Monday, September 19, 2016

Wyeast De Bom "Quick" "Sour"

There is no reason a sour beer requires 12-36 months to acidify. Brewers have devised a  wide variety of methods to cut souring down to days or weeks: sour mashing, kettle souring, splitting the wort, lactic acid reactor etc. The issue is that extending a mixed-fermentation produces not only acidity, but also a delicate array of acids, alcohols, esters, and phenols from the waves of microbial actors. That is what no one has yet developed a "quick" method to replicate, although some are good enough for loading in fruit or dry hops!

I wasn’t planning to brew with Wyeast’s De Bom Sour Blend when they released it for July-September 2014, but Rebel Brewer tossed in an extra pack with an order. My friend Pete joined me for a test batch of saison on my then new 10 gallon system, and that made for a good enough excuse to pitch the free smack pack. However, when you split wort it often requires compromise. In this case, the result was more IBUs than Wyeast suggested because the priority was the saison. Ironically the clean half with Lallemand Belle Saison had a weird plastic flavor, so Pete and I pitched Russian River Beatification dregs to sour it (still working).

This half wasn't terrific when I bottled it 18 months ago, so I gave it a chance to improve, but to minimal avail. I achieved good acidity from Wyeast's Oud Bruin Blend (a similar blend released at the same time without Brett) in a Blackberry Beach Plum Rye Porter with 6 IBUs; I have no doubt this one would have as well if I had reduced the hopping-rate from 24 IBUs. The sour porter was one of the recipes featured in my October BYO Advanced Brewing article: Sour Beer from Extract (subscribe)!

De Bom "Quick" "Sour"

Glass of Wyeast De Bom fermented saison.Smell – Overripe tropical fruit off-the-bat (pineapple). Brett is intensely funky and over-the-top, really damp basement. Mild toastiness from the malt. Slight ethanol drinking it at cellar temperature.

Appearance – Clear gilded yellow with a soapy white head. Pretty good looking I'd say. Head sticks around for a couple minutes, unremarkable.

Taste – The hopping turned out to be high enough to inhibit the Lactobacillus, no acidity. The lingering flavor is strongly barnyard, smokey-nutmeg phenols. Saison-like underneath, bone dry.

Mouthfeel – Somewhat mushy, missing the acidity it needs. Strong carbonation isn’t enough to give it crispness.

Drinkability & Notes – In addition to acidity, this beer is missing the balance and subtlety that I want in a well-aged sour beer…. Not that that is what this was designed to be.

Changes for Next Time – If Wyeast ever releases this blend again, 15 IBUs or less and drink it younger… as they suggested. At bottling the Brett character was mellower, an aggressive strain to produce a noticeable character in a few months.

Mega Pot Test Saison

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 10.50
OG: 1.053
FG: 1.002
ABV: 6.7%
SRM: 4.2
IBU: 24.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 59%
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

95.2% - 25.00 lbs. Great Western 2-Row Malt
4.8% -1.25 lbs. Great Western White Wheat Malt

0.73 oz. Summit (Pellet, 14.50% AA) @ 60 min.

1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.

Wyeast 3203-PC De Bom Sour Blend

Water Profile
Profile: Washington, DC

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 45 min @ 150F

Brewed with Pete 11/9/14

Initial mash pH with all mash water (15 gallons- no sparge) and 6 g CaCl was 5.9 added 2.5 oz of 10% phosphoric acid to lower to 5.6 measured at room temperature.

Topped off with 2 gallons of water in the kettle, lost more than I was expecting.

Chilled to 70F with the plate chiller. Pitched half with Belle Saison and half with Wyeast De Bom.

11/16/14 Put De Bom half on a radiator to raise temperature to hopefully assist the Lacto.

11/23/14 Racked the clean half to secondary in a glass carboy.

3/13/15 Bottled the De Bom half, about 4 gallons, with 88 g of table sugar. Clean half was a bit clovey-plastic-y, added Russian River Beatification dregs.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Right Proper-Inspired: Hoppy Sour Beer

One of the wonderful things about the skyrocketing count of American breweries, is that more can be specialists! Most areas no longer need another local brewery that focuses on pale ales or blondes for gateway drinkers. The key will be thinking like a restaurant, rather than a manufacturer. If we can support 600,000 restaurants, I see no reason we couldn’t support 1% as many breweries, but it’ll require finding niches, focusing on local (direct sales), and differentiation.

