kegging. It’s now a dry-hopped sour!

7/10/16: Tasting notes to come!

 

 

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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, Funky / Sour, Small Batch

Peach Cider w/ Citra – Tasting Notes

The inspiration for this recipe came after tasting the Brewers Best Peach Cider kit at my LHBS. They had it on tap for customers to taste, and, even me not being a big cider guy, I was blown away by how good it was. Bright, juicy, crisp, not overly sweet, and most of all super drinkable. I checked out the packaging in the store, and the ingredients had loads of artificial flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives (womp womp), so I didn’t buy it. I decided to try and make something similar based on ciders and other non-alcoholic things I’ve tasted before.

Wegman’s “natural style” apple juice has made consistently good cider for me. All of their apple juice is 100% juice without preservatives and I think the “natural” label means it’s slightly less filtered compared to its counterpart which is crystal clear. It’s a little cloudy and I think it has a much more rounded and smooth apple flavor.  This, plus WLP001 was the starting point for the recipe.

Then for the peach. The white-grape-peach juice from Wegmans is delicious on its own, too. It’s more peachy than grape in flavor, so I went with this. The citra hops were an afterthought – I thought it needed a little “edge” after tasting the batch halfway through.

Appearance: Extremely pale, like a wit. Slightly hazy. White head that fizzles quickly to nothing.

Aroma: Peach, pear, all-around tropical. Sort of fruity white wine cooler-ish.

Mouthfeel: Fairly thin, but spritzy.

Flavor: Good balance of fruit and acidity.  No single fruit jumps out at first, but the peach comes a little later followed by apple.

Overall: Very nice spring/summer sipper. Almost reminds be of a less sweet, more tart Moscato white wine. Next time I might to catch it before it hits 1.000 gravity to retain some sweetness, but it’s fine dried out like this, too. The ratio of apple to peach juice was pretty spot on – if anything I would go up a little more with the peach (adding some fresh peaches would be nice too), but I think 100% of the peach juice would be too tart given how balanced it is now.

 

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Filed under Cider, Experimental, Hoppy, Small Batch, Summer, Tasting

El Dorado SMASH


My LHBS had a deal going on: 1/2 lb El Dorado hops for $11! That’s a sick deal – $1.38/oz for a hop that normally goes for $2.50/oz. So I picked up a pack and made a recipe to really showcase it; huge late hopping.

  • 15 lb US 2-row
  • 0.5 oz El Dorado 60 min
  • 1 oz El Dorado 15 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado 10 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado 8 min
  • 2 oz El Dorado 6 min
  • 1.5 oz El Dorado dry hop

// Mash-in 1.8 qt/lb for 60 minutes, sparge w/ 3.5 gal 170F water to collect 8 gal 1042 wort. Boil 60 minutes, let hops stand for 25 minutes. Chill to 80F, collect 5 gallons of 1058 wort. Lost about a gallon to hop trub. Racked directly onto cake from the Peach cider. Good fermentation a few hours later. Brewed 5/20/16. //

5/22/16:  Fermentation started to slow down, added dry hops loose to fermentor.

5/25/16:  Gravity at 1011. Crazy hop flavor. Tons of citrus, but it’s kind of lemon-like with some subtle grape, dark fruit that weirdly reminds me of crystal malt. Moved to fridge to crash cool.

5/26/16: Kegged. Tasting notes to come.

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Filed under All-grain, Blonde, Experimental, Hoppy, IPA, SMASH, Summer

Peach Cider dry-hopped w/ Citra

Quick recipe for a cider using apple and white-grape-peach juice from Wegmans.

  • 2 gal white grape peach juice (100% juice from concentrate)
  • 1 gal “Natural Style” apple juice (100% juice)
  • 1/2 oz Citra hops.
  • 1 vial WLP001
  • 0.25 tsp yeast nutrient

// Pour apple juice, yeast, and nutrient into carboy. Brewed 5/5/16. Signs of fermentation about 6 hours after pitching. //

5/12/16: Fermentation still going strong (1″ layer of yeast on top), but took a sample anyway. Gravity at 1020. Slightly sweet, but good peach flavor. I could live with something more tropical, so added 1/2 oz Citra pellets to the carboy and shook.

5/18/15:  Fermentation seemed to still be going strong up until today when it abruptly stopped. Gravity at 1.000 – go figure. Pretty thin, slightly tart, but overall pleasant fruity peach and apple flavors. Moved to the fridge to crash cool.

5/21/15: Kegged and carbing at 15 psi for 1 day. Should carbonate pretty quick because it’s only 3 gallons, and it’s so thin. Tasting notes.

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Filed under Cider, Experimental, Hoppy, Session, Small Batch

Sour Wort Experiment: Lacto/Yogurt Kettle Sour

This was another experiment to try and achieve sourness in a beer using a “quick” method. Rather than adding uncrushed malt to the kettle to achieve lacto souring, I added some yogurt. Yogurt is full of healthy bacteria, and apparently some brewers are now using it to sour beer. I used Wegman’s brand, plain, non-fat greek yogurt.

