Friday, May 2, 2008

With the re-re-release of Wyeast's Roeselare Blend

Wyeast has released their excellent Roeselare blend as part of their spring (April-June) VSS lineup. I'm excited because I have already started hoarding bottles of my first batch of Flanders Red that I brewed 18 months ago.

My only major complaint about the first batch was that it never got sour enough. To remedy that issue this time around I am going to pitch a starter made from the blend into primary instead of adding clean yeast in primary and waiting until secondary to add the blend. Bacteria grow faster than yeast so the only risk with adding a slurry of them early is that they will make acid so fast that it will hinder the brewer's yeast from completing its alcoholic fermentation.

While pitching the blend earlier should increase the lactic acid content of the finished beer, I'll still need to get some acetic acid if I want that authentic flavor profile. Instead of playing around with an even more oxygen permeable vessel than a better bottle, which would risk overshooting and getting too much acetic acid, I am going to try blending. I am planning to do a 5.25 gallon batch, after primary I will take 1 qrt of the wort and put it into a growler with aluminum foil over the mouth. After a year this malt vinegar will be blended with the main batch to taste. Acetobacter needs lots of oxygen to convert ethanol to acetic acid, as a result once the beer in blended and bottled there should be no risk of the vinegar flavor getting out of control.

Over on the BBB Baums posted his calculation that you can multiply the numbers given for vessels in terms of cc/L year of oxygen by 2.8 to get the maximum ppm of acetic acid that can be produced per year (assuming 100% of the oxygen is used to make acetic acid). Wild Brews says Flanders Reds range from 1,500-2,500 ppm acetic acid, and have a flavor threshold of the molecule is around 300 ppm. With the 0.86 cc/L number Raj Apte gives for Rodenbach's giant foudors, it would take something like 1,000 years of aging to get Rodenbach to those levels. Since we know they age for a much shorter time than that, we can extrapolate that their containers must be much more oxygen permeable than the math suggests.

According to these numbers you'd need to age in a vessel that lets ~238 cc/L of oxygen a year (a 5 gallon bucket lets in ~220) for 3 years to get up to 2,000 ppm. I'm not sure if these numbers are spot on, but between them and my experience I believe that .86 just can't be right. My theory is that the lids of those big tuns are much more permeable than the sides. A new barrel has to by hydrated before it will hold a liquid without leaking, those big tuns are made in such a way that the beer does not touch the lid, so it is not hydrated, which means it is probably extremely permeable.

After all that I'm not a big fan of acetic acid, so I'll probably try to get it just over the flavor threshold. I have talked a couple of my friends into brewing their own, each using their own recipe and methods. After 12-18 months we'll all get together for a blending session. Whatever is left over after making the "perfect" blend will have fruit added to it.

In the photo on the left is my Roeselare blend starter, on the left is a culture from the dregs of Red Poppy from The Lost Abbey. I am going with a very similar recipe to the one I used last time, just a few tweaks to get it a bit darker:

Flanders Red Again

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 5
Total Grain (Lbs): 12.50
Anticipated OG: 1.068
Anticipated SRM: 18.2
Anticipated IBU: 18.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 Minutes

3.75 lbs. Vienna Malt
3.00 lbs. Munich Malt
3.00 lbs. Pilsener
1.00 lbs. CaraMunich Malt
1.00 lbs. Flaked Soft White Wheat
10 oz. CaraAroma
4 oz. Carahell Malt
3 oz. Crystal 40

1.00 oz. Crystal Whole @ 75 min.
0.50 oz. Crystal Pellet @ 75 min.

WYeast 3763 Roeselare Yeast

Water Profile
Profile: Washington DC
Profile known for: Where I live

Calcium(Ca): 45.2 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 8.0 ppm
Sodium(Na): 13.8 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 49.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 28.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 86.3 ppm

pH: 7.60

Mash Schedule
90 min @ 154 F

Brewed 5/11/08 with Nathan

Used 1/2 a campden tablet to dechlorinate the water before brewing.

Collected 7 gallons of 1.055 wort. Chilled to 70, gave it 60 seconds of pure oxygen, and placed it into a 65 degree freezer. I then pitched a partially decanted ~2 qrt starter of Roeselare Blend that was a couple weeks old. I am planning on adding a culture of the dregs from Red Poppy to the secondary to increase the number of microbes in there.

