Fast Sour Brown (Complexity Quest)

I have done quite a few “kettle” sours in the past, yet somehow my very first attempt at one turned out the best (not documented on the blog, sadly). That was a Berliner-style brewed back in the summer of 2014. It was very drinkable, but my accumulated knowledge since then has led to me realize that it was truly a miracle it turned out good.

I first heard about this “fast souring” from one of the brewers at Institution Brewery in Camarillo. I had no idea that was possible, but he said something like “you get the wort at around 100 degrees, pitch the Lacto, and keep it at 100F degrees, and the whole souring phase can be done in 24-72 hours”. Mind blown.

Next week I made a starter, shook the shit out of it for a few days in with extra exuberance, made some hot wort, pitched that starter into said hot wort, aerated the fuck out of it with with gobs of oxygen, the pH was around 5.4 pre-souring, put a heating pad on it, krausen had formed, super pumped, boiled it when it was done souring, pitched ale yeast, fermented what sugars were left, bottled it, tasted it, fucking nailed it.

Naturally, I was convinced I could do this with an Oud Bruin-style too…nope! Terrible and one dimensional. The next attempt I did the same way, and again I did not get away with it. It was again super one dimensional and pretty bad. I suck at brewing!

So I had given up on the fast sour method, at least for darker beers (there were a few attempts along the way at making a red colored Gose)…that is until I ran across the Sour Hour. They had an episode with a gentleman known as Dr. Lambic. This gentlemen runs a blog called the Sour Beer Blog. On that blog he details the best fast sour method. Then I ran across the episode on the Brewing Network (can’t remember which episode) with the Milk the Funk guys, and they detail the best way to fast (kettle) sour, which is pretty much the same way as on the Sour Beer Blog, though MTF Wiki has a specific recipe for a quick turnaround Berliner. Upon reading and hearing these methods, I am amazed I got away with the first attempt at this.

I had to give this one last shot with a darker beer, but I told myself that if I can’t do it right with the proper kettle sour technique, then I personally won’t try a quick Oud Bruin/Sour Brown again. The only way I’d consider trying it in the future is to use different Lacto strains, or try using a handful of grains as the “inoculant”, and most likely blend it with a non-sour beer on top of that, but even then I will probably just do this method for a Berliner or Gose if I do it again, which I did.

I wanted to get some fruitiness out of this, so I split this up and used two different Brett strains that were supposed to produce more fruity esters, WLP645 and WLP644 (though it’s now reported that WLP644 is a Sacc strain) as a “secondary” fermentation…though it will be pitched in the primary as far as the yeast is concerned. Also Brett can handle the start of fermentation with a lower pH than normal, aka, 3.5. I am hoping that these supposed yeast fruit producers do the trick and can add some complexity. On top of that, I added fruit to one to help it along even more for my complexity quest.

The other 3 gallons of this went into an Arrogant Bastard sorta clone attempt.

Recipe:

Batch Size: 1.5 Gallons
Target OG: 1.066
SRM: 20
Est ABV: 6.2%
IBU: 25
Boil Time: 45

Malt:
65.8% – Pilsner Malt
15.5% – Crystal 60L
7.5% – Wheat Malt
6.2% – Aromatic Malt 26L
5% – Special B

Hops:
.20 oz Galaxy (14% AA) @ 30 Min

Yeast:
WLP672 Lactobacillus Brevis
WLP644 Saccharomyces “Bruxellensis” Trois
WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii

Here’s what went down:

1/10/16 Starter: I used the starter method on the Milk the Funk Wiki that was for their long planned sour. I don’t think it matters, but it’s worth noting that they didn’t say to do this for the quick sour method.

Added 2 oz of DME to .5 liters of water, heated to a boil for 15 minutes.

Cooled the DME wort to 90F and add 60 ML of pasteurized apple juice, 10 grams of chalk (CaCO3), and 1/4 a teaspoon of yeast nutrient. (The chalk won’t dissolve into the solution, so don’t worry about it. Boiling the apple juice will destroy some of its nutrients, and since it is pasteurized boiling it isn’t necessary). Best practice is that starters should not be aerated, although there may be an exception to this for L. Brevis, but it got aerated when I poured it into the growler.

I then put the starter on the floor heater (without it turned on) with a box and blanket wrapped around it. This kept it at a pretty consistent 92F. I must have a fierce pilot light, cause that thing cranks out some heat even when the heater is off.

1/13/16: I wanted to bump up the heat some to the mid-90s, so I turned on the heater for about 15 seconds…aaaaaaaaaaaaannnnd left it on by accident. It got at least to 150F for at least 5-10 minutes. There was a very high probability I killed the Lacto. I cooled it as quickly as I could in a water bath. Yet another fine moment in my brewing endeavors.

I was very torn about how to fix this. Do I buy more yeast and pitch it in? Should I just pitch vials with no starter? Should I just roll with it and assume it will be fine? I decided to roll the dice and go for it and use the starter as is and if nothing happened I would adjust on the fly.

Brewed 1/17/16

The pH was at 4.9 in the mash, added 1 gram of baking soda, that brought it to 5.7, added lactic acid to bring it back to 5.3. Something has been off with either or both the Bru’n Water program or my water report from the city. I aim for 5.2-5.4 with acid malt additions in the water program, but lately I’ve found that about 6% acid malt with no dark or crystal malt brings me into the proper pH range for my Glendale, CA water.

Brought all the wort to a very light boil for 10 minutes. Put the wort chiller in at the beginning.

