Aug 16 2016

Acidulous Hop Trip – Tart IPA with Devils Backbone

Months ago, I had mentioned my plan to homebrew a tart IPA to Jason Oliver, the brewmaster at Devils Backbone Brewing. I had heard about a few commercial breweries making this kind of beer and the challenge of making hoppy and sour work together was really interesting to me. To Jason’s credit, he was interested/foolhardy enough to suggest that I come out to his pilot brewery and make it there.

The game plan I had for the homebrew version was to sour an unhopped wort in a carboy for a few days to lactobacillus, and then to boil the wort for a few minutes to pasteurize the lacto. Then crash down the beer to do big, citrus hopstands and dry hopping in order to keep the bitterness very low to ensure that it doesn’t clash the sourness. There would need to be adjustments for the DBB system, but the process would essentially be the same.

My standard malt bill for IPAs is a mix of Maris Otter and American 2-Row with some wheat or oats thrown in for proteins and intangibles. For the most part, we stuck to the base malts with some acidulated malt to create a good pH environment for the kettle souring.

Malt Bill:

52% Maris Otter
38% Superior Pils (Canadian)
7% Acidulated Malt
3% Pale Crystal

Mashing In

The Mash

The batch would be 8.5 bbls and the goal original gravity was 15 Plato (1.060), which we hit. We mashed at 154F for 30 minutes, then raised the mash to 162F for 30 minutes, and then mashing out at 167F. We then brought the unhopped beer up to a 5 minute boil before crashing it down to 105F and pushing CO2 into the wort before the lacto pitch.

One of the biggest question marks for me was the size of the lacto starter for the beer. On the homebrew level, a 1000 or 2000ml starter is enough to sour 6 gallons of wort. But the right pitch for ~260 gallons was not a guess I was ready to make without doing my homework. Since I was using the Omega Yeast Labs Lactobacillus Blend (OYL-605), I made a quick call to them and they assured me that I could take my existing 2000ml starter and ramp it up to 3 gallons the day before and that would be sufficient.

3 Gallon Lacto Starter

3 Gallon Lacto Starter

When it came time to pitch the lacto starter, I let Jason do the honor. I feel pretty good about my ability to handle glass carboys, but if someone is going to invert a carboy into hot wort, I’m going to give that responsibility to the person who runs the brewery 99 out of 100 times.

Pitching Lacto

Pitching Lacto, Better Him Than Me

The wort was held at 105F for 2.5 days and the final pH was 3.3. It was then brought up to a 45 minute boil, and 3.5# of Citra, 3.5# of Comet and 1.75# Hallertau Blanc pellets were added to the whirlpool. The use of Comet was suggested by Jason and it seemed like a cool audible for the batch. Comet hops are not a new, but it sounds like one that had gone out of fashion in the 80s in favor of high alpha hops. It seems to be making a comeback now, and it is described as having a “wild American” aroma. (No, I still don’t know exactly what that means, but I think I might have to brew a clean, hoppy beer in the future featuring Comet to better understand it.)


Kettle and Hose

Kettle and, of course, the Hose

We fermented it with Chico yeast which dropped the beer down to a 1.013 final gravity, and a 6.4% ABV. It was finally dry-hopped with Citra, Comet and Nelson Sauvin for a few days before carbonating and packaging.



On The Menu

On The Menu



Acidulous Hop Trip

Acidulous Hop Trip

I’m really, really pleased with the final beer. There’s a profound sourness to it, but there’s no real bitterness for it to clash with, and the mix of hops kept it juicy and full of life. The hops were bright and citrusy with aromas and flavors of orange and lime peels. I feel like the Nelson Sauvin enhanced the perceived dryness of the beer, as well. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a few local breweries over the years, and this beer is the most like my wild, experimental side. The most like what I do at home. For that reason alone, it is a success.


