Category Archives: Fermentation

Flanders Red Update

Back in September, I brewed my first sour beer, that is a beer with an intentional bacterial infection. That beer was a Flanders Red style beer, and after just a couple months of aging, it smelled amazing. I’ve still yet to pull a sample out, but I’m pretty excited.
flanders-red-6moI told myself initially that I just had to wait until New Year’s to keg it, then it became the end of January. Now, here it is, nearly April, and it’s still in the primary fermenter. Interestingly, in just the past month or two, it’s taken a significant turn visually. Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River has said that you shouldn’t look at a sour beer while it’s fermenting, but isn’t that curiosity part of what brought homebrewers to the hobby in the first place?

At any rate, the photo’s not awesome because there’s a lot of condensation on the inside of the carboy, but that white discoloration isn’t yeast krausen, that’s pellicle of some sort.

I’ve now told myself that as soon as the Old Ale keg is empty, I can keg this. We might yet see summer before it’s kegged. I’ll post an update about the tasting of this batch whenever that happens.


Brewday recap: Dark Lambic #2 (pLambic) with Turbid Mash

DSCN2243This post is long overdue, but needed to be written. The weekend immediately following Lambic #1, I prepped a second wort for a sour pitch. I had an ECY20 pitch sitting in the fridge that needed to be put to work.

I made a starter several days before, as the yeast had been refrigerated for 2 months. The starter took off right away, and had a much funkier (barnyard) smell than the ECY01 did. This would prove to carry over to the primary fermentation as well.
DSCN2248After some serious waffling and consulting, I decided to brew a darker wort than the first lambic, and also to give it a little more food. I still followed the turbid mash technique, and used a good bit of unmalted wheat. What I’m hoping for is a wort profile similar to an Oud Bruin, but with a much more complex flavor profile due to the microorganism cocktail from Easy Coast Yeast.
DSCN2246I filled my brew kettle to the rim as with the previous batch, and there was so much wort that I actually needed to boil it down some before I could add all the second runnings. Partly why I got such a high efficiency, but also makes for a really long boil (and uses a lot of propane).

Recipe: 2012 Dark Lambic

Recipe Overview

Wort Volume Before Boil: 9.00 US gals
Volume At Pitching: 5.50 US gals
Final Batch Volume: 5.02 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.045 SG
Expected OG: 1.074 SG
Expected FG: 1.021 SG
Expected ABV: 7.1 %
Expected ABW: 5.5 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 24.4
Expected Color: 14.4 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 90.0 %
Boil Duration: 180.0 mins
Fermentation Temperature: 68 degF

UK Pale Ale Malt 7lb 0oz (56.6 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Unmalted Soft White Wheat 3lb 0oz (24.2 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Munich Malt 1lb 0oz (8.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Light Crystal 8.00 oz (4.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
UK Dark Crystal 8.00 oz (4.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
Caramel Munich Malt 4.00 oz (2.0 %) In Mash/Steeped
German Chocolate Wheat Malt 2.00 oz (1.0 %) In Mash/Steeped

UK Challenger (2.7 % alpha) 2.40 oz Loose Whole Hops used All Of Boil

Other Ingredients

Yeast: ECY20 – Bug County 2011

Mash Schedule
Mash Type: Turbid Mash

DSCN2249The primary fermentation happened fairly quickly, and there’s now some lingering bubbles on the surface, along with a very barnyard-y smell from the airlock. Time to put it away and forget about it for a good, long while. I will be adding oak in a couple of months, but there’s really no rush on that at all.

Brewday recap: Lambic #1 (pLambic) with Turbid Mash

Last weekend, on MLKJr day, I brewed my first lambic. Technically it was a pseudo-lambic (or pLambic) because I pitched a culture rather than letting nature inoculate the wort.
DSCN2216There are many ways to get a souring culture, one of the most common is to buy a bottle of lambic beer that isn’t pasturized, and grow up a culture from the bottle dregs. I went a different route, largely due to the overwhelming popularity of the results. I bought a pitch from East Coast Yeast of Al’s BugFarm 5 (the 2011 variant) and made a starter.

Making a pLambic isn’t necessarally super hard, you can do a regular infusion mash and just pitch a mixed culture to make a sour beer, but after reading Wild Brews and nagging Michael Tonsmeire. for advice on a number of occasions leading up to brewday, I decided to make it in as traditional a manner as possible, which most importantly includes a turbid mash.

If you want to know all there is to know about a turbid mash, I’d recommend you read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, and then proceed to Wild Brews. In a nutshell though, it’s a specific mash process that leaves a significant portion of the starches from your cereal grains as they are, which sets them aside to be food for the non-brewer’s yeast to tear apart and eat over the 1-3 year fermentation cycle. A traditional mash breaks them down into simpler sugars, so that brewer’s yeast can easily convert them to alcohol and other by-products.

OK. So, I was a little anxious about the turbid mash, because it was a deviation from the process that I know so well, so I referred to Michael Tonsmeire’s website, Wild Brews, and a third article by the Cult of the Biohazard Lambic Brewers in order to make myself a spreadsheet, outlining the various infusions and runoffs. I was able to move through these steps on brewday fairly flawlessly, with the exception that there’s one step towards the end, where it would be handy to have a third pot and second burner. Oh well, minor delay. If you want to know what steps I followed, read Michael Tonsmeire’s article, he has the same steps all laid out with photos.
DSCN2236The boil is where this really becomes a drag. Due to the high volume of water used in the mash process, you end up with a 9-10 gallon pre-boil volume, which can take a really long time to boil down. I have a Bayou Country propane burner, and it took me about 4 hours to get to my final volume.

