One of the people I chatted with was Barrett Tillman, who was just getting Blackman Yeast running. Apparently I made a good impression because a few weeks later a box of samples showed up: both his first-and-still-only dried souring cultures, and a couple of homebrews (not to mention a note on what appeared to be on a surplus thank-you card from his wedding). Barrett's cultures are just brewer's yeast and bacteria (Lactobacillus and/or Pediococcus), bring your own Brettanomyces. It is a unique and interesting approach because Brett can come from so many sources and provide such a range of flavors. As a power-user it is nice to have acid-production and funk as two separate dials (the same way I like my spice-rubs to be salt-free so I can add more without over-salting). To be as fair as possible, not wanting to judge his B4 Belgian Sour Mix on someone else's Brett, I added the bottle dregs from Barrett's delicious homebrewed Lambic for funk and to clean-up after the Pedio.
My friend Matt had been considering starting to homebrew, to entice him I invited him over to split a batch of pale sour beer. A few weeks earlier I'd been over to his house for a tasting and he'd selected a few choice bottles of De Garde, Cantillon, and Modern Times for dregs for the other half of the batch. I must have left the culture in the pressure-canned mason jar of wort with a loose lid for a few days too long before transferring to a bottle with an airlock, because by the time we gave it a smell it was pure malt vinegar. Since then I received a free sample of reCap mason-jar lids and water-less airlocks that are have hold up for two weeks without issue.
Luckily I'd also grabbed some dregs from more than a couple bottles of Hill Farmstead Anna that my friend Mike had stockpiled (including an especially good batch dubbed "magic" Anna). Hill Farmstead bottles their saisons with wine yeast, but the other microbes are likely doing most of the heavy lifting after long aging to this point.
When the two batches were ready Matt and I tasted them and made a few sample blends. It made sense, the BlackMan was more acidic, while the saison culture had better depth of funk and fruit flavors. However, when we blended them they each lost what was special. The combination didn't have the snappy acidity or the depth of funk-character. They were better left to stand on their own!
M&M var. Black Man (Left)
Smell – Lemon and pineapple, has gotten much more interesting since bottling. Even a little farmyard.
Appearance – Similar appearance, clear gold on the initial pour, a little haze on the top-up. White head with poor retention.
Taste – Firm lip-smacking lactic acidity. Slight grain-cereal-yeastiness in the finish. Horse blanket as it warms, distant smoky phenolic.
Mouthfeel – Crisp without being watery. The acid is a bit grippy. Medium-plus carbonation.
Drinkability & Notes – A more assertive beer in terms of acidity and aroma.
Changes for Next Time – Not much.
M&M var. Anna (Right)
Smell – Bright and restrained. Hay, old citrus. Slight honeyed malt oxidation.
Appearance – Similar, although with slightly better retention.
Taste – Soft lemon, lots of hay. Really mellow, like my favorite gueuzes. Lactic acid is tame in comparison, more tart-saison than American sour side-by-side, but it was quite acidic on the first sip. A little Orval in the finish.
Mouthfeel – Feels a little softer thanks to the lower acidity. Similar medium-plus carbonation.
Drinkability & Notes – This is about it for me when it comes to an unblended mixed-fermentation sour beer. A range of fruity and funk, some bright acidity,
Changes for Next Time – Not a wow beer that would show well at a tasting or festival, but the sort of beer I’d get a second pour of… if this wasn’t my second to last bottle.
Matt and Mike Sour
Batch Size: 12.50 gal
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 90 mins
77.1% - 18.50 lbs. Weyermann Pilsner
8.3% - 2.00 lbs. Weyermann Munich Malt
6.3% - 1.50 lbs. Rahr 2-row Brewer's Malt
4.2% - 1.00 lbs. Weyermann Carafoam
2.1% - 0.50 lbs. Weyermann Acidulated
2.1% - 0.50 lbs. Gold Medal AP Flour
0.63 oz. Crystal (Pellet, 3.25% AA) @ 60 min.
1: Black Man Belgian B4
2: Starter of Hill Farmstead Anna dregs
6 g Calcium Chloride
1.00 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient @ 15 Mins
1 Whirlfloc @ 5 Mins
Sacch Rest - 30 mins @ 158F
Brewed 8/2/15 with Matt and Chris.
Collected 15 gallons of 1.045 wort with 3 gallon cold sparge.
Bagged hops. Chilled to 85 F with ground water, then 75F with ice.
Pitched 1 L of HF Anna starter. The other half got Black Man Belgian B4, and dregs from a bottle of Barrett's 2013 Lambic. Left at 64 F to ferment.
Racked at some point.
1/2/16 BM is sharply acidic, a bit sulfury. HF is mellower, tart, fruity, sweet.
7/17/16 Bottled both. HF had a bit more than 5 gallons with 130 g of table sugar. BM had a bit less than 5 gallons with 125 g. Both got a splash of Right Proper's house Lacto/Sacch culture for carbonation.
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