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Sour Packaging/Blending

Sorry if I’ve asked this before, but we have 14 gallons of Flanders we are getting ready to package (after some possible blending).

Once we have the blend percentages down (and maybe with 1-2 ‘grand cru’/single fermenter beers), I am planning on reyeasting with some champagne yeast and adding the recommended amount of priming sugar. We have a bunch of thicker champagne-style bottles, but some will need to go in standard bottles unless we buy more champagne bottles (which is probably a good idea since we have over a year into this beer).

Does this approach for bottling make sense? I would actually prefer to have my carbonation dialed in, even if i have to sacrifice some of the additional acetic sourness that would develop over time, so I had considered pasteurizing/potassium sorbate and metabisulfate, then force-carbing before bottling.

Also, on the topic of blending, when people say blend with a ‘young beer’, does this mean a beer we just brewed, or a beer that is younger than a year? Going cross-eyed thinking about some of this.

[quote=“Pietro”]Sorry if I’ve asked this before, but we have 14 gallons of Flanders we are getting ready to package (after some possible blending).

Once we have the blend percentages down (and maybe with 1-2 ‘grand cru’/single fermenter beers), I am planning on reyeasting with some champagne yeast and adding the recommended amount of priming sugar. We have a bunch of thicker champagne-style bottles, but some will need to go in standard bottles unless we buy more champagne bottles (which is probably a good idea since we have over a year into this beer).

Does this approach for bottling make sense? I would actually prefer to have my carbonation dialed in, even if i have to sacrifice some of the additional acetic sourness that would develop over time, so I had considered pasteurizing/potassium sorbate and metabisulfate, then force-carbing before bottling.

Also, on the topic of blending, when people say blend with a ‘young beer’, does this mean a beer we just brewed, or a beer that is younger than a year? Going cross-eyed thinking about some of this.[/quote]

Whats the gravity of all the beers to be blended? For my sours I almost always force carb and then bottle so I can dial in the carbonation.
IME experience for lets say a 5g batch you don’t need much young beer to gain some of that complexity back and make it pop more. I usually use something that is a month or two old sometimes clean beer sometimes younger sour beer. All depends on gravities, what I have on hand and if I plan to age in some bottles.

I do not ever use sorbate or metabisulfate. I just make sure my gravities are in check. If I am bottling in standard bottles I always shoot for the lower end of carbonation if I am blending in a little fresh beer (and I prefer my sours on the lower end for my taste), but like I said it doesnt take much young fresh beer to where you are greatly changing the gravity, I have never had any issues bottling, but I have always kept detailed notes on gravities. YMMV

also does it pay to blend these? do they taste different?
Besides blending young beer in, it may not pay to blend these 3 together.

I used to keep a very small amount of acetic beer around (1g carboy) to blend in if needed. It doesnt take much, just a little bit if I am missing a little in a flanders style.
I rarely do this anymore and find it more of a flaw, to much acetic crap out there right now. Yes BJCP says Acetic is somewhat appropriate for the style but that doesnt make it good…
TIme and patience gets me to where I want to be.

I did this a couple of times. All the beers were completely finished fermenting so I did not worry about bottle bombs. The best Flanders red I made was 4 gallons of sour (acetic and some brett character), 3 gallons of clean, fresh, low hopped redish beer, and 1 gallon of french oak aged beer. I added fresh Wyeast 1968 because it floculates well, works at most any alcohol level, and I usually keep it around since I do a lot of English ales. I probably added about a cup of white sugar made into a syrup so it would blend easily with the beer. That is 1 cup for 8 gallons and the beer had appropriate carbonation. You should not have bottle bombs unless one of your blend has a high terminal gravity.

I like to bottle my Belgians in many sized bottles. I do corked bottles to take to club meetings or share with friends when they come over. I make 12 Oz bottles for myself to drink at home, and I make a few nip bottles so I can have a little bit of a special beer if it is almost time for bed and I don’t want to crack open a big bottle.

I actually find that most beers that people call sour don’t have enough acetic character. Most of them are just brett beers. On the other hand that acetic can turn to nail polish real quick, and that is what I find objectionable. Good luck on your blend.

