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American Sour Beer

Wow, just got my copy last night. The Mad Fermentationist really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Such a comprehensive and well-written guide to the history, process, and vital concepts surrounding sour beer/wild ales. What sets the book apart though is the way he integrates his (significant) experience into the processes he outlines.

As someone who has only been brewing wild ales for a year or so (but enjoying them for several), I see this book as up there in the ranks of How To Brew and Designing Great Beers.

[quote=“Pietro”]Wow, just got my copy last night. The Mad Fermentationist really knocked it out of the park with this one.

Such a comprehensive and well-written guide to the history, process, and vital concepts surrounding sour beer/wild ales. What sets the book apart though is the way he integrates his (significant) experience into the processes he outlines.

As someone who has only been brewing wild ales for a year or so (but enjoying them for several), I see this book as up there in the ranks of How To Brew and Designing Great Beers.[/quote]

I have not read it yet, should be on its way, Looking forward to it
I have had a lot of Mike’s sours and clean beer and good brewing conversations over the years. Glad he is seeing success with the book.
I started sours not to long after the blog started to and always followed it for info and to help formulate recipes.

THere are a couple beers on his site that I have brewed a few times with some tweaks that were outstanding

Just ordered it through AHA, lokoing forward to it. I’ve read some of the Mad Ferm’s work, I didn’t recognize it was he who wrote the book.

Just got it last night. What’s great about it is the way he covers many many different ways of producing sour and wild beers. Nearly every brewery does it differently, and it’s great to be able to read how different processes can result in similar (or different) beers.

Thanks guys! Glad all those weekends spent writing when I would have rather been brewing paid off.

If anyone has any questions on the book or sour beers in general, I’m happy to answer them.

Thanks Michael! I just ordered the book on Amazon (I’m a Prime addict). I really enjoyed your article in Zymurgy.

I just pitched some dregs (Bruery and Cascade) for my first attempt at a sour. I’m repurposing a Belgain blond that I don’t like, because it’s too phenolic for my preferences. I racked ~3 gal. from a keg into a 3 gal carboy. Three sour nube questions:

  1. FG was 1.005. Should I add any additional fermentables?
  2. Is there a rule of thumb regarding the optimal amount of headspace? I assumed less is ideal as with any secondary.
  3. I’m using a 3 piece airlock filled with water. Is that the best approach, or should I use something a bit more breathable?

[quote=“kcbeersnob”]Thanks Michael! I just ordered the book on Amazon (I’m a Prime addict). I really enjoyed your article in Zymurgy.

I just pitched some dregs (Bruery and Cascade) for my first attempt at a sour. I’m repurposing a Belgain blond that I don’t like, because it’s too phenolic for my preferences. I racked ~3 gal. from a keg into a 3 gal carboy. Three sour nube questions:

  1. FG was 1.005. Should I add any additional fermentables?

  2. Is there a rule of thumb regarding the optimal amount of headspace? I assumed less is ideal as with any secondary.

  3. I’m using a 3 piece airlock filled with water. Is that the best approach, or should I use something a bit more breathable?[/quote]

  4. If you want more than a light tartness, enough maltodextrin to raise the gravity by ~.010 would be a good idea. The Brett will do it’s funky thing without much malt-based carbohydrate, especially with all that 4-vinylguiacol available.

  5. In a less-permeable fermentors (glass, stainless steel, even plastic) I don’t worry about head space. Barrels are a much bigger worry because as the wood dries above the liquid level, gaps are created which allow easy gas exchange, leading to oxygen ingress, which allows acetic acid production. If you have a lot of head space (say 3 gallons of beer in a 5 gallon carboy) just be careful not to take the airlock off for samples too frequently.

  6. I try to minimize oxygen contact. Airlocks are the best way to go, just make sure it stays topped off! If you want acetic character, age some beer open, and blend to taste. I generally don’t think that is necessary though. Brett doesn’t need oxygen, it actually does some of its best work in the bottle.

Good luck, and enjoy the book!

I had a brewer from Goose island taste my solera barreled Flanders red, he loved it. So I would suggest that ingress of air may not be sucgh a guarantee of failure as you might think. This was pull 3 or 4, and contains beer thats as old as 3yr in an 11gal barrel.

[quote=“OldSock”]

  1. If you want more than a light tartness, enough maltodextrin to raise the gravity by ~.010 would be a good idea. The Brett will do it’s funky thing without much malt-based carbohydrate, especially with all that 4-vinylguiacol available.