This might seem counter intuitive to some brewers, but I really don’t have a ton of experience with kettle souring beers. I’ve been brewing sours for about 8 years at this point and the majority of my sourings have come from co-pitching lacto with the yeast, or using pedio for long term souring. So the only thing that I’d change if I could would be to get a more complex sourness like I’m used to in my pedio beers, but that takes a very long time and, honestly, the current sourness makes it perfect for the heat that Virginia is currently experiencing.


Unfortunately, you might need to be in Virginia to try this one, but check out Acidulous Hop Trip if you see it around. It is currently on draft at the DBB Basecamp taproom and will be part of the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest this weekend (8/20/2016).


The Top Secret Batch:
For a twist on this one, I left the 3 gallon carboy I had used for the lacto starter and asked the guys to fill it with wort before the pitching the yeast. I brought that home and pitched the Yeast Bay Amalgamation Super Brett Blend upon it. I’ve dry hopped that batch, although I could not obtain Comet, and I plan to package that tonight. I’m interested to compare the two beers soon.


Thank you to Jason, Aaron and Erik for turning this crazy idea into a beer and playing loose with your brewing system for a few days. You guys rock.


Aug 11 2016

Upcoming Collaborative Beer Releases with Some Local Breweries

I have a couple of beers that I’ve worked on with local breweries that are getting released in the coming weeks, and I wanted to give everyone a little heads-up. (My apologies in advance if this only applies to beer lovers around Virginia in neighboring states.)

Virginia Craft Brewers Fest 2016

Virginia Craft Brewers Fest – Acidulous Hop Trip with Devils Backbone Brewing (8/20/16)

The 5th Annual Virginia Craft Brewers Fest will happen on Saturday, August 20th, at the Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub. At last count, 85 Virginia breweries will be pouring their beers, and there will 3 bands and 9 food trucks to help you pace your day.

During the Fest, the Tart IPA that I made with Brewmaster Jason Oliver from Devils Backbone will debut under the Hoopla tent and at the outdoor bar. This beer is called Acidulous Hop Trip, and it brings together the disparate aspects of a hoppy IPAs and a sour ales. We kettle soured the unhopped beer with the Omega Yeast Lactobacillus Blend(OYL-605) and let that drop to a 3.3 pH over several days. The beer was then brought up to a short boil to kill the lacto, and then it was heavily whirlpool hopped with Citra, Comet and Hallertau Blanc. After fermenting with Chico, it got a heavy dry hop dose of Citra, Comet and Nelson Sauvin hops. The result is a tart, juice bomb that I’m looking forward to trying next weekend.

As an added experiment, I brought home 3 gallons of the unfermented wort and pitched some Yeast Bay Amalgamation Brett Super Blend on that for comparison.

I will do a full write-up for this blog once I’ve sampled the DBB version and my own brett version. I am working to get the Acidulous Hop Trip at a few local watering holes, as well, like Beer Run, and Kardinal Hall.


Hoopla Music and Beer Festival – Oud Bruin with Three Notch’d Brewing (10/1/16)

On the weekend of September 29th to October 2nd, the Hoopla Festival will happen at Devils Backbone Basecamp Brewpub. It is big event where you can camp, see great bands like the Old 97s and the Revivalists, and there’s lots of activities for the kids, too.

On that Saturday, October 1st, there will be a Rare Beer Festival from 12-3pm, and the Oud Bruin/Flanders Brown that I helped Three Notch’d Brewing with will be there to be enjoyed. This one hasn’t been formally named yet, but act surprised if somehow incorporates a bear, or a bear constellation, into its name. This beer has been aged for over a year in a wine barrel and then mixed fermented with a Scottish ale yeast, the ECY Dirty Dozen Brett strains and Yeast Bay’s Mélange.

What I’ve tasted, flat and straight from the barrel, was very malty, silky smooth and with a subdued sourness that defines the style. I happily took a backseat to 3N’s Levi in the creation of this one, and I was happy to help give a little advice and curate the bugs that went into this sour. I’m excited to taste the beer once it is carbonated and ready to share. More details are to come with this beer, as well, and I’m sure it will appear at the Three Notch’d Taproom in Charlottesville, too. 