[quote=“SA Brew”]I did this a couple of times. All the beers were completely finished fermenting so I did not worry about bottle bombs. The best Flanders red I made was 4 gallons of sour (acetic and some brett character), 3 gallons of clean, fresh, low hopped redish beer, and 1 gallon of french oak aged beer. I added fresh Wyeast 1968 because it floculates well, works at most any alcohol level, and I usually keep it around since I do a lot of English ales. I probably added about a cup of white sugar made into a syrup so it would blend easily with the beer. That is 1 cup for 8 gallons and the beer had appropriate carbonation. You should not have bottle bombs unless one of your blend has a high terminal gravity.

I like to bottle my Belgians in many sized bottles. I do corked bottles to take to club meetings or share with friends when they come over. I make 12 Oz bottles for myself to drink at home, and I make a few nip bottles so I can have a little bit of a special beer if it is almost time for bed and I don’t want to crack open a big bottle.

I actually find that most beers that people call sour don’t have enough acetic character. Most of them are just brett beers. On the other hand that acetic can turn to nail polish real quick, and that is what I find objectionable. Good luck on your blend.[/quote]

whaa??? You want harsh acetic acid in your beer? I guess you can make quick sours easily…
Brett beers are not sour, Well most are not some can get some sourness with extended aging 16+ months (and strain dependent) but most breweries are not aging 100% brett beers for that long which is why they are not sour. Brett does not equal Sour

It doesnt take much for a bottle bomb when your using regular bottles, especially if you are using to much sugar…a few drop in gravity points could cause bottle bombs.
These are not usual quick reaction but can take time to blow given the slow working bacteria/brett. Keep em cold if you have any doubts

I don’t think you have to blend in fresh beer if your original beer tastes great. Just add some sugar, fresh yeast and bottle as usual. Some of the Rodenbach Vintage Ales have been the best sour reds I have tried. These are from a single barrel (feoder/fyodor. I can’t find the correct spelling even with the internet.)

Young beer would be beer that is brewed and fermented prior to blending. You could add in some non fermented beer as your priming sugar, but adding several gallons of unfermented beer would not be a good idea at bottling.

How much sour you add is based on your taste. I like them pretty sour like Rodenbach Grand Cru and Jacobin’s. Others like less acetic like Monk’s Cafe and some like them sweeter like Duchesse De Bourgogne. These are all appropriate, for BJCP, but the artistic side is making the blend that you like to drink.

No. The final blend took a couple of years to come together. It started with a lactic tasting Octoberfest recipe that I had pitched with ale yeast. I put it in a keg and left the pressure relief valve open to get the acetic character. Then I had another beer go a bit lactic so I put it in a carboy and put plastic wrap over the top to let air in and keep bugs out. These beers were very acetic and so a year later I brewed some fresh red ale and put 3 gallons on some French oak chips in a keg. A few months later I brewed a fresh beer to blend with all of the others. These happy accidents happened when I was using acid to try to get my water pH correct. The whole process was started in 2007, and not bottled until 2009. The results were very good. It won a first place in cat 17 at a local comp and my wife’s friend who is a red wine drinker gladly drank the whole glass I gave her when she came to visit. These days I can buy Rodenbach Grand Cru in Texas so I don’t spend a lot of time on sours. I do still have my oak chips in the keg with some scotch ale and I have some other beers that I can blend in so i plan to do some tasting and blending this summer.

I did not have any bottle bombs from my blend. I also don’t think this is a heavily carbonated style like Saison so I did not add a lot of extra sugar.

[quote=“SA Brew”]I don’t think you have to blend in fresh beer if your original beer tastes great. Just add some sugar, fresh yeast and bottle as usual. Some of the Rodenbach Vintage Ales have been the best sour reds I have tried. These are from a single barrel (feoder/fyodor. I can’t find the correct spelling even with the internet.)

Young beer would be beer that is brewed and fermented prior to blending. You could add in some non fermented beer as your priming sugar, but adding several gallons of unfermented beer would not be a good idea at bottling.

How much sour you add is based on your taste. I like them pretty sour like Rodenbach Grand Cru and Jacobin’s. Others like less acetic like Monk’s Cafe and some like them sweeter like Duchesse De Bourgogne. These are all appropriate, for BJCP, but the artistic side is making the blend that you like to drink.[/quote]

Rodenbach vintage is from very few select foudre that the brewer/blender thinks is outstanding and doesn’t need blending from years and years of selecting bugs and building the house strain and that bugs performing well on one foudre or select barrels for done other commercial example like this.