Overshot my expected gravity (1.062) and undershot my planned volume (5.25 gallons) a bit, but I am planning to top off with some deoxygenated water when it goes into secondary. I am also planning on pulling off 1.5 quarts to leave uncovered to make some strongly acetic beer to blend with the batch.

Still no activity after 36 hours, so I upped the temp to 68.

After another 12 still nothing, so I added some of the Red Poppy starter.

5/15/08 Still nothing, and no change in the gravity so I pitched a rehydrated pack of US-05 and some more of the Red Poppy starter.

Good activity after 12 hours

5/16/08 After 24 hours I dropped the temp to 63 to prevent the yeast from getting too hot.

6/06/08 Down to ~1.014 light funky flavor starting to develop.

6/15/08 Racked to secondary (5 gallon better bottle)

6/16/08 Added 2 siphons full of Big Funky, right after it started fermentation, hoping to feed the bugs a bit since the gravity was on the low side.

7/04/08 Slight pellicle already starting to form, aging at 65 degrees.

8/20/08 Some sourness has been created, but the pedio is making it buttery at the moment. Still needs plenty more time, but it is progressing.

10/02/08 Update, down to 1.009.  It is starting to develop some nice sourness and a cranberry fruitiness, and the buttery flavor that I got last time I took a sample is gone. This is shaping up to be a good one if it doesn't dry out too much.

11/09/08 Racked into a 60 gallon red wine barrel from Crysalis Vineyards.  Mixed with 50 other gallons, from a similar recipe.

10/24/09  Bottled the whole barrel, aiming for 2.5 volumes of CO2.  Great sourness, cherry, wine, complex etc... Added some whole Amarillo/Simcoe/Cascade  to 6 bottles.  4 gallons racked onto 2 lbs of sour cherries I froze last summer.

7/17/10 Bottled the sour cherry half (~3.75 gallons) with 3.5 oz of cane sugar, ~1/2 cup of Brett B slurry.  Gravity down to 1.007, nice cherry character, still plenty of sourness.


Anonymous said...

I am just finishing primary fermentation on a flemish sour (from extract). I used WL550 for primary, and I ordered a WLP653 Brett Lambicus (hope to put it in this weekend). Is this a good secondary strain to use in a flemish sour or do I need to add anything else? I was debating using the white labs sour blend, any advice?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Brett L is a very tasty choice, but it really won't give much sourness, at most you will get "tart". I would add a tube/pack of Pediococcus cerevisiae which can pump out loads of lactic acid.

You may also consider dumping in the dregs from a couple bottles of commercial sour beers to get a bit more biodiversity.

I've never used the WL Sour Blend, but I have heard some people with good results and some people with bad results. The Roeselare Blend is my personal choice for Flanders Reds, one stop shopping for microbes and great results.

Anonymous said...

I have a bottle of Temptation just calling my name. If I do add the dregs from the Temptation to the batch should I ramp it up first like I would for a traditional starter? If not, will just dumping in the dregs of one bottle be enough? Also should I make a starter for the Brett vial or just pour it in? Thanks in advance for the help.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I added the dregs from a bottle of Russian River Depuration to my batch of Flanders Pale Ale last summer along with some oak that had previously been in my Flanders Red with Roeselare. Not sure what the dregs contributed, but the flavor was great after 6 months (and should be even better after another 6 when I bottle it).

When adding microbes to secondary you don’t need to make a starter, but doing so will speed up the process a bit. In secondary there is little in the way of easily digestible sugars, so it can take a few months for brett/bacteria to really get rolling. Personally, I think you’ll be fine add the dregs and Brett as is, a starter would primarily serve to propagate the wine yeast that Russian River uses to carbonate most of their sour beers.

Good luck.

Jeff said...

So I took a look at my flanders the other night and it has these white patches, they are thin and don't look like most of the pellicles I have seen.

Also, I went with a WL Brett Lambicus and The WL Sour Blend. So far no real overt sourness but a light tartness in the nose. It also seems to have turned less tart on the nose in the last month. Any ideas of what this may be?

I am still in a glass carboy for secondary, am I not getting enough O2?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sour beers do all sorts of crazy things as the flavor develops. I've found that it generally isn't worth trying to figure out what is going on until the beer stays the same for awhile.

