Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Flemish Red with Red Wine Yeast: Tasting Notes

Yet another advantage of being a homebrewer, no worries if a batch of sour beer necessitates a year (or two) more aging than expected! When I brewed this red-wine-yeast-fermented Flemish Red (in June, 2011) I made the mistake of pitching BM45, a “killer” red wine strain, alongside East Coast Yeast’s Flemish Ale blend. The brewer’s yeast in the blend is susceptible to the wine yeast’s toxin, and the resulting autolysis was the most likely source of a lingering yeasty-rubbery flavor. Luckily the Brett eventually cleaned up the flavor and saved the batch!

Flemish, Red Wine Yeast

Appearance – Remarkably good head formation and retention for an aged-out sour beer. Deep Burgundy when held to the light. It is darker than many traditional Flemish Reds, more in line with Oud Bruins if not for the crimson hue. Time cleared it beautifully, which helps it appear darker as well.

Smell – Red-berry fruitiness, and some darker notes more reminiscent of dried cherries and plums. Possesses a stronger vinous character than a standard Flemish Red, i.e., one not aged in a fresh red wine barrel. Ephemeral perfume from the elevated alcohol and age, especially during the first few minutes. Otherwise no negative signs of oxidation.

Taste – The cherries from the nose are back in the flavor, pleasantly jammy. Leathery, almond, sherry, and mild milk chocolate. The sourness permeates the flavor, but isn’t heavy handed; it is lactic throughout not showing any acetic "burn." The autolytic flavors this beer battled for a couple years are thankfully gone. There is some warming alcohol, but the microbes mostly conceal it as they often do.

Mouthfeel – Medium-thin body considering the 7.4% ABV and 1.012 FG, but the acidity helps to boost the mouthfeel. Moderate carbonation, which is about right for a strong/malty sour beer. Considerably more and it would become spritzy.

Drinkability & Notes – One of those beers that I might have drank too young... before I had a thousand bottles of homebrewed sour beer piled up in the basement. There are few feelings worse than having the last bottle of a batch be the best one and that could have been the case here. Next time I try a wine yeast primary fermentation, I’ll pitch a blend of souring microbes that doesn’t include Saccharomyces!


Andrei said...

"Next time I try a wine yeast primary fermentation, I’ll pitch a blend of souring microbes that doesn’t include Saccharomyces!" - alternately, you could use 71-B (Narbonne) which isn't a killer strain.

Andrei said...

Question: do you think you would have had the autolysis issue if you pitched the wine yeast first, let it finish the primary fermentation, then pitch the bugs (with the brewer's sacch) afterwards? my thinking is that the sacch might not become active in the alcoholic and low pH enviro, and thus never absorbed the wine yeast's killer toxins.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Good point, a non-killer wine strain would be a good alternative as well!

Andrei, I'm not sure if the brewer's yeast has to be active for the kill factor to work. Especially with how low-attenuating many wine yeasts are, it would be difficult to ensure there were no fermentable carbohydrates remaining anyway.

Unknown said...

It seems that brett aren't susceptible to killer wine yeast, is that so?
If it's true, then wine yeast+brett may become a sweet combo of mine.
I already love brett, and in a few days I'll try wine yeast.

Do you think wine yeast+brett will make a good combo like belgian yeast+brett in terms of cooperation (not killing each other and brett giving some funk in addition to fruity notes)?

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

That is correct, to my understanding Brett is always killer-neutral.

I do think Brett plus wine yeast could make a very good team. I've had some excellent saisons with fruity 71B, might go nicely with a classic Brett B!

Unknown said...

From Lalvin rc212 is another non killer strain, according to what lalvin says in their docs. I'll try to use it the primary for an ale followed by us05 to complete the attenuation. Hope it'll come out at least drinkable, cause it's quite experimental the whole thing; i'm also trying to use in the secondary an adjunct of concentrated grape juice (italian trad. called "sapa") as long as oak chips that have been soaked in wine...we'll see how it'll turns..

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Let me know how it goes! Sounds like a really fun combination of flavors.