Monday, December 11, 2017

Cherry Wine: Flanders Red Recipe

Spent dried sour cherries in Flemish red.When it comes to adding fruit to sour beer I've long advocated waiting, both on the blog (and in American Sour Beers). This serves two purposes. First, it delays the decision point, allowing the brewer to taste the unaugmented beer and decide the optimal treatment for each carboy or barrel (blend, fruit, dry hop, drain etc.). Second, it allows you to drink the packaged sour beer while the fruit aromatics are still fresh and vibrant. But is that approach sacrificing anything?

Talking to Scott about his "two season" peach sour, and hearing the approaches at a few breweries (e.g., Wicked Weed - Red Angel has 1 lb per gallon of raspberries in the barrels at three weeks and then 3 lbs more per gallon at the end) got me thinking. Early fruit allows for yeast-interactions before the pH falls far enough to inhibit those enzymes; theoretically it could produce a richer perhaps "jammy" fruit profile. Reserving a portion of the fruit could adds back those aromatics that would be oxidized or volatilized by the end of aging.

The base beer for my first attempt at the technique was a Flemish red. The recipe is not far from numerous beers I'd brewed before except for two notable tweaks. I used American Munich/Vienna instead of European. I used pre-aged "Lambic" hops from Yakima Valley in hopes of pushing some of the fruity depth they can provide.

Homegrown sour cherries.While I enjoy cherries in pale lambic-type beers, they can easily dominate the subtle malt profile. I've had good results with them in sour reds in the past, and wanted to try staggered additions. I opted for Scott Labs 58W3 wine yeast for primary fermentation. A previous Flemish red had done well with another wine strain, and I hoped that given this strain was selected to free aromatics (bound terpenes and glycosides) from wine grapes, it might benefit the cherries. For ease of timing and considering that all of the bright-fresh aromatics are already gone, I added dried sour cherries a month into souring. Russian River adds dried sour cherries to the Pinot Noir barrels for Supplication along with the Brett, so I was in good company. As I usually do, I rinsed the dried fruit briefly in StarSan to remove the oil that prevents them from sticking.

Sour and dark cherries waiting for beer.Souring was provided by dregs from De Garde Saison Facile. And I can say without question they did a much better job than the other half of the batch with Wyeast Roeselare (no tasting today as it has a strong sulfur character).

Once the dried cherries had given their all, I racked onto a 2:1 combination of homegrown sour cherries and farmer's market sweet/dark cherries. I have read and heard from several reliable sources (Wild Brews and Dave Pyle) that the sour cherries of Belgium are somewhere between sweet and sour cherries in America.

The attendees to my February Sour Beer BYO Boot Camp in San Diego will have a chance to taste this beer (and blend it with several of my other dark and cherry sours) as those in Indianapolis did in November! The early bird $100 discount only runs through 12/15.

Cherry Wine

Finished beer under our cherry tree.Smell – The homegrown sour cherries really shine. It smells like the defrosting bag of fruit. Light spice, almost cinnamon, something I’ve gotten in the past from dried sour cherries. Not much malt coming through.

Appearance – Clear garnet. The base beer without fruit is red, the cherries provide depth and push it more burgundy. Small light-tan head, good retention.

Taste – The fruit flavor is true and saturated... jammy. The various types of cherries adding depth without muddling the overall fruit impression. Firm lactic acidity, with added sharpness from the fruit. The malt doesn’t have the oomph I expect from that amount of Munich and Vienna. Not much Brett character, but it does have more funky-depth than a kettle sour. A touch of perceived sweetness lingering with the fruit and almondy pits.

Mouthfeel – The high FG provides some substance to the otherwise crisp profile. Solid carbonation, not too much.

Drinkability & Notes – A showcase for cherries without being only about the fruit. One of the best cherry sours I’ve brewed. Saturated with fruit, and good balanced acidity. I’ve been enjoying this and it has been going quickly as I've been nervous that the gravity finished higher than I expected.