Jul 28 2016

Kickstarter Breweries: Where Are They Now?

Kickstarter Inspection

It seems like the peak for breweries utilizing Kickstarter was back between 2011 and 2012. Social media was full of homebrewers wanting to live the the dream, and you could support their fantasies for a mere $25 to $50 and, in exchange, you’d get some swag and vicarious bragging rights. Mostly the latter. 

I don’t think any of us really expected these breweries to necessarily thrive. It is hard enough to be a successful brewery for many reasons, and many of those reasons have nothing to do with beer. Owning a small business is a tricky game of spinning plates, and it takes a skill set that doesn’t overlap with the ones required for actually making beer. But the naive hope was that if a few people, with a small amount of disposable income each, could get these breweries over the hump of initial investment, then darwinism would sort the rest out.

Spurred by seeing an article today where someone I backed made an ass of himself, and I’ll get to that later, I decided to revisit beer-related Kickstarters that I backed.

Mystery Brewing

Mystery Brewing Company (Funded July 23rd, 2010)
Mystery Brewing continues to thrive in Hillsbourgh, NC under the leadership of Erik Myers. I had “virtually” met him through a round of the old Iron Brewer competitions, and he seemed like a serious and driven guy. This was, by my reckoning, a good Kickstarter, although I’m not sure it was needed for Mystery because he was going to succeed regardless.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes.

Pipeworks Brewing Company

Pipeworks Brewing Company (Funded January 1st, 2011)
Pipeworks Brewing is alive in Chicago, IL. and looks to be cranking out a lot of different styles of beer. I had a friend in Chicago pick up some of the initial beers offered to me through the pledge. He enjoyed those beers and gave his seal of approval for this brewery. Props to Pipeworks for making it in a city that has no shortage of quality beers at its disposal.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes

Wilderness Brewing

Wilderness Brewing (Funded August 4th, 2011)
Wilderness Brewing is the poster child (perhaps milk carton child) for floundering once getting funded through Kickstarter. Mike and Nate have left a lot of angry people in Kansas City with their lack of communication as much as their failure to thrive or produce anything at all. After raising $41,000 dollars for their brewery, they disappeared. These guys had the heart to start a brewery, but obviously none of the other skills. This one hurts because I even interviewed the Wilderness Brewing guys to support their campaign, because I liked their story. If I led anyone to pledge to this train wreck, I apologize. I know the shame of all this must be strong and demotivating to them, but they’ve never done the right thing in apologizing with a finality that would bring about closure for pledgers.
Worthy Pledge?: No.

Short Snout Brewing

Short Snout Brewing (Funded November 17th, 2011)
Short Snout appears to have had some fits and starts. In this interview/article I uncovered about Short Snout, it appears that things didn’t go to plan, so Brian took some time off to refocus and take another swing at opening a brewery. From the silence since that, I assume things fizzled out again. Brian is another acquaintance from Iron Brewer, and it was a no-brainer for me to throw him a few bucks. It doesn’t look that things worked out, but it appears that he gave it a good try. Hopefully he’s still chugging away at it, or at least has come to a place of peace for having tried.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes.

Brenner Brewing

Brenner Brewing Company (Funded June 12th, 2012)
Brenner Brewing is in Milwaukie, WI, and still making beers. I even stopped by their table at GABF and said hello to Mike Brenner to congratulate him. This one is a success, but yesterday’s article about beer shaming gave me some pause. In it he says:

“Mike Brenner, the owner of Brenner Brewing Co., 706 S. 5th St., is an intentional beer shamer without any shame in being one.

“The people who come to a brewery and order a Bud or Miller are just trying to be a**holes,” says Brenner. “I always try to be nice and offer them our German pilsner, but if they push me, I’ll say, ‘Wait! I DO have a Miller Lite.’ Then I’ll grab a glass and start to unzip my pants like I’m gonna p*ss in it.”

Brenner believes buying a local beer is a choice that impacts more than a person’s taste buds.

“If you drink Miller, Pabst or even Goose Island for that matter, you’re pretty much just an ignorant piece of sh*t who doesn’t care about your own community,” he says.”