  2. In a less-permeable fermentors (glass, stainless steel, even plastic) I don’t worry about head space. Barrels are a much bigger worry because as the wood dries above the liquid level, gaps are created which allow easy gas exchange, leading to oxygen ingress, which allows acetic acid production. If you have a lot of head space (say 3 gallons of beer in a 5 gallon carboy) just be careful not to take the airlock off for samples too frequently.

  3. I try to minimize oxygen contact. Airlocks are the best way to go, just make sure it stays topped off! If you want acetic character, age some beer open, and blend to taste. I generally don’t think that is necessary though. Brett doesn’t need oxygen, it actually does some of its best work in the bottle.

Good luck, and enjoy the book![/quote]
Exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!

If I don’t add any additional fermentables, is it safe to assume the beer will reach its peak level of tartness/funk faster? For example, maybe it will be ready in 6 months compared to a year or longer if I spiked the beer with more munchies for the bugs?

One thing that seems to be evident in this book, is that there are no safe assumptions as to when wild ales/sour beers will be ready :mrgreen:

I would think the additional fermentables would make it ready quicker. The head brewer of flattail brewery noted a method where a pure lacto culture was pitched first to get some lactic acid in the beer, then a clean fermentation was done. Bottom line, the bugs need food. If they are scavenging around for a rogue dextrin or two, it will take longer to develop complexity.

Maybe my logic is off though…

[quote=“Pietro”]One thing that seems to be evident in this book, is that there are no safe assumptions as to when wild ales/sour beers will be ready :mrgreen:

I would think the additional fermentables would make it ready quicker. The head brewer of flattail brewery noted a method where a pure lacto culture was pitched first to get some lactic acid in the beer, then a clean fermentation was done. Bottom line, the bugs need food. If they are scavenging around for a rogue dextrin or two, it will take longer to develop complexity.

Maybe my logic is off though…[/quote]

Brett doesn’t need much to work with at all. Having more fermentables does not mean a fast sour.
If it did we wouldn’t be waiting years and pitching in primary would give a quick sour, but that is not the case.
Otherwise brewers on all scales would have an abundance of sours quickly.

I like to think of sour beer production like spoilage of milk. Each microbe has its turn over time. This is how the traditional method works, the Sach and sherry yeasts do their thing, the Brett continues on at a modest pace, and the lacto/pedio come along and slowly mop up after some months. I guess I have no real interest in speeding the process through timing of introduction of microbes and food. Then again, I’m not selling beer and I have enough of a sour program at the house now to more than take care of my needs. For homebrewers, if you make a couple sours your first year, and follow up with a batch every year after, I think you’ll find you have a nice selection from which to blend and partake of. They aren’t really the kind of brew one wants to drink a sixer of anyway.

Just received the book today. I did not expect nearly 400 pages. Very nice! I’ll be spending 17-18 hours on a plane round trip next week. Looking forward to some quite time with this very promising new book!

Mine came yesterday too. Looking forward to spending some quality time with this.

Picked it up at NHC and Michael was so gracious with us as we walked from the seminar to the book signing at the the NHC!
I have a Flanders to which I will be adding a tart cherry wine base soon and Michael encouraged me to give the Solera method a try. I look forward to implementing the suggestions in the book. But I have to read it first! A great guy and most knowledgeable in this area.

:cheers:

Everyone has their own tastes and preferences. I’ll just say I’ve never tasted a sour beer that was “ruined” by not enough oxygen/air exposure, but I’ve tasted dozens that were ruined by too much acetic acid and/or ethyl acetate which are only produced when oxygen is available. Blending beers produced by altering variables is a great option for a character like that, make a small amount of really acetic beer by aging in a growler with cheesecloth over the mouth and blend to taste.

[quote=“kcbeersnob”]
If I don’t add any additional fermentables, is it safe to assume the beer will reach its peak level of tartness/funk faster? For example, maybe it will be ready in 6 months compared to a year or longer if I spiked the beer with more munchies for the bugs?[/quote]

Sourness and alochol would likely max out earlier, if you don’t feed the beer. They’ll max out higher with feeding. However, funkiness will continue to increase at about the same rate either way (it tends to really increase after bottling).

Thank you to everyone else, glad my hard work was able to meet or exceed expectations! I’m just a dude who loves sour beer. I just tried to write a book that answered the questions I had when I started brewing them eight years ago. There were a few questions I never got answers to, but hopefully I get to keep working on those and write a second edition in a decade or so.

If anyone still needs to order it: Amazon Link
http://amzn.to/1iO4A0E
(or ask for it at your local homebrew shop).

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