Recently I have had the pleasure of trying three fantastic beers which were both more than 10% ABV and influenced by Brett and/or bacteria. In each beer the microbes and barrel aging smoothed out the rough edges that often plague “big beers” and added unique flavors that really set them apart from their “clean” counterparts.
It started with De Dolle Oerbier Reserva 2006, a special version of their regular Oerbier aged in wine barrels with microflora that took it from its original ABV of 9 up to 13. The flavors are a spectacular balance of rich malts with cherry funk and subtle acidity.
Next came a taste of an experimental Brettanomyces inoculated version of Barrel Aged Millennium at Old Dominion. It tasted like Gale’s Prize Old Ale on steroids, huge malt backbone with an earthy old leather Brett character to die for. I will be very happy when this one eventually gets released as a packaged beer. I must say that from what I have seen Old Dominion is really stepping up their game since being bought out by Costal/Bud.
Finally came the massive Abbaye De Saint Bon-Chien 2005 from Swiss brewer BFM, the funk was not as strong as the other two, but the malt flavor and thick mouthfeel made it one of the best cold weather sipping beers I have had. At 15% ABV it is truly a massive beer unlike any other funky beer I have tried.
These three drinking experiences have done what all great beers should, inspire me to brew something similar. I have not figured out exactly what recipe I am going to go with, but I think it will be something like an Oud Bruin combined with an Old Ale and ramped up to 1.110 or so.
Now that the Roeselare Blend is back from Wyeast I will probably use that to do this beer, but only after growing it up a couple of generation or to shift the microbe balance more towards the lactic acid bacteria (which can reproduce faster than yeast). The Flanders Red I made by adding the blend to the secondary is very tasty and drinkable, but up against a beer like La Folie it doesn’t have nearly enough acidity. For a big beer it is even harder to get much sourness as the high level of sourness and proportionally increased hopping can inhibit the souring microbes.
At least one of the generations before the big sour beer will be another Flanders Red. Currently, my friend Scott and I are planning on brewing a couple batches of Flanders Red that we will eventually blend together. The idea is to age a few batches varying things like the oxygen permeability of the storage container, amount of oak, microbes, etc… Then after 12-18 months we will taste all of the batches and blend them accordingly.
Here is a draft of what I am considering fermenting with a second or third generation slurry of Wyeast's Roeselare Blend. The malt extract is just there to boost the gravity above what I can fit comfortably in my mash tun.
Batch Size (Gal): 3.50
Total Grain (Lbs): 14.50
Anticipated OG: 1.150
Anticipated SRM: 23.5
Anticipated IBU: 28.2
Brewhouse Efficiency: 66 %
Wort Boil Time: 135 Minutes
6.00 lbs. Pilsener
2.50 lbs. Munich Malt
1.50 lbs. Generic DME - Light
1.00 lbs. CaraMunich Malt
1.00 lbs. CaraVienne Malt
1.00 lbs. Flaked Corn
.75 lbs. Dark Candi Syrup (D2)
.06 lbs. Chocolate Malt
0.625 oz. Galena @ 90 min.
Yeast Cake from Flanders Red (US-05 and Red Poppy dregs)
90 Minutes at 150
Brewed 6/15/08 with Mike and Brian
D2 Candi Syrup added at the start of sparge.
Collected 6 gallons of 1.057 wort, added extract while heating to a boil. 3.30 gallons of 1.120 wort post boil.
Chilled to 80 (took an hour due to warm tap water). Put into freezer at 60 degrees. Pitched yeast/funk cake from Flanders Red (US-05 and Red Poppy) after 5 hours in the fridge. This increased the volume and reduced the gravity slightly. Gave it a light shake to get O2 in, but not too much as there are loads of yeast cells, and Pedio hates O2.
Small krausen by 12 hours, large one by 24.
6/18/08 Fermentation began to slowdown so I upped the temperature to 62.
6/22/08 Still has a decent krausen, gravity only down to 1.065 (7.7% ABV, 47% AA). Upped temp to 65 to help the yeast keep moving.
6/24/08 Added the dregs from a bottle of Beatification 002.
7/04/08 Transferred to a 3 gallon glass carboy for secondary, down to ~1.040 (66% AA, 11% ABV).
8/20/08 The alcohol has mellowed considerably, but there are still almost no sour/funky flavors. This one still needs more time, hopefully the high ABV has just slowed the microbes down and not stopped them entirely.
10/02/08 Update, down to 1.020
12/21/08 Still 1.020, fermentation seems to be finished.
1/24/09 Has really picked up a nice lightly oxidized, dark fruit character since my last tasting. Still at 1.020, so I pitched some EC-1118 champagne yeast. I'll bottle this batch once the yeast has a chance to do what it wants, about a week.
1/31/09 Blended in 20 oz of La Folie (sacrilege I know) and 10 oz of my Temptation clone for sourness and to lighten it up a touch. Bottled with 1 5/8 oz of table sugar.
4/21/09 First Tasting, not carbed yet...
6/14/09 Still no carbonation, so I rehydrated a pack of Premier Cuvee from Red Star (14-16% ABV tolerance) in a 1/4 cup of warm/filtered water. Added a few drops to each bottle, then recapped. Hopefully the yeast will provide carbonation, but not eat any of the residual dextrins (which could lead to bottle bombs).
11/28/14 Opened the final bottle. Ever so faintly carbonated (all it needed). Very port-like, rich, somewhat sticky, mildly boozy. Great depth of flavor: brown sugar, plums, cocoa, subtle fruity Brett. Mildly acidic, but not really sour. Somewhere between an over-the-top English old ale and an over-the-top Flemish oud bruin. I'll have to brew something like this again!