To give him the benefit of the doubt, I can hope that this is a planted article by big beer, or perhaps he’s playing loose and trying to drum up some indie cred and get some free press. But, in hindsight, this isn’t the kind of brewer and maturity that I would have liked to support.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes, from a successful business perspective, but increasingly less so from an idealogical perspective.

Burlington Beer Company

Burlington Beer Company (Funded November 30th, 2013)

This Kickstarter was specifically earmarked for barrels and kegs for Joe’s new brewery, Burlington Beer Company. Joe is someone I knew through Iron Brewer, but also Twitter. Backing Joe wasn’t a difficult decision because I knew he would be successful because he had already been successful. He had been cranking out experimental homebrew batches while brewing professionally for both Dogfish Head and Evolution Craft Brewing Company. I still haven’t made it to Vermont to visit, but I will someday. 
Worthy Pledge?: Yes.


Is there a common thread here? The Iron Brewer Competition cost me a lot of money. (Kidding.)

These were the halcyon days of beer start-ups, and everyone’s naiveté for living the dream as a brewer was only matched by our ignorance of how terrible a model a nano-brewery is to the long term success of a business. I have little regrets overall, but there is a reason why small businesses go through the process of creating a business plan and are subject to review by investors and banks. The ease in throwing $25 towards a Kickstarter is part of the allure, but it doesn’t require the vetting process that larger investments should have and you should adjust your expectations accordingly. 

I always thought about these pledges as entertainment. If you play the lottery, I hope you are playing it for the thrill. Because winning the mega bucks is a longshot and, with the many points of failure over time, supporting a successful brewery might be even worse odds.

Jul 20 2016

The Bourbon County Stout Recall and the Slow Havoc of Lactobacillus Acetotolerans

goose island bourbon county recalls

The recall of more of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout this week has me fascinated on this ongoing story that began with the recall of the coffee stout and barleywine, but now has spread to the Bourbon County Stout Original and Proprietor’s. To be clear, I have little concern or interest in conspiracy theories about why this happened, or to kick a brewery when it is down. Especially when they are doing the right, and very expensive, thing of doing a recall.

What is really interesting to me is the bacteria that is causing this souring. These beers are high in ABV and IBUs, which is a pretty hostile environment for lacto to grow and thrive in. This bacteria was identified by a lab as lactobacillus acetotolerans, which is a new one to me, and it was originally discovered in rice wine vinegar and it has a very high tolerance for acetic acid.

It appears that they are still trying to figure out how the batches got infected, but one theory is out there that it happened in a transfer or a bright tank rather than from the barrels, although that appears unlikely. That will be an ongoing investigation for GI which is complicated by the many steps that occur once these beers leave the barrels and then go from tank to truck and then back into a tank and through a bottling line. There are many points of failure there, and they must be difficult to manage and monitor.

What is interesting is that when plating these beers and looking for contaminants, most of the things that a lab is testing for will grow in 5 days. The lacto acetotolerans appears to be an outlier in that it grows very slowly and may not show itself until after 7 days or more. This slowness is atypical and makes it an unusual bacteria for a brewery to discover through standard procedures.

The overly easy answer to this is that you flash pasteurize the beer in the future to insure that stability, and that is probably something that GI is contemplating. This is certainly a bit of a mess, but it is rare situation and contaminant, and they are doing all the responsible things they can to make this right with the beer that has already left their docks.

The question that a sour beer geek like myself is asking is “what can we do with this new lacto?” Pedio takes a long time to develop in a beer, but we are patient with it because it gives us much more sour complexity than we find with lactobacillus. I wonder if the final affect that lacto acetotolerans has on a beer is desirable and worth that time it takes to become apparent, as well.

Ed and I had joked on Twitter about finding a recalled bottle and ramping up some of that lacto, and I think he has found trader for a bottle of this glacial moving destroyer of beers. I look forward to seeing if this is a cool, new souring agent for our quivers, or just a nightmare for the GI guys.