Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Rum-Raspberry Sour Brown Tasting

I have a complicated relationship with fruited sour beers. When I’m buying I shy away from them because the fruit tends to conceal the interesting flavors from the fermentation and barrel. Some of them are so delicious though, that I can’t help myself. When I drank Jester King’s Atrial Rubicite earlier this year it was one of those “wow” beers for me, saturated with concentrated raspberries (from hundreds of pounds of fruit in each barrel), without being sticky sweet like New Glarus Raspberry Tart.

For my take on the concept, I soured a brown base for four months in a third-use five-gallon rum barrel. When it had extracted sufficient character from the toasted oak, I racked four gallons onto 14 lbs of frozen/defrosted raspberries (purchased for $50 at Trader Joe’s on the way home from proposing to Audrey… I’m romantic). Considering a gallon of beer weighs a little over 8 lbs, adding 3.5 lbs of raspberries to it is pretty significant.

Recently someone asked me where I get the ideas for my recipes. In this case, in addition to the Jester King beer, I’d read that a compound (ethyl formate) found in both rum and raspberries is what the center of the milky way smells like, talk about brewing a clone!

The last bag of raspberries from that day, forgotten about in the freezer since April.Intergalactic Raspberry Sour Brown

Appearance – Light pink/tan foam floating on a ruby-brown body. Mild haze when held to the light, but pretty clear. Not actually that much redder than some of my Flemish reds. The head dissipates fairly quickly.

Smell – No getting around that this beer is all about the fruit. The aroma is saturated with jammy raspberries. It is good, but a bit seedier than I intended, thanks to five months spent on the fruit (I would have preferred only three, but I was in San Diego at the time... the sacrifices I made!). As it warms the vanilla from the barrel peeks out, but otherwise there isn’t much else going on.

Taste – Tart, but not forcefully sour. The fruit carries through nicely, unlike many raspberry beers that impress in the nose and fall flat on the tongue. There is a hint of toastiness, I suspect from the oak. Fresh and lively. Not much Brett presence yet, shares many similarities with the rounded lactic acidity from our bourbon barrel (no coincidence considering it got dregs from the Sour Brown from it).

Mouthfeel – Medium-full for a sour beer (not chewy, but enough body to support the fruit and malt). The medium-low carbonation is all I need in a dark/sour beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Despite the intense fruit flavor, it is easy to drink. The added lactic acid from fermentation really helps the fruit to pop. It would be a perfect beer to pair with a rich dessert, loads of flavor and enough acidity to cut through without providing a double-dose of sweetness. Mine is not quite as vibrantly colored as Atrial Rubicite, but nearly the level of raspberry aroma and flavor. It’ll be interesting to see how the gallon I reserved without fruit tastes.


John said...

Have you ever had any of the offerings from Cascade Barrel House in Portland, OR? They have some amazing sours aged on cherries. Love the Bourbonic Plague.

D. W. McClain said...

Congratulations, by the way!!!!

John Taylor said...

Enjoyed the article Mike; the end result sounds great. If you bottle conditioned this beer, what sugar did you use? at what rate? and for how long? I am just getting into bottle conditioning sour beers and am learning from others who have more experience in this area. I typically bottle condition with dextrose. Thanks! Looking forward to your feedback.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I stopped by Raccoon Lodge while I was visiting Portland a few years ago. I've also talked to their head brewer for the book I'm writing.


If you take a look at the notes at the bottom of the recipe, all the details on timing/priming etc. are there. Really nothing you need to do differently than priming a standard beer. If you age the beer for more than a year, you might want to rehydrate and pitch a couple grams of dried wine yeast to speed things along.

Unknown said...

She said yes? Congrats!

Did you add new bugs in the barrel or just plan on the barrel's Brett to do the work? What contact time would you recommend with a 5 gallon barrel given the larger surface contact vs a full size barrel?

Gene said...

Dear Mike,

Please stop posting recipes that I'll want to brew. I ran out of carboys six months ago and my LHBS automatically pulls out the special yeast order form when I walk in the door.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Unknown said...

What size rum barrel did you use for this beer?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

It was a five gallon "Rumble" barrel from Balcones.