  • 4 lb Pils malt (Avengard)
  • 2.5 lb White wheat
  • 1 oz Saaz 60 min
  • White Labs Brett Vrai

// Mash-in 152 for 50 min. 1 tsp CaCl2 to mash. Mash-out 168, sparge to collect 3.25 gallons 1.066 wort. Boil 15 minutes, chill to 120 with ice (ended up with 3.5 gallons). Added two dollops of Greek yogurt into the wort, seal top of wort with plastic wrap. Brewed 1/15/16. //

1/18/16  Lots of white bubbles started forming under the surface of the plastic wrap. Looks like fermentation is happening. Shucks. Called it quits and decided to finish off the beer. Skimmed off as much yogurt/yeast residue as possible and boiled for 90 minutes. Collected around 3 gallons of 1052 wort. Let it cool overnight down to 55, let it warm up to 65 before pitch a single vial of Brett.

1/23/16  Finally, first signs of fermentation.

2/27/16  Kegged.  This beer is ultra funky. Very similar to the Brett lambicus cider. Gravity down to 1004.

THE VERDICT

Well, the yogurt did not sour the wort as expected. I read that using unpasteurized yogurt may be needed but I’m still not sure if that’s totally necessary. After all, you wouldn’t want to kill off the probiotic bacteria in yogurt. Anyway, from this data point of a recipe, I did not achieve any sourness using this brand of yogurt. My guesses are that 1) there may have been too little lacto in the yogurt, or 2) I had a wild yeast take-over resulting in the foam under the plastic wrap. The grain-based method has been my only success so far in quick souring.

Even though the beer wasn’t sour, the level of Brett character is this beer was outrageous – it was on par with Brett Lambicus. Super horsey, borderline funky weird cheese. I wound up blending about 1/3 saison and the 2/3 of this together to create a more palatable and mildly funky beer. That being said, this yeast would likely be better suited pitched alongside a standard yeast, like a Belgian saison or a clean yeast. Allowing it to do all the work created a total funk bomb!

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Filed under Blonde, Experimental, Funky / Sour, Small Batch, Sour

Cherry Lambic Small Batch

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This was my first journey into the realm of longterm souring. In a weird way I feel like I’ve gained access to some club – the 1-year-aging-club? The overly-patient club? The I-have-ample-storage-space club? Anyway. It’s been nice to watch this beer “grow up” over the past year. I wasn’t super enthralled with the final results, but I definitely learned a lot along the way.

  • 7 lb Pils (Dingemans)
  • 0.5 oz Czech Saaz hops, whole leaf (2.4% aa)
  • WYeast Lambic Blend
  • 12 lb Sweet Cherries (frozen, Wegmans brand)

// Mash at 154 for 60 minutes (Brew-In-A-Bag style), sparge with about a gallon of water to collect around 3 gallons of wort. Boil 60 minutes, collect around 2.5 gallons of wort. Add all the frozen cherries into the hot wort, use an immersion blender to puree the cherries while they’re in the wort. Didn’t quite cool it down enough (100F) but went ahead and transferred the fruited wort to a carboy and pitched the yeast blend. Sat it outside until it felt room-temp, then brought back inside.  Good fermentation 12 hrs later. //

UPDATE (1/7/15): Fermentation has slowed down significantly. Beautiful deep burgundy color. Took a taste sample – very interesting. The aroma is sweet and fruity – almost like a fruit wine – with a little bit of barnyard funk. To taste, it’s not very sour at all, but it has a slight funkiness/Brett character which makes be think it is likely on its way there. The sweetness of the cherries is really beautiful, which may be masking some of the sourness… regardless, it works pretty well together. It tastes a bit syrupy, so i wonder if it’s fermented fully, too. I don’t have that much of this beer, so i don’t really want to take a full hydrometer reading – going to wait until my refractometer comes in the mail. I’m hoping that it sours up a bit more!

UPDATE (1/13/15): Starting to get a little sour! The first sip was very enjoyable. Sweet up front with a little acidic bite towards the end. Going to let this go for maybe two more weeks and then take another sample.

UPDATE (1/26/15): Brilliant clarity. Excellent nose – dark fruit, cherries, roses, slight funk. The mouthfeel is ultra velvety and smooth with an initial sweetness from the cherries and slightly tart and sour finish. I wish the sourness were a little more upfront, but it is quite nice where it is. I’m nervous about kegging because there’s about a 5 inch layer of cherry sludge at the bottom of the carboy, so I doubt I’ll get much yield from this batch. Maybe i’ll give it another week and see how it tastes then.

UPDATE (2/11/15): Flavors are still pretty similar. It smells much more sour than it tastes. Not much sourness at all going on. Decided to pitch a vial of White Labs Lactobacillus Debrukiii to see if that will sour it up a little more. Gave the carboy a little shake.

UPDATE (3/11/15): Sourness has increased slightly, but not drastically. Clarity is incredible. Probably not going to taste this again for a few months because this seems like a sloooow and very marginal change, so we’ll see how things progress after while.

UPDATE (3/21/16): I really forgot about this beer, and it just so happens that it’s about 1 year since my last tasting so I decided to taste it and see if it was ready for consumption. The complex sour flavors have really developed, although it’s still just not super sour. There is a modest level of cherry sweetness left, given how long it this was sitting on bacteria. I thought this would have been much drier at this point.  It was an ordeal trying to keep the beer separate from the massive layer of cherry slurry at the base of the carboy, but after some finicking with a racking cane into a BIAB nylon sack directly into the keg, i managed to keep back 99% of the cherry stuff. The beer was a little cloudy the first few days but cleared up nicely.

UPDATE (4/25/16):  The beer has been on tap for about a month, and has gotten some pretty good reviews from local tasters. Tasting notes to come soon.

 

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Filed under All-grain, Experimental, Sour