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.


Jul 11 2009

Stupid Sexy Flanders 7-4-09 Tasting

I’ve mentioned before that I love sour beers, but they take  a long time to ferment and age.   This means their feedback loop is long, and that it is difficult to tweak recipes and experiment with them in timely way.  Jeff gave me a good suggestion about tasting them every few months and taking notes. 

Despite the fact it is common for these styles to simply taste awful until one arbitrary day, many months later, when they turn into something magical, I think I will try to do that.  It may or may not be valuable data, but it is taking an action of sorts and that is a tiny bit of relief. 

This is a Flanders Red, and it started with an original gravity of 1.058 on May 23rd and it dropped to a 1.026 two days later with the help of a packet of Safale-05.  At that point, I racked it into a secondary PET carboy, pitched the Wyeast Roeselare blend, and added 1 ounce of medium toast French oak cubes that I had steamed and soaked in pinot noir for 2 weeks.

A mere month and a half later, the gravity is down to 1.012.  The PET container had small, floating bits of pellicle, but no noticeable other activity.  I pulled a  4 ounce sample off the carboy, measured the gravity and poured it into a tasting glass.

Stupid Sexy Flanders 7-4-09


The appearance was a light brown with gold and ruby highlights.  Very warm and inviting.  It appeared at bit thin, which is not unusual for a style that ferments down so low.  

It is very early in this young beer’s life, but there were hints of subtle barnyard notes in the aroma and taste.  (More so in the taste.)  I couldn’t not detect any sourness and they was plenty of malt flavor in there for the bugs to dig into for the next year. 

It was interesting for me to see how quickly the yeast and lambic cultures have torn into the beer.  It appears that it will take quite a while for the lactic bacteria to do its job and to sour and acidify.  I’m not known for my patience, but I will try to be.

I’ll taste this one again at the six month mark.