To each his own taste but as your pallet developes you will start to taste a difference between sour and acetic. Some well aged versions of lambics actually get less sour with age. Lambics become rounder softer and much more complex

[quote=“SA Brew”]No. The final blend took a couple of years to come together. It started with a lactic tasting Octoberfest recipe that I had pitched with ale yeast. I put it in a keg and left the pressure relief valve open to get the acetic character. Then I had another beer go a bit lactic so I put it in a carboy and put plastic wrap over the top to let air in and keep bugs out. These beers were very acetic and so a year later I brewed some fresh red ale and put 3 gallons on some French oak chips in a keg. A few months later I brewed a fresh beer to blend with all of the others. These happy accidents happened when I was using acid to try to get my water pH correct. The whole process was started in 2007, and not bottled until 2009. The results were very good. It won a first place in cat 17 at a local comp and my wife’s friend who is a red wine drinker gladly drank the whole glass I gave her when she came to visit. These days I can buy Rodenbach Grand Cru in Texas so I don’t spend a lot of time on sours. I do still have my oak chips in the keg with some scotch ale and I have some other beers that I can blend in so i plan to do some tasting and blending this summer.

I did not have any bottle bombs from my blend. I also don’t think this is a heavily carbonated style like Saison so I did not add a lot of extra sugar.[/quote]

If you just want acetic bombs you can do that very quickly. No need for years of waiting.

I re-yeast with wine yeast and use 1 dry oz of sugar for each gallon of beer, and it comes out about right.
I would be temped to force carb, because the beers do go through an awkward stage of 2-4 months before they clean up when naturally carbonated. All my force carb equipment is for non-sours and I’m not willing to risk it.

I think your approach is right…

I am not the acetic monster. I understand what you mean by acetic bombs. I have only had a blend or two from New Belgium (La Folie/Lips of Faith series) that I liked. Most of those are way too out of balance for me. I like balance and that is what makes a great sour red. It should have malt, a fruit character from the yeast, and a hint of oak character to balance the acetic character. On the other hand, I find beers like Monk’s Cafe and Douchesse a bit boring. I am simply making suggestions to Pietro based on my successful experiences. I have had plenty of failures so I know what not to recommend. If you don’t like acetic, that is ok. Stick with Oud Bruin, but Flander’s Red has a definite acetic character. I have tried many Belgian brewed commercial examples and they all have some level of acetic. Some of them have Brett., and some don’t, but they all have acetic as part of their character.

[quote=“grainbelt”]also does it pay to blend these? do they taste different?
Besides blending young beer in, it may not pay to blend these 3 together.

I used to keep a very small amount of acetic beer around (1g carboy) to blend in if needed. It doesnt take much, just a little bit if I am missing a little in a flanders style.
I rarely do this anymore and find it more of a flaw, to much acetic crap out there right now. Yes BJCP says Acetic is somewhat appropriate for the style but that doesnt make it good…
TIme and patience gets me to where I want to be.[/quote]

They do each taste somewhat different. We had a really thick pellicle on one real early, so we added Jolly Pumpkin (Brett cocktail) dregs to one, Oude Boon dregs and wood chips to the other. We are going to do a tasting and see if it makes sense though.

Acetic just tastes like cider vinegar right? I’ve never judged sours, but maybe I have gotten complexity confused with acetic acid in beers I’ve had.

[quote=“Pietro”][quote=“grainbelt”]also does it pay to blend these? do they taste different?
Besides blending young beer in, it may not pay to blend these 3 together.

I used to keep a very small amount of acetic beer around (1g carboy) to blend in if needed. It doesnt take much, just a little bit if I am missing a little in a flanders style.
I rarely do this anymore and find it more of a flaw, to much acetic crap out there right now. Yes BJCP says Acetic is somewhat appropriate for the style but that doesnt make it good…
TIme and patience gets me to where I want to be.[/quote]

They do each taste somewhat different. We had a really thick pellicle on one real early, so we added Jolly Pumpkin (Brett cocktail) dregs to one, Oude Boon dregs and wood chips to the other. We are going to do a tasting and see if it makes sense though.