My long-time friend and co-conspirator Nathan Zeender (now the head brewer at Right Proper) has done a fantastic job of just this! They brew beers that few others brews (e.g., Ornette/Ornithology a sub-4% ABV saison, The Lubitsch Touch a smoked pale lager, and Baron Corvo a mixed-fermentation foeder biere de garde), and are having wonderful results! That isn't to suggest they are catering only to beer nerds; walk into the Shaw brewpub on a Friday or Saturday night and you won't see many people checking into Untappd. The response has been so good that they opened a production facility and tasting room in Brookland earlier this year. They’ve carried many of the same beers forward, meaning that they are available at bars and restaurants in DC and now Montgomery county, MD.

Nathan venerating Russian River, De Garde, and Alu on his foeder

The series of beers that seem to have received the most attention from beer nerds are their quick sours. Rather than sour mashing or kettle souring, Nathan and Chris have developed their own house souring culture. It evolved from BSI's Lacto, and I think there were some other cultures added over the last few years. The key they learned was to skip kettle hopping. They pitch the culture at 110F and allow it to cool naturally. Nothing else is pitched, so there is yeast in the culture, but it must be heat tolerant given the clean flavors of beers like Kick Kick Snare and Diamonds, Fur Coats, Champagne. While it is quick, the process doesn't require the amount of time and resources that heating and cooling a beer twice (before and after souring). Nathan also prefers the method as it avoids committing "genocide on millions and millions of healthy Lactobacillus." Listen to a visit with Nathan on Basic Brewing Radio.

Quinoa overcooked, ready for the mash!Nathan was kind enough to pull a sample of the culture into a sanitized growler for me so that Alex and I, in a rare non-funky-dark-saison collaboration, could run it at home. We added 5% quinoa to the mash for extra protein - inspired by a few beers I've tried from Scott Janish. The local co-op didn't have flaked, so I went with standard which requires pre-boiling to gelatinize its starch. Otherwise a quick brew day with such a warm pitching temperature.

After fermentation, I dry hopped with a couple ounces of 007: The Golden Hop (a new hop variety previously called Idaho 7). You’ll be seeing more new and experimental hop beers from me over the next few months thanks to a box of lesser known and unnamed varietals from Yakima Valley Hops. I finished off this beer with 24 hours on strips of grapefruit zest (removed with a vegetable peeler and then scraped with a spoon to remove the pith) the day before kegging. This was a somewhat twisted version of our collaborative Kodachrome Dream(ing), which has citrus zest and tropical hops (Citra and Galaxy) added at the end of the boil, and fermentation with their funkier farmhouse culture.

I recently submitted a feature article on hoppy sour beers to Brew Your Own (subscribe to support the blog). The last two issues this year will have a total of four articles from me including an update on Brettanomyces post-American Sour Beers, and Advanced Brewing articles about dehusked roasted malts and brewer's yeast fermentation in a low pH environment!

Strips of grapefruit peel, pith removed.With Pulp

Smell – Zesty grapefruit leads, but it has fallen off in the weeks since tapping. Behind that is the 007 hops: black tea and stone fruit (pretty much as advertised). Tangy yogurt Lactobacillus. No funk, no strong yeast character.

Appearance – Nice head retention for a 4% Lacto beer, leaving some lacing. Hazy peach body, likely thanks to all the wheat and quinoa.

Taste – Flavor is more herbal (almost a bit like Vermouth) than the nose, but the finish is pulpy grapefruit juice. Snappy acidity, easy bitterness, no sweetness. I could clearly smell the quinoa in the wort, but it is buried under all the intense aromatics at this point.

Mouthfeel – Airy without being thin. The is a beer that has a lot of bold flavors, and the base supports them. The finish is slightly seltzer. The quinoa helped I’m sure, but not a major shift in perception at 5%.

Drinkability & Notes – A bright, tangy, refreshing, citrusy beer. Really impressed with the Right Proper culture at home, it was quick, clean, and easy! You could likely get something similar by mixing Omega's Lacto Blend and HotHead Ale. The 007 did well with grapefruit, doesn’t seem like a hop that you want on its own out front, but adds herbal and complimentary fruity depth to what could have been a juice-bomb.

Changes for Next Time – Not much to change on this one, pretty close to what I was aiming for. I had considered adding some hibiscus, and I might next time with a more citrusy hop variety!

A glass of the finished hoppy/sour/citrus beer!

With Pulp

Boil Time: 60 min
End of Boil Vol: 6 gal
Final Bottling Vol: 5 gal
OG: 1.041
Efficiency: 82%
SRM: 2.6
IBUs: 0
FG: 1.008
ABV: 4.3%

42.9% - 3.4 lbs Briess Pilsen
42.9% - 3.4 lbs Great Western White Wheat Malt
9.5% - .75 lbs Quinoa
4.8% - .38 lbs Briess Carapils

Sacch Rest - 30 min @ 150F

2.00 oz 007: The Golden Hop (Pellets, 10.20 % AA) @ Dry Hop

3 Grapefruit Peels @ 1 day before kegging

Recipe above scaled from a 15 gallon batch to reflect this beer being tasted.

