Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dry Hopped Sour - Two Ways

With the popularity of both hop-forward IPAs and sour beers, it is surprising that so few brewers add aromatic hops to their mixed-fermentation beers. I suspect that many brewers are scared off of brewing a hoppy sour after hearing that hops can inhibit souring bacteria or that sourness and bitterness clash (both of which are true).

The key to success is the way in which the ingredients are brought together. In the case of the two beers I'm drinking tonight, Nathan and I allowed the base beer to sour in a wine barrel for more than three years (solera style) prior to dry hopping briefly right before bottling. This is the easiest way as it imparts a huge aroma, but minimal bitterness. As an added bonus, Brettanomyces scavenges oxygen as the beer ages in the bottle, protecting the hop character from “turning” as it does in so many IPAs.

A glass of wine barrel solera, dry hopped with Sterling.Solera on Sterling

Appearance – Ever so faintly hazy vibrant yellow. The retention of the white head is rather brief, typical for a long-aged sour.

Smell – Subtly herbaceous compared to the straight bottling. Not enough to cover the underlying vinous/citrus or faint maltiness. Very clean, no big funky Brett character, considering the age and fermentation.

Taste – Firm acidity, that fades to a bit of the classic “Cheerios” character in the finish that I get in my young/pale sours. The winey notes from the barrel and the hay and lemon from the microbes get along nicely with the hops. Comes across very lambic-like, positively Hanssens-esque I’d say.

Mouthfeel – Dry, but not thin. Solid carbonation. Nothing I would change.

Drinkability & Notes – The lingering cereal note in the finish detracts from the drinkability slightly, but this is still an excellent beer. When the hops were a little fresher I didn’t pick up that toastiness, and hopefully it will clean itself up with a couple more months in the bottle.

A glass of wine barrel solera, dry hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Nelson Sauvin.Solera on Citra/Mosaic/Nelson

Appearance – Ditto, other than pouring with a slightly smaller head.

Smell – Wow. An aroma that doesn’t just leap, but explodes out of the glass. Huge juicy layers of peach and tropical fruit. When I shared this beer with a couple of the brewers at Modern Times, they doubted that there was no fruit added. At once both reminiscent of the hops used and completely unique. Considering the hops went in four months ago, they still come across fresh. The only shame is that the base beer smells excellent on its own, and the hops obscure most of it.

Taste – The acidity comes across as mellower than the Sterling’d portion. Rounder. Tangy certainly, but the less aggressive. The “Cheerios” character is nowhere to be found. The bright fruitiness lasts through into the finish, fresh squeezed orange juice especially.

Mouthfeel – Feels fuller, sticky, almost oily. Carbonation is similar.

Drinkability & Notes – It is remarkable how beer that spent three years together and then received identical treatment other than the hop varieties could diverge so wildly. This is one of my favorite sour beers I’ve ever brewed, complex, drinkable, and surprising.


whitesage said...

Been considering a mosaic dry-hop of my rasberried sour brown. What kind of once to gallon ration did you use?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

2 oz Mosaic, 1 oz Nelson, and 1 oz Citra. We be crazy!

m00se said...

per gallon!? damn yo

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That was the dry hop for five gallons, we aren't THAT crazy!

Eric Branchaud said...

I just bottled an IPA that used an insane amount of late hops (10.5 oz at flameout w/a 90 minute hop stand, then 6.5oz of dry hops, 3 gallon batch), and it literally tastes like fruit juice. The citrus character was so juicy that it tricks your palate into believing that it is a sour beer. (Hops were a combo of Nelson, Citra, Meridian and Motueka)

I immediately thought that hops like this would be killer in a lambic. I'm glad to hear that dry hops like this really do work in an actual sour beer. I have to give it a try soon myself.

Jeffrey Crane said...

I'm working on getting a year round Berliner series going. Mostly so I can build up and create a "mother" lacto culture (like you and I discussed).

I mention this because my plan is to have different flavored versions each season. I'm thinking a citrus forward dry-hopped Berliner sounds pretty fantastic.

So when should I expect something similar over at Modern Times?

Ryan said...

cheerios flavor is a good way to describe the graininess that i always get in my sours for ~2-3mos in the bottle. Ive always wondered about the nitty gritty details of this flavor, you wouldnt have any geek reading material about it would you???

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

My only real guess is that the flavor is tetrahydropyridines produced by Brett.

Jeffrey Crane said...

Ryan, I couldn't nail that flavor down either for a while until Mike tried my freshly kegged Flanders Red this summer. I'm now tasting it in more Brett beers since then.

TimT said...

I hate the cheerios/cereal thing, It would be really nice to know if there is a way to nullify it. It is always depressing to wait so many months, bottle and then know you need to wait another 3-4 to drink it. Obviously it has something to do with the re-fermentation and or pressure in the bottle alongside brett. I suspect the pressure or holding in of a substance is the key. As it seems to crop up strongly only then. One week after bottling the beer is decent, one month and it is down the sink instead of my throat.... Obviously the lambic producers realized this problem long ago by their long lag time from bottling to distribution.

Raz0rwire said...

I made a berliner not too long ago that I dry hopped with Nelson Sauvin. It's my favorite beer that I've made. Dry hops with sour work beautifully and can be a cheaper alternative to adding fruit to get that extra character to the beer.

This is one of those times when I read about a beer and immediately know I want to try it. Sounds delicious.

raharper said...

I'm also interested in any details on how to minimize, or eliminate the cheerio/tetrahydropyridines flavor.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Repitching yeast at bottling seems to cut the amount of time the Cheerio flavor is present, but does not eliminate it entirely. Pasteurization (or killing/removing the wild yeast another way) may also be an option. Otherwise, just wait it out. These beers aren't about speed.

Joe said...

What causes that "Cheerios" flavor in young sours? I bottled a saison/Lambic blend about three weeks ago and it has that same flavor.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Not sure what that cereal flavor in young sour beers is. Could be tetrahydropyridines, which are produced by Brett and toasty at low levels. Maybe a touch of diacetyl from Pediococcus? Or something else.

Leave the bottles warm for a couple months and it'll go away, that's what is really important!

John Brannan said...

Are y'all using whole cone or pellets for dry hopping?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I like to use whole hops for dry hopping when they are available (slower extract, more distinct aromatics, less grassy with extended keg-hopping), but I've used both forms for sours with good results.

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