Monday, February 21, 2011

Vaccinium - a sour ale experiment

Lately I have been intrigued by sour, funky beers - Lambics, Flanders Reds, Oud Bruins, and a wide array of "wild" ales from small American craft breweries (e.g. Cisco Brewers, Jolly Pumpkin, Allagash). I've been wanting to brew up a sour/funky beer for a while, but have not really known where to start. But after several months of tinkering with an idea, I finally took the plunge and brewed something up today.

My inspiration for this recipe was Ithaca Beer Co.'s Brute and head brewer Jeff O'Neill's interview on the Brewing Network. I sampled Brute at the Beervana Beer Festival in Pawtucket, RI this past Fall and was blown away by it - by far my favorite beer there. I was shocked to learn during the BN podcast that the sourness comes from a high percentage of acidulated malt and not actual Lactobacillus or other souring bacteria.

I've also been intrigued with the idea of using a wine yeast on a beer, thanks to yet another Brewing Network podcast featuring Shea Comfort (aka the "Yeast Whisperer"). I have no idea what to expect from using a wine yeast on this recipe, but I chose Lalvin's BM45 for it's production of berry/cherry-like flavors and aromas. Part of my train of thought also included the fact that wine yeasts might be better suited to the more acidic fermentation environments that the acidulated malt would create. My plan is to finish the fermentation with Bretanomyces clausenii for some mild funkiness. Since wine yeasts can't metabolize more complex sugars, there should be plenty of food left behind for the Brett.

And since I'm experimenting here, I might as well go all out. I used flaked corn for the first time, did my first step mash (including a protein rest because of all the adjuncts), and am planning on adding local cranberries. I'm thinking this might be ready to drink for Thanksgiving, give or take a couple of months.

I'm probably out of my mind trying so many new-to-me aspects, but I'm hopeful I'll end up with something interesting. (I wonder if I should add some oak cubes...)

Brewed on 1/21/11

Recipe Specifications
Batch Size: 3.75 gal
Boil Size: 5.00 gal
Estimated OG: 1.054 SG
Estimated Color: 4.5 SRM
Estimated IBU: 22.7 IBU
Brewhouse Efficiency: 74.00 %
Boil Time: 65 Minutes

3 lbs Pale Malt - 40.00 %
1 lbs Acidulated Malt -13.33 %
1 lbs Corn, Flaked - 13.33 %
1 lbs Vienna Malt - 13.33 %
1 lbs Wheat Malt - 13.33 %
8.0 oz Wheat, Flaked - 6.67 %

0.56 oz Mt. Hood [4.40 %] (60 min)
0.35 oz Goldings, East Kent [4.50 %] (30 min)
0.53 oz Cascade [6.00 %] (5 min)

Lalvin BM-45
Brettanomyces claussenii (White Labs #WLP645) - to be added in secondary with cranberries

Mash Schedule
Step Time Name Step Temp
15 min Protein Rest 130.0 F
45 min Saccrification 158.0 F

2/24/11 - it took 3 days for the BM45 to get going! And it is slow going at that. I hope it goes OK.

2/25/11 - WOW, the airlock is going crazy - looks like the yeast are just fine


Dank brewer said...

man. you are a yeast wrangler. Where are you at with this beer. A lot of funky things going on with the wine yeast, brett, acid malt. Wondering how this turned out, or if it's still aging?

Jim Lemire said...

Yeah, this is over-the-top complicated. But a fun experiment. It's still aging. I was hoping to transfer it off the cranberries by now, but just haven't gotten to it (actually, it's mostly because my LHBS hasn't had any racking canes in stock and I want to make sure I keep one separate for Brett beers). My goal is to transfer it this week though - assuming I get around to bottling something to open up a carboy.

Dann said...

Hey man, it's been 1 year. How'd this turn out? I recently did a Saison with 18% acid malt and was disappointed with the wort (pre-boil) as there was not as much sour as I had hoped. We'll see post-fermentation, I know it will change, especially with wort reduction via boil, lowered ph during fermentation, etc. I am really excited to hear yours though. Tell us! :-)

Jim Lemire said...

@Dann - I am hoping to get a posts up soon about this one. In the end, it turned out well, though perhaps neither as sour nor as complex as I had hoped. I wonder if the buffering capability of the water and the other grains didn't let the pH drop low enough.

Jim Lemire said...

Tasting notes now posted -

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