Brewed 7/17/16 with Alex

Boiled quinoa with 2 qrts of water for 25 minutes. Mixed into mash after the grain.

6 g of CaCl, filtered DC tap, .5 tbls of 88% lactic acid. Mash pH measured at 5.33.

Sparged with 1.5 gallons of cold filtered DC tap water. Collected 8 gallons at 1.041. Added .75 gallons of filtered tap water post-boil to dilute the gravity back to 1.041. No hops.

Chilled to 100F and pitched 1/3 cup of thick house Lacto culture from Right Proper. Left at 85F to ferment.

Same wort - Racked 3 gallons into 1 gallon jugs and pitched several kveik strains.

7/22/16 Moved to the basement to finish out, fermentation seems complete.

7/24/16 Added 2 oz of 007 pellets to primary.

8/2/16 Added the peels (vegetable peeler then pith scraped with a spoon) to the primary.

8/3/16 Kegged.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

BYO Boot Camp: Burlington and Santa Rosa!

Ever wanted to drink the beers I've posted about? Spend a day talking oak and disassembling a barrel with me? Learn to blend sours? Taste the difference between the same beer barrel-aged, aged on oak cubes, and infused with spirits?

You're in luck!

In a little less than two months, I’ll be flying to Burlington, VT for the Brew Your Own Boot Camps on November 4th and 5th (sign up)! The second round is already scheduled for Santa Rosa, CA February 24th and 25th (sign up). They really couldn’t have picked two better cities as far as I’m concerned (I’m excited to make it to Foam Brewers, Burlington Beer, HenHouse, and Russian River not to mention places like The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, Fieldwork, Rare Barrel, and Cellarmaker that are close enough with a rental car).

This is an entirely new and unique concept for homebrewing, and I'm honored to be a part of it! You pick a session for each day that runs from 10:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M with a break for lunch. I can’t speak for what Chris White, Sean Lawson, Gordon Strong, Sean Paxton, Vinnie Cilurzo, Ashton Lewis et al. have planned, but my sessions will have a little of me talking, but mostly hands-on activities that can’t be experienced through a blog, book, podcast, or presentation!

The official descriptions for mine are below, but I wrote them six months ago and they don’t fully capture what I’m planning now. My slides and handouts are due this week, so I’ve included a better idea of the stuff we’ll be doing... I just need to figure out how to get all of the beer and equipment there!


For Sour Beer Techniques (almost sold out in Burlington), you'll be participating in two blending sessions the first using three of my pale homebrewed sours and the second commercial sours with a variety of “other” ingredients. I'll guide you through selecting and refining a souring process suited to you. We’ll be capturing wild microbes, and you’ll get a sample of my house saison culture to take home!

Sour Beer Techniques
Learn hands-on traditional European as well as newer American methods to produce sour and funky homebrews from Michael Tonsmeire, Brew Your Own’s “Advanced Brewing” columnist who also literally wrote the book on the subject with American Sour Beers. Michael will demonstrate the unique skill set needed to create your own delicious sour beers including wort production (extract and all-grain), growing alternative microbes, blending, aging on fruit, and sanitation. Our focus will be on practical topics difficult to convey by words alone, no biology or chemistry degree required! You will leave with a clear understanding of the processes to reliably produce sour beers suited to your palate and desired time frame. So get ready to roll up your sleeves and dive into the world of funk and bugs!


For the Barrels and Wood-Aging session we’ll be evaluating and performing maintenance on barrels: installing “Vinnie” nails, removing and replacing the head, fixing leaks etc. I’ll be serving homebrews aged with different woods/barrels, and we’ll be tasting teas made from a variety of woods (then blending them into commercial beers).

Barrels and Wood-Aging
Learn how to choose, use, and maintain oak barrels – and barrel-alternatives - for homebrewing. Barrels are a significant investment in money, time and beer so understanding how to properly select and use them is essential. Learn hands-on from Brew Your Own’s “Advanced Brewing” columnist and American Sour Beers author Michael Tonsmeire. Michael will also cover options for barrel-alternatives and how best to use the broad variety of available products such as chips, staves, and spirals including both oak and non-oak alternatives. In this comprehensive boot camp, we will also cover special brewing and recipe considerations for making beers to complement the flavors of woods, spirits, and wines and take your wood-aged beers to a new level.


Even if you don't attend one of my session, please find me and say hello at the craft beer reception or if you see me at one of the breweries around town! I'm planning to get into town a couple days early for both to ensure I have time to drink in the scenery!