Changes for Next Time –  Maltiness could be firmer, will likely switch back to Weyermann for the Vienna and Munich. I'd get my timing better and add the dried cherries to the carboy before I transfer the beer in.


Clear wort pumped into the kettle.Batch Size: 5.50 gal
SRM: 13.9
IBU: 13.3
OG: 1.062
FG: 1.018
ABV: 5.8%
Final pH: 3.27
Brewhouse Efficiency: 71%
Boil Time: 90 Mins

37.0% - 5 lbs Briess Borlander Munich Malt
33.3% - 4.5 lbs Briess Goldpils Vienna Malt
18.5% - 2.5 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewers malt
7.4% - 1 lbs Weyermann CaraRed
3.7% - .5 lbs Weyermann CaraAroma

Mash In - 45 min @ 158F

2.00 oz YVH Lambic (Pellets, 2.00% AA) @ 90.0 min

5.5 g Calcium Chloride
.5 Whirlfloc Tablet


1 lbs Dried Sour Cherries
3 lbs Sour Cherries
1.5 lbs Dark/Sweet Cherries

Scott Labs 58W3
De Garde Saison Facile Dregs

Recipe adjusted to reflect only half of the batch tasted here.

Brewed 2/19/17

Collected 7 gallons of 1.056 runnings from 8 gallon mash with 5.5 g of CaCl, and 1.5 gallon cold water sparge.

YVH lambic/aged hop pellets.Lambic hops from Yakima Valley Hops. Bagged. No idea on AA%, wort had almost no bitterness.

Chilled to 62F, shook to aerate, pitched 8 g of BM45 in one half, 5 g of 58W3 in the other. No other bugs, yet. Left at 70F to ferment.

3/5/17 Racked both to secondary.

BM45 - 1.026, pitched a pack of Roeselare

58W3 - 1.032, pitched De Garde Saison Facile dregs.

Left at ambient basement temperature, ~60F.

4/8/16 Added 1 lb of dried cherries to the 58W3 half. Rinsed in StarSan to remove any surface oil (more than sanitation).

7/21/17 Racked the 58W3 half onto ~3 lbs of sour cherries (half homegrown) and 1.5 lbs of sweet cherries. Frozen and defrosted, purged with CO2. Left the dried cherries behind.

10/1/17 Bottled both halves with rehydrated Pasteur Champagne. 4.75 gallons of each, 97 g of table sugar, aiming for 2.3 volumes of CO2. The non-cherry half had a slight sulfur aroma and foamed oddly during bottling.

Cherry 3.27 pH and FG of 1.018 (higher than I expected although it did drop considerably from when it was transferred).

11/27/18 Tasting notes for the half without cherries, fermented with BM45 and Wyeast Roeselare.

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  1. Hello Michael,

    I was wondering what pitch calculator do you recommend to help determine a pitch rate? Thanks!

  2. Hi Michael. Love the blog. Been reading since '09!

    You noted that there was not much Brett character in this half of the batch. Would you chalk it up to the bugs used? On the other hand, if one wanted to push the Brett character more forward, would you pitch the bugs earlier? Co-pitch or possibly staggered in after high kreusen, for example?

  3. Mario, I don't have a specific calculator that I rely on. YeastCalc and Mr Malty are both good. Especially for sour beer I don't find high-level precision pitching rate to be that important. The most important thing is pitching a reasonable amount of healthy cells.

    The Brett intensity comes from a combination of factors. It may continue to increase considering the beer is still less than a year old (and about two months in the bottle). It could also be the specific microbes from the bottle dregs. The strong cherry aroma may also be obscuring the yeast character. I don't find that co-fermenting in primary necessarily increases Brett expression. For a sour fruit beer I don't like a strong Brett character anyway, but it is nice to have some funk playing with the fruit.

  4. Hey Mike, hope your all good.
    Just a quick questions on the dried fruits. Howe do the dried fruits react to the beer when ageing on it? I assume they rehydrate to some extent?

