Since I've basically
brewed every other beer style in the BJCP guidelines, it only makes
sense that I try my hand at sour & funky beer brewing. As the years
have gone by, I've brewed a good number of successful sour attempts.
Some have been more acidic than I have intended, but that's where
blending (something I haven't attempted yet) would come in handy.
Several commercial breweries use this method in order to create a
more balanced sour beer that still has some malt and base recipe
characteristics. Some of the commercial offerings that really sparked my interest
were New Belgium's La Folie, all the Jolly Pumpkin's sours I've
sampled, Boulevard's Saison-Brett, Bell's
Wild One, and recently Ommegang's Aphrodite. I've also had the
opportunity to visit both Crooked Stave & Funkwerks in Colorado, and
both of those breweries are awesome!
***Remember when brewing sour beers at home to use
dedicated equipment for everything that touches the bacteria & wild
yeast. Plastic & rubber items are the most susceptible
to infection, but to be on the safe side I like to keep a spare set
of all my equipment (cold side) that I use for sours. This
includes fermenters, testing equipment, transfer tubing & racking
cane, kegs/bottles, and a dedicated tap in my kegerator (beer line,
quick disconnects, shank & faucet). I started off not worrying
about the kegs since I thoroughly clean and sanitize them every
time, but that ended up a slightly infected beer. Now I mark
my kegs & fermenters with duct tape, and keep my transfer equipment
on another side of my brewery. That way I don't make the same
mistake in the future. Even if you bottle, I would still
suggest keeping a dedicated selection of bottles that you use for
your sours just in case some stubborn bacteria or wild yeast make it
through your normal cleaning and sanitizing process.***
Links, Blogs & Podcasts
Here are a couple great sites I've referenced over the years to
learn more about sour brewing and how I can better brew these
complex beverages at home:
The Mad Fermentationist - Brewing Sour Beer at Home
resource for information regarding sour beer brewing as well as
a good list of recipes and detailed tasting notes. I would
suggest subscribing to his email list as well so you can keep up
with his latest projects and recipes!
Brewing Network - Sour Hour
- Lots of
interviews with sour brewers all over the world and a ton of good
Dank Brewing Blog
been as active over the last couple years, but there is a good
amount of information in his older posts and recipes.
Sour Beer Books
aren't a ton of published books geared towards brewing sour beer at
home, but the ones below have been great resources for me! I
always enjoy reading about new and different techniques as well as
the history behind sour brewing and traditional methods.
is more of a Farmhouse beer than a true sour, I think it belongs
here. Since I had good luck with the Omega OYL-212 Brett
Blend, I decided to try out their C2C American Farmhouse (OYL-217)
yeast a try. In the product description, it mentions that this
yeast blend has a strain of Brettanomyces in it, so we'll see how
this one ages.
I was in
the mood to brew a Barleywine, and I thought a sour was the perfect
way to get a beer essentially for free. With this batch, I did
a very short boil so I was able to boil and cool the sour before I
needed to use the wort chiller in the BW. After the initial
fermentation, I added 4 lbs of frozen mixed berries that hand been
another recipe where I wanted to compare two different sour blends
(WLP655 and OYL-212) as well as save the yeast cakes for future sour
batches. At kegging, the WLP655 had more of a tart and light
hay note whereas the OYL-212 seemed more restrained with a slight
bit of leather. Hopefully the OYL-212 batch develops more
tartness and complexity over time.
overall impression on this sour was light, with subtle floral notes
from the hibiscus. I ended up serving this at a party and it
went over well with most people. Since it was served fairly
young, the tartness/acidity was much lower than it would have been
if I had aged it another several months.
to do a side-by-side comparison of White Labs Belgian Sour Mix
(WLP655) and Wyeast Belgian Lambic Blend (3278) to see if I noticed
much of a difference in the flavor profiles. I'm still waiting
on this one to see how the two compare to each other side-by-side,
but both had nice acidity at kegging.
search for different yeast/funk/sour blends, I ended up coming
across a couple strains from Omega Labs. The Brettanomyces
Blend #3 (OYL-212) seemed right up my alley as far as being one of
Omega's funkiest blends. I decided to brew a light blond wort
to basically act as a 5-gallong yeast starter so I could harvest the
yeast cake. The beer ended up being really tart overall, and
it seemed to sour much faster than my other blends. Overall, I
like the tart flavor profile of this yeast blend, but with a neutral
base like this, it would probably be best if blended with another
beer to add complexity.