Acetic just tastes like cider vinegar right? I’ve never judged sours, but maybe I have gotten complexity confused with acetic acid in beers I’ve had.[/quote]

Acetic is harsh, yes basically vinegar.
You do not want acetobacter especially if you are going to be reusing some of the beer/yeast to start other beers. It is bacterial and needs oxygen to grow.
Go get a good Berliner weisse and drink it next to a acetic bomb, you will see the difference between lactic and acetic.
Jolly pumkin are usually pretty good bugs fairly fresh, but it is not just brett.
A really thick pellicle it not always a good thing, yes they help block oxygen but they grow from the presence of oxygen. You do not need a pellicle to have a sour.

We did a little blending session last night. We are likely going to do a 50/50 blend of the oaked flanders (far left) and one of the unoaked (middle) as we found it had the best ‘front and back’ sourness, good malt character, and the oak really rounded out the beer and added a layer of complexity.

On the 3rd carboy, we are going to go through the CSA we share in and get some good raspberries, then on bottling day for the blend, we will brew another 14 gallons and direct pitch onto the dregs of the blended beers.

Does anyone recommend a minimum bottle-conditioning time for a flanders prior to drinking? I’ve heard some do not drink for as much as nine months after bottling. I would like to cellar a good bit of these, but would also like to NOT buy my sours, since I’ve been such a patient little brewer for the last year.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, wild ales rule.

I noticed the air locks on your carboys. Did you get any acetic (vinegar) character from the dregs you pitched? Just curious. You should have gotten some acetobacter from the Boon dregs, but I don’t know how well it would work in an oxygen free environment.

The color of your beer looks right on for sour red (with acetic) character or oud Bruin (without, or very light acetic character.) The oak character is out of place for the oud bruin. Of course, all this only matters if you are going to enter it into competitions. If you are just drinking it for yourself, use those pyrex measuring cups to make practice blends and then use those percentages to make the final blend that suits your taste. The beer should be ready to drink after it carbonates, but should continue to improve in the bottle. My bottles lasted about a year before I drank the last one, and it was in very good condition, but did not taste as fresh as it did at 6 months in the bottle. I have tasted a 12 year old Rodenbach Grand Cru, and it was still very good. The sours somehow seem to ward off oxidation which is a flavor I do not like.

[quote=“SA Brew”]I noticed the air locks on your carboys. Did you get any acetic (vinegar) character from the dregs you pitched? Just curious. You should have gotten some acetobacter from the Boon dregs, but I don’t know how well it would work in an oxygen free environment.

The color of your beer looks right on for sour red (with acetic) character or oud Bruin (without, or very light acetic character.) The oak character is out of place for the oud bruin. Of course, all this only matters if you are going to enter it into competitions. If you are just drinking it for yourself, use those pyrex measuring cups to make practice blends and then use those percentages to make the final blend that suits your taste. The beer should be ready to drink after it carbonates, but should continue to improve in the bottle. My bottles lasted about a year before I drank the last one, and it was in very good condition, but did not taste as fresh as it did at 6 months in the bottle. I have tasted a 12 year old Rodenbach Grand Cru, and it was still very good. The sours somehow seem to ward off oxidation which is a flavor I do not like.[/quote]

Air locks ? Of course he has to use air locks what else would you use. This is not oxygen free air is still getting in through bb, the bungs, and air locks with temp swings and suck back.
As for color beer in a carboy is always way darker than a single serving.
You want very minimal acetic character in both styles oud bruin even less.
A little oak will not hurt an oud bruin score as long as it is not overpowering and just adds a layer of complexity.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I used plastic wrap on a carboy to let oxygen in and keep the dust and insects out. This worked great for getting some acetic character and not having to dedicate extra equipment to sours only.

I was talking about the color of the beer in the pyrex measuring containers in front of the carboys. These are easy to sanitize and use as blending vessels as you taste and come up with your final product.

Many of my experienced brewing friends gave up on air locks a long time ago. Most of us just sanitize a piece of aluminum foil and wrap it around the top of the carboys for our regular beers . I would probably put one on a secondary ferment, but usually I just go from primary into the keg. It would be an interesting experiment to see how much oxygen gets in through an airlock over time. I don’t think atmospheric pressure would have a lot of push and pull on a glass carboy. I know the air lock would have some reaction, but I thought the function of the air lock was to keep the blanket of CO2 on the beer and keep the oxygen out. That may explain why I taste so many oxidized barley wines at club meetings.