    I'm working on a really intersting recipe with a fast souring version of a flander (Sour red so to speak, which would be fruited and dryhopped with a more unique variety of hops, ratherthan the big citrusy, fruity american and Nz varieties. I'm wondering if dried fruit might help me to get some extra depth of fruit flavour from the tart one dimensional flavour i have gotten previously with sour cherries.
    I just dont want to lose too much volume with the 1lb of dried cherries going in, as the dryhop take a fair amount of volume, plus the volume lost with normal fruiting aswell (its a minor question, as the outcome is good beer rather than lots of average beer, but its something worth thinking about.

  5. Hi Mike, what does the Munich and Vienna malts give you that 2-row pale malt doesn't?

  6. Dried fruit takes time to really start integrating into the beer. Consider rehydrating it in hot water. That would prevent it from sucking up too much beer as well. Even rehydrate in red wine if you wanted to add that flavor as well. I did that years ago with good results. You could go further and puree the rehydrated fruit to make the sugars even more available.

    Munich and Vienna provide additional malty flavors. American 2-row is pretty bland. Vienna gives a toasty flavor, somewhat in line with an English pale, but not quite as biscuity. Munich has a deep bready flavor. In general they are the sorts of maltiness you'll taste in German lagers like Oktoberfest, Bock, and Dunkel. They are a traditional part of Flemish Red and Brown. Try chewing on a few kernels to see how they taste to your palate!

  7. Interesting to see you use the wine yeast. Have you ever used any enzymes when making beer with wine yeast. You can add some in the fermenter that will convert the maltotriose to more fermentable sugars that the wine yeast can eat. I have some ag300 I have used in clean beers but using it with some wine yeast in primary is in the cards soon hopefully.

  8. I haven't. Enzymes are a good option if you want 100% wine yeast fermentation, I've always gone with a blend of wine yeast and brewer's yeast and/or Brett. Let me know how it goes if you try it! I've tasted a few beers brewed that way with positive results.

  9. Did you sample the dried fruit half before the addition of the fresh cherries?

  10. I'm sure I did, but clearly didn't take any notes. Russian River uses only dried cherries for Supplication, so they certainly can do well even on their own.

  11. Mike,

    I was hoping to brew a Flemish Red this weekend. I'm trying to decide between doing primary fermentation with either a California Ale yeast or Lager yeast and then racking the beer into a second use bourbon barrel with Roeselare to sour/age or going directly into the barrel with the Roeselare for primary and just letting it sit. I'm not in a rush and I know that the Roeselare takes a long time to work so the second method could take a year or more to get to the right spot. Are both viable methods (if I had two barrels I would consider doing a side by side test but alas I don't - nor would the wife be on board).

    Would you advocate using one method over the other?

    As a side note I noticed you pitched your Roeselare blend at 1.026 if I racked at that point is that what you recommend to give the sacc. a head start?

    Thank you very much


  12. I think the easiest option is to pitch the Sacch of your choice with Roeselare in primary, then rack to the barrel when the initial fermentation calms down. That avoids the mess of fermenting in a barrel, and gives the bugs a good head-start.

    I find Roeselare to be pretty bland. That might work well with the character from the barrel, but dregs from a few of your favorite unpasteurized sour beers can't hurt!

  13. Hey Mike - Did the BM45 / Roeselare batch ever come around or in other words: what happened to that half?

  14. It's totally OK, just not a really interesting or particularly delicious beer. Down to my last bottle or two of the cherry version... maybe a case-and-a-half of the one without. I should open one and do a write-up soon.

  15. Hi Mike, the 1lb dry and 4.5lb fresh cherries, what volume of beer are those meant for, the full 5.5gal batch or just half?

  16. The half-batch was 5.5 gallons (the full batch was 11 gallons). The recipe is adjusted so it could be brewed as is, 5.5 gallons of wort with the listed fruit!

    Just started our second version of this recipe at Sapwood. The first was released last fall as Opulence (aged in a blend of Pinot Noir and Bourbon barrels).