batch I decided to pitch a new Belgian Sour Mix (WLP655) and then
save the yeast from the primary yeast cake. I had taken the
previous one out a few generations and it seemed to be becoming more
one-dimensional, most likely because one of the bacteria or wild
yeast strains was outgrowing the rest and the ratio of bugs/wild
yeas/yeast was out of whack. I also tried reusing some oak
cubes that were previously used with another sour to see if those
would hold on to additional bacteria. It seems they didn't add
much in the way of oak flavor though. Overall this was a nice
beer with subtle tartness that developed more over time.
was definitely special for me. For the added wine, I used a
bottle of Temparillo that my wife and I received in Mexico the
first time we visited. It had somehow been buried in the back
of our liquor cabinet, so when I found it one day while I was
cleaning, I thought this would be the perfect use. I used the
wine to age the toasted oak cubes and added both the wine and the
oak to the secondary fermenter. The tartness was lower than I
was expecting right before the wedding, so I ended up adding just a
little lactic acid to up the acidity. This beer was a big hit
at the wedding, with a surprising number of guests coming back for
multiple (small) glasses.
I ended up
pitching both Brett C and Belgian Sour Mix into this beer to see how
the two would play together and have yet another mix to save
afterwards. After aging on the hibiscus, the beer had a subtle
tartness with some hay notes. I'm not sure that the actual
hibiscus adds any flavor, but it does provide a nice rosy/pinkish
color to the beer.
pineapple in this particular sour didn't add a ton in the way of
pineapple flavor, but there was a subtle hay note along with maybe
just a touch of an actual pineapple note. Using the WLP655
Sour Mix really helped produce a pleasant and balanced tartness.
Before adding the pineapple chunks, I saved the yeast cake into a
few plastic bottles to use later.
Ale portion of this concentrated batch didn't turn out very well due
to there being a little too much bitterness with the base recipe,
but the Brett C Pale was much better. The fruity notes
complimented the lighter base and the hops were better paired up
with this funky strain as with previous hoppier beers.
mentioned before, this isn't actually a strain of Brettanomyces so
the character of this Saison was more on the fruity side rather than
funky/sour. That being said, the beer was still a success and
was well received at my birthday party in June.
reusing my WLP665 (Belgian Sour Mix) and Wyeast 3278 (Belgian Lambic
Blend) mixed cultures for a few generations, they were starting to
show some single-strain characteristics, so I decided to brew a
batch of beer and pitch both into one beer. This resulted in
an interesting combination of the two mixes with the typical sour
cherry notes, but this particular batch was missing some of the more
earthy brett notes.
it was determined that this strain wasn't actually Brettanomyces,
this strain of saccharomyces still produced tropical fruit notes of
pineapple that are very similar to Brett-C that I used in a previous
batch. I need to get a hold of this yeast again and see how it
performs in other styles.
other sour recipes and general experimentation, my
Concentrated 10 Gallon Method
works pretty well for creating different sour beers from one shorter
brew day. The apple batch had the same hay-like notes as
previous fruit beers, while the chocolate half played nicely with
the natural cherry notes from the sour yeast blend. Overall,
this was a great comparison between what different ingredients can
do to the same wort.
notes in this batch were a little less than expected, but I think
that's because I forgot about the fermenter in the basement, and the
bugs were just working a little slower than usual. The berry
mix ended up creating a nice balance to the tartness that developed
with time. As I noticed with the Funky Cider, this fruited
batch also seemed to have more wet hay notes, so I'm pretty sure
that character is coming from the fruit being added.
definitely a fun experiment! There was a new strain of
Brettanomyces released to homebrewers that was supposed to produce
more fruity (pineapple) notes rather than the barnyard notes
typically associated with Brett. Several people were trying
this out with hoppier pale ales & IPAs, so I decided to try it
myself as well. The results were definitely as expected.
This funky beer shouldn't be aged as long as a traditional sour, as
the pineapple notes appear much earlier in the fermentation &
maturation period. NOTE: I
saved the yeast cake in two plastic soda bottles so I can use it
later in other batches. I've also experimented with blending
multiple sour yeast blends together as well.
the first sour I brewed using my
Brewing Process after selling my full
Gallon All-Grain System. Even though I brewed the same
wort for both batches, I was able to compare two different sour
yeast blends along with adding some hibiscus to one batch. The
differences are all listed out in the recipe, but I definitely
noticed a barnyard/entaric flavor from the Lambic half for a while.