Hop selection is also of concern when making a pLambic — you don’t want to use high-alpha hops for bittering, even if you only use enough to hit your 20 or so IBUs — you want to use low-alpha hops that have ideally been aged a few years to have even less bittering power. I used 4 year old Challenger hops, that I calculated to be at 2.7%AA. And as the books say, yes, they do smell like cheesy, smelly feet. I put them in the boil early to make sure that I blasted out all the smell and flavor.

Fermentation was fairly mellow, and it seemed to finish it’s primary phase in 4 days. The krausen has now fallen, and I’m sure the secondary microorganisms are now taking over the show. I’ll post some followup photos here as things change, I know it’s going to be a long process.

Recipe: 2012 Lambic #1
Style: 17D-Sour Ale-Straight (Unblended) Lambic

Wort Volume Before Boil: 10.50 US gals
Wort Volume After Boil: 6.25 US gals
Volume Transferred: 5.50 US gals
Expected Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.032 SG
Expected OG: 1.053 SG
Expected FG: 1.015 SG
Expected ABV: 5.0 %
Expected IBU (using Daniels): 19.2
Expected Color: 3.9 SRM
Mash Efficiency: 98.0 %

UK Pale Ale Malt 6lb 12oz (71.1 %) In Mash/Steeped
US Flaked Soft Red Wheat 2lb 12oz (28.9 %) In Mash/Steeped

UK Challenger (2.7 % alpha) 2.00 oz Loose Whole Hops used All Of Boil

Yeast: East Coast Yeast ECY01 – BugFarm 5

Mash Type: Turbid Mash

Homemade Sauerkraut

This summer I started making sauerkraut with green cabbage. I’d love to experiment, but I’m waiting until I feel like I’ve got this down before moving on. This is a shot of about 3-4 days in, with fermentation bubbles at their peak.

I mix, shredded cabbage, an unmeasured gratuitous quantity of salt, and a little bit of water in a large glass jar — just enough to cover the cabbage beyond what gets squeezed out while mixing. I then sanitize a jar full of water, and use that to press down on the cabbage inside, and cover with sanitized foil.


Maine Beer Highlight: Allagash Coolship Cerise


In December of 2007, Allagash Brewery began experimenting with Coolship brewing techniques. From Allagash:

Last month we brewed the first two of our spontaneously fermented beers at Allagash. In brewing these beers we are using an authentic, traditional process honoring the classic Belgian Lambic tradition, including the use of a cool ship, which we built specifically for these spontaneous beers.

The process begins with a specialized decoction mash, which utilizes the addition of both two row barley and raw, unmalted wheat. After the mash and sparge, we add aged hops during the boil, which are traditionally used because they impart many of the beer stabilizing benefits of hops without contributing bitterness. The use of aged hops (aged a minimum of three years) necessitates an unusually long boil of over four hours.

After boiling, rather than cooling the beer in a sterile environment and adding a brewer’s yeast culture, the hot wort is pumped to a cool ship in a special room designed specifically to make these beers. The cool ship is a commonly used tool in Belgium, but is rarely seen beyond Belgium’s borders, if at all. It is a large, open tray that is 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Once in the cool ship the hot wort spends the night cooling from near boiling temperatures to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To facilitate the cooling process, windows in the cool ship room are left open overnight. The cool Maine air, containing natural bacteria and wild yeast, drifts in and cools the wort. As soon as the wort is cool enough, the natural airborne yeasts and bacteria are able to survive in what will eventually be the spontaneously fermented beer (it is these natural yeasts and bacteria which will ferment the beer, rather than a yeast added by the brewer). Next, the wort is pumped back into a brewery tank, where it will spend one further day before it is pumped into special French oak barrels. Within one to three weeks, spontaneous fermentation begins in the oak and will continue for over one year. After the yearlong fermentation this traditional beer will age in French oak for at least one more year, sometimes with the addition of fruits, before it is finally bottled.

This process creates beers with very complex flavor profiles after an extensive aging process. I received two bottles from Allagash, Cerise and Red. I haven’t tried Red yet, but I have tried Cerise, and I consider myself privileged to have had the opportunity.

Cerise poured a bright orange-yellow with a bright white head of very tight bubbles. The aroma was very complex, I found apples, pear, and cherry combined with some of the more difficult (funky?) aromas to identify which gave the impression of very tart flavors to come.

Tasting was equally challenging, similar flavors matching the aroma followed, fruits and malt, funk, and with a very dry and tart finish, somewhat cirtic and tannic, but not displeasing. After spending several minutes waffling over what flavors I was able to identify, I resolved to stop trying, and just to enjoy it. I savored the lone glass for a long time though dinner, making sure to share with my wife.

I am definitely looking forward to trying the Coolship Red, and the time when Allagash begins to release these beers for retail sale. Cheers, Allagash!

Using a yeast cake

Edit: I do not advocate this method anymore. I do advocate re-using your yeast, but you should wash it first.

If you brew regularly, and especially if you like to use liquid yeast strains, you might want to consider reusing your yeast. As with everything in homebrewing, there is a long list of do’s and do-not’s, but in general, it’s pretty easy to decide if repitching on yeast will work for you.

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