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Sour advice

I just sampled several sours last night (Jolly Pumpkin Mudraga!mmmm) and forgot how much I love the style. I would love to make one at home and I am in the contemplative stage in recipe formation and planning. I have never attempted this at home and have a few questions/concerns. Firstly, as far as I understand, it can be as simple as pitching Brett on a finished beer in secondary and allowing it to age to taste, (usually several months) while sampling occasionally. I mention Brett since it does not require air and I do not wish to risk contamination with open air fermentation. My concerns are with contamination of my gear. What type of risk am I taking? I use 5-6 glass carboys and ferment in the same area in my basement. Also if I want less or more sour is it as simple as the amount of time the brett is left with the beer in secondary or will it continue to sour in the keg/bottle? I greatly appreciate the insight!

Brett won’t give you sourness, you’ll need to pitch bacteria like lacto or pedio. Even better, If you like JP beers, make a small starter with dregs from the bottle. This can be added to your 5 gallon batch to give you that unique JP flavor.

Anything plastic or rubber will be for sour beers only, stoppers, airlocks, racking cane etc. If you’re using a glass carboy, that can be sanitized and used for other beers.

yes… my suggestion is to make a small starter in a growler or something and every time you drink a commercial sour, santize the opening and pour the dregs into your “zoo”. Then when you want to make a sour you can use that and it will sour your beer rather quickly (months, not weeks)

I have heard of that technique and thought about it, but I mentioned Brett since it does not need air to survive and you can maintain a closed fermentation, whereas Lacto needs air. Since I don’t have a barrel I would have to allow oxygen to enter my system and risk an undesired contamination. (sounds kind of funny to be worried about contamination while desiring to sour a beer.) Just theoretical knowledge and I would really appreciate recipes, stories, and feedback.

Lacto works in a sealed corny keg (I have several going at any one time). Easy way to make a good sour beer is to brew a Flanders Red recipe and ferment with a regular yeast, then transfer to a secondary and pitch the dregs from a Jolly Pumpkin beer or three and let it go to town.

Thanks Shadetree! I plan on it. Any other styles/recipes conducive to souring?

One thing I’m working on now is a Saison that i ferment in primary with saison yeast and then dose with sour bugs in the secondary.

[quote=“mphoule”]Thanks Shadetree! I plan on it. Any other styles/recipes conducive to souring?[/quote]+1 to Saison. Belgian singles are good, too (since the FG is so low, starting with an OG around 1.050 makes a nice moderate-gravity sour). I have a medium-sour Imperial Porter that’s very tasty and am making that again now.

I make saisons pretty regularly and will have to try that on one. The challenge now will be telling my wife that some of her precious saison will be soured. (she is not a fan of sour beers) Any good, go-to Flanders red recipes?

Last Flanders I did was a cleanout of the grain bins, but it was 75% base grain (mix of MO and Pils), 15% Vienna, 3% each Caramunich, Aromatic, and Special B, and some Black Patent for color (13 SRM). Mashed at 155 to leave some food for the bugs. Hallertauer at 60 minutes for 17 IBUs. Fermented half with 3711 and half with US-05, then split 50/50 into two kegs and pitched lacto in one and Roselaere in the other. Since then I’ve added some dregs to the Roselaere keg and pulled a pint from that keg and pitched it to the lacto, which was one-dimensional after almost a year.

So pitching the Roseleare blend had more the desired effect than Lacto? How long were they both aged with the beer? Also did you add the dredges right at the beginning or throughout the aging process? I know I am probably trying to get a lot of detail on an inexact science but when experimenting with a finished or close to finished beer makes me want to be careful. Thanks for all the insight.

The Roselaere wasn’t sour enough, the lacto was sour but just sour. Brewed in late 2010, sampled and blended a small batch in time for the Dixie Cup last year (so about 10 months in), then pitched the Roselaere dregs to the lacto. I have a batch of Belgian Pale ready to use for a top-off, so in a couple of weeks I’m going to pull ~1.5 gallons out of each of the kegs, blend, then add the BPA and perhaps more bottle dregs depending on how they taste. I’ll add dregs whenever I have them, any time in the process.

What I’m shooting for is a stable solera that will eventually produce 5-10 gallons of quality sour beer each year, using six or so kegs.

Do you think the Roseleare didn’t sour because it needs oxygen to keep working? I have heard from other brewers who sour beer that Roseleare imparts a lot of fruitiness but hardly any sour if not open to air. Thanks for all the insight.

Maybe Roselaere works better in a barrel than in a keg?

That is what I have heard. It makes sense because barrels are porous. I just have a bottle of Cuvee des Jacobins and it made me want to make sours even more! Amazing.

If you are looking for that Rodenbach kind of sour, you want acetobacter in addition to the lactic and optional brett. Acetobacter needs oxygen. Put plastic wrap over the top of the carboy. It will allow Oxygen to pass, but keep out insects, etc. You may want to add oak chips or blend in oak aged beer. Keep the hops low in any base beer you brew for a sour. This process may take a few months, but it works. Don’t be afraid to blend in different beers until you get the balance just right. My best sour red took 2 years and about 4 different batches to make a great beer. I usually just buy Rodenbach since I don’t drink sours that often, and it is not that expensive. The home brewed version was a lot of work. I usually don’t discourage people from home brew, but this one takes a lot of patience and space.

It sounds like a lot of work but something I might just have to try. Thanks for the advice.

I made a great sour stout (mostly following this guy’s recipe: http://grainandgrain.com/2011/08/08/sour-stout-brewday/) and was very pleased with the results.

Instead of using the yeast he calls for, I fermented in primary with Safale US-05, then pitched Wyeast Brett B. and Lacto in secondary and left it for about 6 weeks. I then force carbonated and drank it faster than I really care to admit.

I am clearly no expert since I was extract advice from all these guys a few weeks ago before brewing my first sour (Flanders Red pitched on Roselaere) but has anyone here used a wooden bung for a carboy to allow a bit of oxygen in. I was listening to a beersmith podcast in which they were talking about this as an option seeing that steel and glass allow no air in while a plastic bucket will let in too much.

No, but I have heard horror stories of it swelling and cracking the carboy, I think from madfermentationist.com

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