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.
52% Maris Otter
38% Superior Pils (Canadian)
7% Acidulated Malt
3% Pale Crystal
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
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, 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, 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
Acidulous Hop Trip