Pulled 2.5 gallons of the wort into the 5 gallon purged kettle from the 9 gallon kettle using the spout. Chilled to just over 100F. The pH was at 5.1. Added 6 ml of lactic acid (88% lactic acid drops pH by .13 per mil, .1 per ml according to MTF), tested, and it was at 4.6. Added maybe two drops more to get it to get it to 4.45. Purged the head space as much as I could along the way with CO2 (and at the end after pitching the Lacto starter) and duct taped the lid shut.

I will add a note about CO2 usage at this stage. Interestingly, the MTF Wiki says “If a pure culture of Lactobacillus bacteria is used it is ideal but not necessary to fill the head space of the fermenter with CO2 gas”, yet every single commercial brewer I’ve ever heard talk, or talked to myself, at this stage in process uses oodles and oodles of CO2 to blanket the head space. Some have even been reported to put garbage bags over the stack to ensure CO2 doesn’t get out, and some have gone so far as to use dry ice instead of using a CO2 from a tank to blanket the top.

I fermented this too low. Average was low-80s to mid-70s. Probably mid-70s for at least 8 hours at night. The space heater is set on high at 80F and obviously this isn’t working if I want to get it above 90F in the winter time (lows were in the 50s in LA area). The chest freezer is set to 45C (113F). Thankfully nothing happened as far as krausen forming (which can be an indicator of unwanted bacteria getting in).

1/18/16: 5pm (exactly 24 hours later) the pH was at 3.5 (if the meter was correct…I didn’t have distilled water to properly calibrate it). It did taste nicely tart. It’s possible the starter alone could have lowered the pH…but a whole drop in pH from 4.5 to 3.5 is pretty significant from just a supposed pasteurized starter.

IMG_5177

Boiled, added the Galaxy hops with 30 minutes left (trying to aid in fruitiness).

Maybe the gravity dropped slightly while souring as finishing gravity was only 1.060 (planned for 1.066), but again, no krausen formed during the souring phase.

Chilled to 80F, pitched 1 vial of each Brett strain (WLP644 and WLP645) into each one gallon separately. Torn about whether to put a blow off tube on the 1 gallons. I didn’t, put airlocks on. Blow off tube wasn’t necessary.

1/19/16: Activity on the WLP644. No activity on the WLP645. Temp in chest freezer was at 74F.

1/21/16: Activity finally on the WLP645 Clausenii (read this can take over 48 hours sometimes to get going).

1/24/16: Activity on them still slightly, a little more on the WLP645.

1/30/16: WLP644 at 1.020. WLP645 at 1.012.

IMG_7074

2/6/16: Both are at 1.012. Transferred the WLP644 one onto a watery thin puree containing 4 oz of dried cherries and two dried dates. Pitched the slurry of the WLP644 onto the weird Brett IPA beer with WLP653 and WLP650 already in it.

2/27/16: Bottled the WLP645 Claussenii one with corn sugar. Pitched some of the WLP645 Claussenii slurry into the weird Brett IPA and saved some of the slurry in the original vial I bought it in. There won’t be much Brett in that little of slurry, but I can always grow it up. Transferred the WLP644 one off the fruit to a separate 1 gallon jug and put it into the cold chest freezer to cold crash.

3/12/16: Transferred the fruited version to a vessel to bottle. Tasted it, didn’t like it, transferred it back to the one gallon to get whole non-dried fruit to put on it.

IMG_7533

3/26/16: Added 1 lb of sweet dark frozen then dethawed cherries. There is probably 3/4 of a gallon of beer left in the jug due to fermentation and transfers.

4/12/16: Bottled the WLP644 one on cherries.

4/22/16 Tasting notes:

Non-fruited WLP645: Pretty one dimensional. I will say though that this is the best attempt I’ve done with the fast “Oud Bruin” sour beer. The nose is pretty fruity from the Brett, but the taste is mainly just acidic and slightly fruity and that’s about it. I had a year-and-half-old fast sour “Oud Bruin” in the garage, and blending that with this one worked pretty well. The old one is oxidized with sherry like flavors, which funny enough ends up adding the complexity they are both lacking (the older one was originally lacking as well).

Fruited WLP644: Also one dimensional. The cherry fruit addition is better and helps a little, but it’s not enough. It’s still very similar to the non-fruited one.

Final thoughts:

The quest is over. The verdict is in. It is done. This is my last attempt at a quick darker sour (which held against the light could border on a sour red). I will never discourage anyone ever against trying to brew anything, but this is one of those ones to be careful with. Lighter color beers (Berliner/Gose) seem to work ok with fast souring at times, but to be honest I am straying away from Berliner’s at breweries because they are all just starting to taste like lemon water to me. I could see blending this with a non-sour dark fruit ale and it turning out ok, possibly. Go nuts I say though regardless, but I personally won’t be doing this fast sour method again with darker beers.

2 Comment

  1. jms says: Reply

    Interesting. I’m going to give an oud bruin a try, but I use a little bit different method. After mashing, I bring the wort up to boil and then turn it off (no hops). I pull ~2L off and put it in the fridge. Then chill the wort to ~90F and pitch Omega’s lacto blend. Let it work (between 12-24 hours) til it’s where I want it.

    Then, pull the 2L out of the fridge, and boil with hops (30 minutes). Pitch that *and* the ale yeast into the fermenter, and aerate thoroughly.

    Let it ferment and finish. Bottle after a week or so, and let it condition awhile in the bottle.

    I did this with a Berliner Weisse, and it turned out really nice. The yeast and the lacto have the ability to keep working after being bottled, but the lacto should be inhibited somewhat by the hops.

    1. Jason says: Reply

      I have yet to try the Omega blend. I hear good things!

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