Advice Welcome for My First Sour Ale

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Advice Welcome for My First Sour Ale

Postby flip » January 3rd, 2013, 9:12 am

So I'm planning my first sour beer and I have a basic idea of what I'm doing, but there are a lot of details I'm missing. I'm going to start with either a simple pale lambic or a Flanders red.

Lambic: Is a turbid mash necessary, or can I get a quality product with a single infusion mash and fly sparging? I can't do a turbid mash, so I'm wondering if I should even attempt this style.

Either:

I like a really dry, tart sour, much like Cantillon or Tilquin. Most easily available commercial Flanders are a bit too sweet for my tastes. In order to achieve that level of acid, should I sour immediately in primary, like with a direct pitch of Wyeast Roeselare blend? Should I ferment in primary with a neutral or Belgian yeast and sour in secondary?

I imagine a plastic fermenter would let in too much oxygen and result in too much acetic acid. So I'll probably have to use glass (unless someone knows the exact air permeability of better bottles). Where do I find the kind of oak stopper to let in enough oxygen to cause some acetic acid, like a barrel would?

Water adjustments: I have no idea what minerals are good for bacteria and wild yeast. My water profile is kind of middle of the road: good for amber beers. A little high in sodium, but that's the only outlier. I add gypsum for hoppy beers. Dilute and add calcium chloride for malty beers. I can provide actual numbers if necessary.

Anything else I haven't thought of? Anyone have any advice for a first time sour ale?

Thanks!
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Re: Advice Welcome for My First Sour Ale

Postby johnf » January 3rd, 2013, 10:34 am

flip wrote:So I'm planning my first sour beer and I have a basic idea of what I'm doing, but there are a lot of details I'm missing. I'm going to start with either a simple pale lambic or a Flanders red.

Lambic: Is a turbid mash necessary, or can I get a quality product with a single infusion mash and fly sparging? I can't do a turbid mash, so I'm wondering if I should even attempt this style.



There are plenty of good sour beers made without a turbid mash. The point of a turbid mash is to leave a lot of things that are not fermentable by normal brewer's yeast. This is more necessary with spontaneous fermentation than with a beer dosed with a lambic culture. You can just do your single infusion at a high temperature (165) and leave a poorly fermentable wort as well.



I like a really dry, tart sour, much like Cantillon or Tilquin. Most easily available commercial Flanders are a bit too sweet for my tastes. In order to achieve that level of acid, should I sour immediately in primary, like with a direct pitch of Wyeast Roeselare blend? Should I ferment in primary with a neutral or Belgian yeast and sour in secondary?


Most commercially available flanders are sweetened or mixed with not sour beer and then pasteurized. You won't get that sweetness if all of the beer ferments fully. IME, the more bugs the better. I would use a commercial lambic or flanders pitch and then dump all the dregs from every non-pasteurized sour beer you drink in too.

I imagine a plastic fermenter would let in too much oxygen and result in too much acetic acid. So I'll probably have to use glass (unless someone knows the exact air permeability of better bottles). Where do I find the kind of oak stopper to let in enough oxygen to cause some acetic acid, like a barrel would?


I did a Flanders in a plastic fermenter for over a year and it had less acetic acid than Love Child 2 or La Folie, about as much as Rodenbach. Don't worry about using a bucket, just taste it and transfer it to something not oxygen permeable if you are getting close to too much acetic acid for your preference.

Water adjustments: I have no idea what minerals are good for bacteria and wild yeast. My water profile is kind of middle of the road: good for amber beers. A little high in sodium, but that's the only outlier. I add gypsum for hoppy beers. Dilute and add calcium chloride for malty beers. I can provide actual numbers if necessary.

Anything else I haven't thought of? Anyone have any advice for a first time sour ale?

Thanks!


Read Jeff Sparrow's book.
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Re: Advice Welcome for My First Sour Ale

Postby bythepint » January 3rd, 2013, 10:41 am

http://www.themadfermentationist.com/2012/04/brewing-lambic-mythbusters-style.html

A post about Lambic myths that's worth reading.

There's plenty to be said about brewing a "100% historically accurate, traditional Lambic style beer" but in some cases it'll just be more work for the sake of calling it "historically accurate."

If you're looking for a sour lambic-ish, flanders-ish, beersel-ish style beer then you're fine with a standard mash profile, but the more starches you leave unconverted the more food you'll leave for the bugs. If you want to primary with saccromyces and just do a standard 152F single infusion, that's cool too, just throw in some maltodextrin to keep the secondary bugs happy.

I'm not saying you should cut corners, or that the above is necessarily cutting corners... but don't think you can't brew a decent lambic just because you can't do a turbid mash.
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Re: Advice Welcome for My First Sour Ale

Postby flip » January 3rd, 2013, 11:11 am

Awesome, thanks guys!

So I can still accomplish roughly the same idea as a turbid mash if I just mash high and include some maltodextrin. Think I'll do that then.

I did a Flanders in a plastic fermenter for over a year and it had less acetic acid than Love Child 2 or La Folie, about as much as Rodenbach. Don't worry about using a bucket, just taste it and transfer it to something not oxygen permeable if you are getting close to too much acetic acid for your preference.


I hadn't even considered that option. So just ferment in a plastic primary and transfer to glass if it gets too acidic according to taste? I like that idea because it leaves less up to chance. No reason to transfer it off the primary yeast cake either? Also, Love Child No 2 is one of my favorite beers, so if that's the case, then plastic sounds like the best way for me to go.

I've been meaning to check out Wild Brews for a while. Think I'll check the library after work.

Thanks again!
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Re: Advice Welcome for My First Sour Ale

Postby johnf » January 3rd, 2013, 11:51 am

flip wrote:
I've been meaning to check out Wild Brews for a while. Think I'll check the library after work.

Thanks again!


I'm willing to lend out my copy if you can't find it.
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Re: Advice Welcome for My First Sour Ale

Postby JRBoulevard_KC » January 3rd, 2013, 12:46 pm

Well i guess I have something to shoot for in a few years...nice read.
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