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

Tasting:
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.

 

Share

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

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. 

Share

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.

Share

Jun 17 2016

Darwin and the Art of Mixed Fermentations

Survival of Whatever Fit

 
In the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species, Charles Darwin introduced the phrase “survival of the fittest” intending it to mean “better designed for an immediate, local environment.”

As a brewer of mixed fermentation beers, you understand the importance of getting your favorite mix of yeasts and bacteria into your creations. You want diversity, but only the diverse group that you had hand selected to do the job. Once that beer is complete, you probably want to use that same culture of amazing funk and/or sour for future beers, as well. All you need to do is harvest those dregs, and off you go with your prized mix for the next project.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work exactly like that.

You can use a single yeast strain for multiple generations and, slight mutations aside, it will just get better with the first few ferments. But for mixed fermentations, you have often have saccharomyces and brettanomyces competing in some fashion for sugars, as well as lactobacillus and pediococcus bacterias doing the same. It is survival of the fittest until the bodies/cells hit the floor. Many of the players in your vessel are making contributions, but there’s only one or two MVPs being selected to represent after the game.

That concept was new to me and it was brought to my attention by Jeff Mello, of Bootleg Biology, weeks ago and he echoed it again in his presentation during this year’s National Homebrew Conference. (Yes, I continue to struggle with calling it Homebrew Con.)

When he streaks out cultures from finished beers, there are usually only a couple of winners from the yeast and bacteria genera. In addition, most “wild” mixed cultures end up being primarily yeast because of how and when they are harvested and a smaller percentage of cultures that ending up having viable bacteria if there is yeast present. (**What’s important to remember here is that this is my recollection of what he said. If what I’ve typed here is wrong, it is my error not his.**)

That isn’t to say that all of those yeasts and bacteria didn’t have a hand in the final beer, but it is a long shot that you will get the same results with those dregs in your next beer.

Does that mean commercial mixes of twenty brett strains in one vial is just a marketing gimmick? In my opinion, yes. But I have used those cultures with great success, so it is hard to dissuade you from using them, and that is certainly not my goal here. Having said that, if you know only one or two strains will shine through, it seems more logical, albeit maybe less economical, to choose those strains yourself rather than hope they emerge from the hunger games of pitching all the bretts.

What does this mean for my beers?
 
The implications of this, at least for me, was a reminder to continually push for diversity in my beers. At onset of a new batch or new barrel, I’ll still be carefully adding the commercial cultures and dregs that will create the complimentary effects I want imparted into the beer. That’s the same.
 
What might be the larger reminder is to keep pushing for diversity in subsequent generations of beers with that original culture and/or with your wonderfully funkified barrel. While brett might have crawled into your wood and your barrel is riddled with pediococcus, you still need to feed the diversity and to keep your beers from devolving into simplicity. Keep putting your favorite dregs into your beers for diversity’s sake, but also to ensure what you have what is best designed for that immediate, local environment.

TL;DR

The diversity of yeast and bacteria that you add to a beer is a continual endeavor. Your mixed fermentation beer is a living thing, and the cultures that made the beer what it is are not necessarily the ones left to harvest and repitch.

Sour Collab Barrels at a Local Brewery

Sour Collab Barrels at a Local Brewery

Share