Have you tried Rodenbach Grand Cru? I think it has a strong acetic character, but it is well balanced by the malt, fruit, and oak character. I find that level of acetic very refreshing. I do like other sour reds that have less, but I find them less complex.

I have been home brewing for 25 years. I am not new to this. I don’t brew sour reds anymore because they take up a lot of space and we get several classic examples in our stores at reasonable prices. When I was making them, I got a lot credibility as a brewer from experienced home and pro-brewers that tasted them. If you don’t like the acetic character of sour reds, that is ok. You can make a reddish colored, wild ale, but I don’t think you can call that a Flander’s Red. Of course Berliner Weiss is sour and does not have an acetic character. I think most sour beers don’t have an acetic character, but it is an important character in Flander’s Red and most lambics. When I post, I try to pass on what has worked for me and encourage those who have asked for help.

Just a year in on sours and I welcome all info - just leaving the NHC and I attended a talk given by Michael Tonsmeire that was great. His new book is just out and promises to be a wealth of information - it is available through the AHA and likely soon through NB.

Keep up the discussion - sours may be the next big trend as I see it at the homebrew level.

:cheers:

[quote=“SA Brew”]As I mentioned in a previous post, I used plastic wrap on a carboy to let oxygen in and keep the dust and insects out. This worked great for getting some acetic character and not having to dedicate extra equipment to sours only.

I was talking about the color of the beer in the pyrex measuring containers in front of the carboys. These are easy to sanitize and use as blending vessels as you taste and come up with your final product.

Many of my experienced brewing friends gave up on air locks a long time ago. Most of us just sanitize a piece of aluminum foil and wrap it around the top of the carboys for our regular beers . I would probably put one on a secondary ferment, but usually I just go from primary into the keg. It would be an interesting experiment to see how much oxygen gets in through an airlock over time. I don’t think atmospheric pressure would have a lot of push and pull on a glass carboy. I know the air lock would have some reaction, but I thought the function of the air lock was to keep the blanket of CO2 on the beer and keep the oxygen out. That may explain why I taste so many oxidized barley wines at club meetings.

Have you tried Rodenbach Grand Cru? I think it has a strong acetic character, but it is well balanced by the malt, fruit, and oak character. I find that level of acetic very refreshing. I do like other sour reds that have less, but I find them less complex.

I have been home brewing for 25 years. I am not new to this. I don’t brew sour reds anymore because they take up a lot of space and we get several classic examples in our stores at reasonable prices. When I was making them, I got a lot credibility as a brewer from experienced home and pro-brewers that tasted them. If you don’t like the acetic character of sour reds, that is ok. You can make a reddish colored, wild ale, but I don’t think you can call that a Flander’s Red. Of course Berliner Weiss is sour and does not have an acetic character. I think most sour beers don’t have an acetic character, but it is an important character in Flander’s Red and most lambics. When I post, I try to pass on what has worked for me and encourage those who have asked for help.[/quote]

You need air locks on sours. You will have vinegar if you just use foil for the entire aging process. I’m done with the acetic war. If you like it fine. Just trying to pass on good info to new sour brewers. It should be very minimal in most sours
There is plenty of info out there on bungs, buckets, glass, bb and the oxygen intake of them.

Ok since we are on the topic:

-we did use these pyrex cups and pipettes to try the different blends
-I think I can tell the difference between lactic sourness and acetic (and for the record, I do taste what I think is acetic character in Petrus, Rodenbach, and even Duchesse)
-We were going for Flanders Red in all of these (no oude bruins)
-They were all aged with airlocks
-the two on the right had very little acetic character - one was straight roseleare, and one had Jolly Pumpkin dregs (if I am correctly identifying it - see below)
-One thing we LIKED about the oaked version (left, also had oude boon dregs): it had both an ‘upfront’ sourness and a slight ‘back-end’ sourness. I am guessing the tang at the END of the taste is the acetic acid and the early taste is the lactic acid.

I know this because I occasionally have a tablespoon of vinegar to help with acid reflux (it works for some people, most importantly, me), and when you first taste vinegar, it tastes fine, then the heavy acid comes later (and I slam a glass of water).

-Not saying it is the be-all/end-all, but the comments in the BJCP guidelines for Flanders say that it is traditionally more acetic than Oude Bruin
-Either way, we have 10 gallons of really good beer once it is blended.
-I am leaning toward a framboise for the third carboy

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