I don't have much experience with the White Labs cultures, but I would guess that you just need more time since it has only been aging for 5-6 months.

Oxygen will certainly encourage pellicle formation and get you more funk and acetic acid, but the lactic acid microbes generally like lower oxygen.

Hope that helps.

jb said...

Love your site. Thanks for the info.

I am planning to make my first foray into sour beers (other than adding the dregs of an Orval to 1/2 a batch of dubbel when bottling last year) What is your experience making a starter with Roeselare? Do the various components get out of balance or does it not really matter?

ReverendTenHigh said...

Brewing this up today. Just about done with the boil!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sweet, let me know how it turns out... in a couple years!

Andrei said...

Brewing a Flanders red tomorrow (with Roeselare blend). How long am I supposed to keep this in the primary?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I leave my sours in primary until primary fermentation appears to be over, say 2-3 weeks. You can go longer or shorter if you want, it isn't a big deal. I leave my lambics in primary for their entire fermentation which gives a funkier character.

Andrei said...

Transferred my Flanders Red to secondary today after almost a month in primary. Gravity down to 1.013 and already has a nice tart flavor. Hope it's normal to have this after only 1 month. :)

Bryggmästare 1 said...

Brewed a Flanders red with Roeselare ale blend a couple of weeks ago. Right now I try to find out if I should rack to secondary or just leave it in the carboy for the rest of the year and a half its about to sit. I didn't pitch any clean yeast, just the blend. I also ponder if I should do the oak peg thing you written about or just use cubes. This is my first sour so I would really like some input.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Most Belgian brewers transfer their reds to secondary (from stainless steel to the large oak tuns). You can leave your beer in primary, but it will produce a more funky "rustic" character that is closer to a lambic than a Flemish reds. This is because as the brewers yeast (from the blend) dies it will provide nutrients and sugars to the Brett.

I have had just as good results with oak cubs, the pegs gave me nothing but problems. An ounce (28 g) of oak is a good place to start, you can always add more later if you want more oak flavor. I like to boil the oak in water for a few minutes to remove some of the stronger oak flavors before adding it to the beer.

Hopefully that helps, good luck!

Bryggmästare 1 said...

Guess I will rack to secondary and refill the carboy with a new batch half fermented with clean yeast. Thanks for the tips and the great website.

Great Egret Brewery said...

What do you think of Jamil's recipe and how do you like the changes you made to the grain bill here. I have several Flanders going based on Jamil's recipe. They all taste slightly different. The beauty of fermentation. Looking forward to blending a few in early winter.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think jamil's malt bill is great, but I don't think the minute details of the recipe are too important when it comes to sour beers. What I don't like his his advocacy for a clean primary fermentation followed by Roeselare Blend in seconary. That seems to work pretty well in barrels, but in carboys it doesn't produce enough character for me!

Suwannee Refugee said...

Hey bud

Curious about yeast. I have a 2nd generation flanders going. Pitched on top of the ECY02 yeast cake from the first generation. After two months the sourness is very much there. Way more pronounced than the first generation one. However, the gravity did not drop near as much as the first one, which is at 1010. The second generation one is at 1019. Should I throw some 05 in there to see if the sacchromyces yeast can eat some of the sugar or just let it sit?

Joe said...

You water profile and pH for this recipe is before you mash in, correct? I've brewed two Flanders Reds and never really adjusted the profile before. I only kept the mash pH below 5.4. What RA would you suggest for a Flanders and other medium to dark sours?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yep. I'd treat sour beers as you would any other similar SRM, low-hopped beer. No need to do anything special in terms on mineral additions. I usually don't post my actual water profile because I don't think it is something worth imitating.

Joe said...

This site has been an amazing resource for me as a homebrewer and I'm going to brewing school soon and will take some of the knowledge I've gained from you to my commercial endeavors. I can't wait for your book to come out.

Quick question: where did you get, or how did you make deoxygenated water? It's not likely that I would need to add water post-primary because I'd blend my sours to get the ABV and flavor I desire, but this is an interesting technique.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Cheers! Boiling knocks dissolved gas out of water. Just let it chill covered. If a little gets in the bugs will scavenge it.

Unknown said...


