Everyone knows that malt extract is what gives beers that gross “homebrew” flavor. The reason is that the malt flavors become too concentrated and ummm… as a result becomes oxidized by the Maillard reactions during storage? Seriously though, most of the off-flavors many homebrewers remember from their early batches were a result of issues with the concentrated boil, sanitation, or fermentation. With a full boil and the benefits of an experienced brewer’s fermentation process, extract batches can be every bit as good as all-grain! However, what you gain in ease of brewing, you give up in control. As a result, malt extract is best used for beers in the middle of the fermentability spectrum, golden or darker, and not driven by a characterful base malt.
While I’ve brewed a few delicious clean beers with extract over the years (like a hefeweizen and Belgian single), I’d never brewed a sour beer based on malt extract (although I have augmented with it). I decided to use it to evaluate the pack of Wyeast Oud Bruin Blend I had in the fridge. The blend, released as a summer 2014 VSS, combines brewer’s yeast and Lactobacillus. It is intended to turn out a drinkable sour beer in about two months, without attenuation as high as their similar De Bom Blend.
This recipe was inspired by the cherry variant of our sour bourbon-barrel porter that our barrel group brewed in 2010. I steeped the specialty malts in 165F water to extract their flavor. Unlike all-grain mashes where the enzymes from the base malt convert the dextrins in specialty malts (including caramel/crystal) into fermentable sugars, extract based beers retain these unfermentables into the fermentor. Hopefully those long-chain sugars provide some sweetness and body to balance the mild roast from the chocolate rye and ~300L roasted barley. For extracts I opted for rye LME and wheat DME. The extra proteins in each should help fortify the body.
Instead of sour cherries I selected 3.75 lbs of frozen blackberries. Blackberries don’t impart as distinct a flavor profile as cherries or raspberries. They are more generically fruity/winey, meaning they integrate without dominating. I had great luck with them in my first batch of Flemish red. I also tossed in a pound of beach plums harvested from my parents’ backyard (just a few yards from the mead pit). Instead of bourbon, I added oak cubes soaked in calvados along with one ounce of the remaining oak-infused liquor. It should be a unique flavor combination if nothing else!
I’ve got ingredients for an extract lambic I'm planning to brew soon as well! Closer to my standard fermentation process, and leaving the extract flavor a bit more exposed.
Sour Stout on Blackberries
Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.55
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 30.8
Anticipated IBU: 5.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 50 %
Wort Boil Time: 40 Minutes
38.6% - 3.30 lbs. Briess CBW Rye LME
35.1% - 3.00 lbs. Munton's Wheat DME
8.8% - 0.75 lbs. Weyermann CaraMunich II
5.8% - 0.50 lbs. Weyermann Chocolate Rye
5.8% - 0.50 lbs. Briess Roasted Barley (300 L)
5.8% - 0.50 lbs. Briess Extra Special
0.50 oz. Czech Saaz (Pellet, 3.50% AA) @ 35 min.
0.50 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
0.50 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
WYeast 3209-PC Oud Bruin Blend
Profile: Washington, DC
Steep - 165 F for 30 min.
Stepped crushed specialty malts in 3 gallons of water starting at 165F for 30 minutes. Topped off with more filtered tap water with 2 g of CaCl.
Chilled to 73F. Shook briefly to aerate, pitched the yeast blend directly from the package.
11/10/14 Transferred five gallons of tart stout onto 3.75 lbs of frozen Whole Foods organic blackberries, and calvados soaked oak (6 cubes plus 1 oz of the steeping liquid)!
11/14/14 Added 1 lb of frozen beach plums harvested on Cape Cod in September.
12/16/14 Moved to basement. Around 50F, likely cold enough to preserve some sweetness.
1/29/15 Kegged, force carbonated. FG 1.012 (78% AA, 5.7% ABV). pH 3.67.
3/5/15 Tasting notes. Not as dark or stout-flavored as I expected (too light on the dark malts, and steeping less efficient than I expected). Otherwise nice lactic acidity and good fruit flavor. Enough sweetness to balance the malt and blackberries.