Sunday, January 29, 2012

Buckwheat Amber Sour Ale Tasting

The last picture my camera ever took, buckwheat sour ale.This post marks the first in a series of tasting of the beers I (with the help of a couple friends) spent a day bottling a couple months ago, four base beers and four blends. When I brewed this sour amber ale I was hoping it would answer a couple questions I had. First, I wanted to see how well the Jolly Pumpkin souring method would transfer to homebrewing - a relatively cool saccharification rest (149 F in this case), short aging (still less than a year old), and the wild Michigan microbes harvested from a few of their beers. Second, I wanted to see what sort of flavors a couple pounds of buckwheat would contribute, both the grain itself and any esters the Brett was able to produce from its fatty acids.

My three-year-old Cannon digital camera died (camera lens failure...) about 30 seconds after snapping the pictures for this tasting. As a result, this tasting series will be on hiatus for the next couple weeks until I have the chance to research and buy a new camera.

Buckwheat Sour Amber Ale

Appearance – Clear leathery brown body with a thick slightly off-white head suspended on top. The head recedes over a couple minutes leaving a nice sheet of lacing along the sides of the wine glass.

Smell – The nose is a mix of toasty, almost roasty, malt and Brett aromatics. The Brett leans more towards fruity than funky and gives that really distinct Jolly Pumpkin aroma to the beer. There is some tobacco and loam aromas as well, surprised at the range of aromas in such a young sour beer.

Taste – The sourness is slightly puckering, bright and lemony. The finish is crisp and clean, surprisingly subdued compared to the aroma. It has a surprising amount in common with several of the darker Jolly Pumpkin beers, especially Fuego del Otono. There is some toasty oak character as a secondary flavor. Could certainly use another six months in the bottle for the flavor to catchup with the aroma.

Mouthfeel – Smooth mouthfeel, although it seems like most of the boost from the buckwheat is gone. Not overly dry or tannic. Solid carbonation, but not too much for a dark beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Solid balance, one of those sour beers that I can really drink in quantity. In terms of what I set out to do, it is a successful demonstration of techniques from Jolly Pumpkin, but sadly I don't get much of the tropical character I was hoping for from the buckwheat.


JW said...

So would you use buckwheat again in a beer, and if so, how would you approach the recipe differently after this experiment?

Also, have you played around with malted buckwheat? You probably can't get it locally, but it can be mail orders.


The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I would us buckwheat again, but I wouldn't expect to get the ester interaction with Brett that I was hoping for. I suspect some of the toasty malt character is actually from the buckwheat. This is my first time playing with buckwheat period, but if the malted is anything like rye it should have a bit more character. Seems worth a try next time around.

eeee said...

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The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Thanks for the tip, I'll check it out.

Amos said...

I wonder if you could control the amount of caprylic acid in the wort via additional rests in the mash, as you do with ferulic acid when making wheat beers. No idea how though.