Have you done a tasting review of the 'plain' portion of this that was bottled - didn't see a link to a review. Also, in the notes from your first flemish red you noted a low carb level and that Russian River carbs their barrel aged beers different than others. What did you do different this time around?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

This batch was used as a starter for our first wine-barrel-aged Flemish Red. So it really isn't going to tell you much about "this" beer. Here are the tasting notes for that beer.

This post should help on priming barrel aged beers (short version is to assume half the residual CO2 that you would otherwise).

EscapeArtist said...

Awesome site, awesome book!

I started a Solera in March, 13 galons, 1/2 wheat, 1/2 barley from concentrate, it's stored in stainless steel vessel.

I wont move that to a secondary. Just can't do that.

I used Rosaelare and spiral that I recovered from a 5 gallons red wine making

What is my best bet to get close to a Flanders ?
I plan to take 5 galons early spring and hints on how do I compensate for not using a wood barrel ? I am planning to replenish it with 6 gallons (is there a ratio on how much I lose in time?) Then what kind of replacement should be ? I am thinking to do your grain bill and make a yeast beer with the other 5 gallons.

Do I open the vessel once in a while to let some oxygen get in since is Stainless and there won't be any oxygen getting in ?

Any tips would be great. I'd be sampling and measure the density tonight.

Wow, those were a lot of questions.

My very best!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

A Flanders Red is going to be really malty from Vienna/Munich and caramel malts like CaraMunich and Special B. So this recipe would be a great start!

In stainless steel (or glass, plastic) you shouldn't lose a noticeable amount to evaporation like you would in a barrel. So brew the amount you're going to pull. It also isn't as essential to keep it topped up.

I don't like any oxygen in my sour beers because I don't prefer the vinegar flavor it produces. If you do, the best plan is to age a small portion open to the air (in a glass jug with cheesecloth over the mouth). You can then use this malt viengar to blend into the main batch to taste. Let your tasting be your guide if that is necessary or not.

Best of luck!

EscapeArtist said...

Thank you Mike!

So far so food. It's not vinegary. I am going to pull 5 gallons soon. Not sure if I should bottle as it or add it some to a french saison.

On the Solera thing, I was thinking to add a bottle of red oaky wine to it to give it the oak notes and the color a Flanders has. Is there any issue with that approach ?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I love adding wine to beer! I'd be more inclined to blend in the wine to taste at bottling, rather than to the solera itself, but either way would work. Most of the color should come from crystal/caramel malts, but the wine won't hurt!

ZGS said...

Thanks for all your info, Mike! Love reading all your posts. Just started reading about a month ago and can't wait to brew this up. Catching up on 9 years of posting has been great.

You mentioned early in the post that you wanted to avoid using a clean yeast strain in primary to remedy your issue with the first batch not being sour enough. But then you pitched US-05 after there was little to no activity. Would you still recommend just trying to use the Roeselare blend without a clean yeast strain for a more sour profile, or just pitch the Roeselare with US-05?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Usually I pitch a combo of brewer's yeast, a blend, and bottle dregs from a few unpasteurized sour beers. That's a reliable way to ensure a quick start to fermentation, a full complement of microbes, and a little added biodiversity. Best of luck!

Unknown said...

Hi mike!
I been reading your posts AND your book looking for my first (Lets call it) red sour.
Between this recipe AND your wine barrel flemish red i find some idea for the malts.
Now, my first problem is the bacteria, so i Will try it with lallemand philly sour because nowadays, here in argentina, Is the most Easy to find. (Apart from the Price).
My idea Is to do primary AND then add some bottles dregs AND fruit.
Do you think that It Will be enough to improve the beer AND win some complexity?
My basement Is about 65 Farenheit on winter, so i plan to leave It there a few months.
Some idea come to your mind with something that could help me to do with the lack of a blend with good bacteria?

I wait for your answer AND thanks for all your help!!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think it is a fine idea, although I have never brewed something quite like it. Theoretically it should work, the Brett in the dregs should add complexity to the relatively clean base. The Philly Sour isn't too attenuative, and won't make an aggressive amount of lactic acid (compared to something like Sourvisea).

We're planning on brewing our first full-sized batch with Philly Sour next week (a sour IPA).

Best of luck, and please report back later this year with your results!