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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  1. I did a 10 gallon split batch of saison a couple months ago. I pitched White Labs WLP568 Belgian Style Saison in one and Lallemand Belle Saison in the other. The WLP568 beer had beautiful clean esters and phenols that were distinctly saison like where the Belle Saison was more muddled and subdued with a slight band-aid taste. Both were fermented very warm in the mid 80s. I decided to naturally carbonate the Belle Saison in the keg with Brett Brux. It's been a couple months now and the beer has improved markedly from the day I kegged it. Nice and funky, hay and a slight musty aroma. There's also a nice lemon candy flavor that comes through. None of the aromas or flavors are overpowering just enough to say hey, I'm here but I think it turned out very nice. Not much point to telling you about this other than my experience with Belle Saison was similar to yours and I don't think I'll be using for my saisons in the future.

  2. I admire your patience to wait 18 months for souring to occur.

  3. Ha, waiting is easier when you have a bunch of weird beers going at once! Good beers tend to go quickly, the less successful batches don't get pulled out for friends or events.

  4. Mike, I am curious to see if you oxygenated the de bom while it was still aging? I used this strain 2 years ago and followed the recommended temperature and oxygen listed by Wyeast. It turned out great (a bit longer than they said it would)and now on it's 4th repitch, it is my house blend and sours amazingly fast with no added temperature or oxygen.

  5. I didn't add any oxygen (as they suggested). I'm fairly sensitivity to acetic and ethyl acetate, and didn't want to risk boosting those aromatics. Glad to hear it has done well on reuse! What is the Brett profile like?