I even brought a sample to one of my BJCP National judge friends,
and he confirmed that there was definitely some off notes about the
lambic. Luckily he gave me great advice and said to just let
it sit for a few months and the bugs should clean up the unpleasant
flavors and aromas. I'm glad I listened to him rather than
dumping the batch, because those unpleasant notes were gone in a
month or so and they were replaced with a nice fruity peach-like
brewed several cheap ciders at home, I figured why not try pitching
a wild yeast blend into the juice and see what happens. After
a few months, I noticed a distinct "wet hay" character in the cider
that I hadn't noticed as much in the sour beers that I've brewed.
It seemed that hay/barnyard note continued to develop more in the
cider than with grain-based beer. I've also noticed this
character on subsequent batches as well. Maybe it has to do
with the fructose and other types of sugars that are present for the
bugs to chew on? That's my guess anyway.
went through some interesting flavor and aroma stages. When I
first transferred it to secondary to add oak, there was a
musty/funky aroma and flavor that I hadn't experienced before.
After aging a while on the oak and letting the bacteria and wild
yeast work their magic, this beer developed nicely and provided a
subtle tartness that developed more with age as well as that nice
cherry-pit tartness that I've grown to really like.
One of the
benefits of brewing on a 10-gallon system is that you can split the
batch into two (or more) fermenters and pitch different yeast into
each. I find that brewing with Golden Naked Oats tends to give
beer a slight peachy note. I definitely found that to be true
in this batch, and that fruity character really played well with the
cherry-pit tartness that the bugs provided.
4-8-2012: Decided to try a different style since I've already made
two Flanders Reds, so a Oud Bruin or Flanders Brown seemed like a
good next step. A little higher in gravity than the Red and a
bit more complexity from the grains. I'm going with White Labs
Sour Mix for this one since I liked the flavor produced by it vs.
the Roeselare strain.
6-19-2012: Kegged and sampled. Similar to the
Red #1 with subtle cherry and tart aroma and flavor. Some toasted
notes from the darker grains. I was worried about this one because I
checked on it after about a month and didn't notice a pellicle
forming. As you can see from the pictures above, that ended up not
being an issue. Hopefully I can age this one a little longer
to let the sourness come out more so I won't have to resort to
adding lactic acid yet again.
1-31-2012: I went with a different yeast (Wyeast
Roeselare) for this batch to see if I noticed any differences between
that and the White Labs Sour Mix I used on my first Flanders Red.
I know I'm not aging these beers as long as I should be, but I just
can't help drinking them early. I'm sure this one will be no
2-6-2012: Kegged, sampled, and saved yeast for
future batches. The pellicle on this batch wasn't really formed
as much as my Flanders #1 with White Labs Sour Mix. When I
sampled the beer, there seemed to be less in the way of cherry aroma
and more subtle horse-blanket/barnyard. The flavor was about
the same as the aroma, and didn't have much tartness at all.
Hopefully it sours up with a little aging.
7-6-2012: Well I couldn't wait any longer to try
this beer, so I carbed it over a couple days and sampled it today.
Flavor was similar to when I kegged it. Very subtle barnyard
with very minimal tartness. So far, I'm liking the White Labs
Sour Mix over the Wyeast Roeselare yeast. Like with my first
batch of Flanders Red, I added some lactic acid, but closer to 2 oz
for this beer since it was lacking so much tartness.
12-28-2011: Kegged, sampled, and saved the yeast cake of White Labs
Sour Mix to pitch on future batches. Nice pellicle on top of
the beer. Subtle cherry aroma with some lactic notes. Flavor
was great with cherry pit and subtle tartness. Should be a
good beer when aged for awhile.
3-1-2012: I put this beer on tap a little
early because I just couldn't wait any longer to try it out.
It had a great cherry/cherry pit aroma and a subtle tartness.
No horse-blanket, which is fine by me. Flavor was clean and
crisp with a slight lingering pucker from the acid produced.
4-5-2012: I wanted to add a little more acid
to this beer since I didn't let it age out and produce enough.
I decided on an ounce of lactic acid. I've used this method
before to make what I called a Cheater Weiss, which was supposed to
be a mock Berliner Weiss. I liked the level of tartness much
better after the addition of lactic acid.
5-20-2012: Blew the keg :( This beer was
a great first attempt at a sour, and the goal is to brew one every
4-6 months or so. I've dedicated a fermenter and 2 kegs to
sour beers, so the goal is to have one fermenting and two aging at