Saturday, April 2, 2016

Funkadelic Mastery; Part 3: The easiest way to make a funky sour Brett beer.

This is not the secret dog skull society of sour brewing.
It is all just common sense.
What I am about to share with you is not a carefully guarded government secret.  It is not some arcane mystical rite.   You are not joining a secret fraternity. There will be no initiation ceremony. Sour brewing is all about common sense and sanitation.   You will not need a goat, a bat's heart, worms wood or wolf's bane... well OK, you won't need wolf's bane but you will need wolf's bine (get it?).

There are brewers who make sour beer brewing seem like it is the most advanced of all of our brewing processes.   There are sour beer brewers who would love for you to believe that if you want to make sours, you had better get an advanced degree in micro biochemistry.  These are the same ninnies who try to make all grain brewing difficult, and the exact same guys who tell you that you absolutely must fly sparge, or use only certain water salts.   They are ass hats, and they are wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth.    

Today, I will show you the easiest way to make a sour beer.  It is, in fact, a nearly fool proof method for making a sour beer.   But first a reminder, the yeast and bacteria you will be working with are just yeast and bacteria.  There is every reasonable chance that standard cleaning and sanitation practices will keep your brewery and brew gear clean.   There is also the very real chance that your cleaning and sanitation practices are not as clean and sanitary as you imagine.  Therefore,  here at counterbrew, we treat all sours as if they were contaminates. Delicious, funky contaminates, but contaminates never the less.  So when we brew / ferment a sour or funky beer,  we take some precautions.   

  • Wash your hands
  • The fermentation vessel you use for sours should only be used for sours (unless it is smooth glass) not rimmed glass, smooth!
  • Sour beers should never ferment in the same fermentation chamber as other beers.  
  • Wash your hands
  • Sour beers should ferment in a separate space from your clean beers, mine are over 20 feet away.  so far no unwanted infections.  
    • Yes, I know the chances of wild spores coming through the air and infecting other batches is incredibly minuscule.   I also know that by putting the sours in another area you think about cleanliness before and after you handle them.  And that is the real key.  
  • You should use separate racking and bottling equipment for sour beers.  Clearly label them for the sour beer production.
  • Wash your hands
  • Brettanomyces is yeast.  Star San does not kill yeast.  No rinse sanitizer does not kill yeast. Iodophor does not really kill yeast.  Camden and KMeta will kill yeast.  But so does cheap bleach.
    • Use a mild bleach solution to clean up spills, the outside of fermenters etc... I even clean my sour equipment with mild bleach solution.   10 parts water 1 part bleach, then I rinse the hell out of them.   I store my sour stuff in a plastic bag.  So that I don't inadvertently touch it and thereby infect my other stuff.
  • Wash your hands

If you have followed these procedures, you will give your self the best chance at avoiding an unwanted inoculation, i.e. infection.

So now, on to the easiest way to make a sour beer.   Are you ready... You sure?   I'll wait if you need to get a note pad, or some popcorn or something.    By the way, waiting and patience are major themes of sour beer brewing. Many sours take over a year to ferment. If you're not down for that, I'll show you some tricks to make speedy sours.

OK... here we go. Here is the secret process the ninny beer nerds don't want you to know.   Make a regular beer, ferment it as you normally ferment (unless you are fermenting in your sour bucket, in which case don't put it near your clean beer) and then after fermentation transfer it into your sour bucket,  pitch the dregs of a favorite sour or funky commercial beer.   That's it. That is all it takes.  Make beer, pitch Brett/bacteria dregs, wait a while and boom! You have sour beer.

So what beer should you make? "Are there any special guidelines or advice on making the beer?" Yes, there are some guidelines, but they are just guidelines.   You can truly do what you want to do.  Here are some guide lines.

  • If you are an all grain brewer, mash higher than normal.  Mid to high 150s F. (High 60s C)
    • You want more long chain sugars, trust me, the Brett will break them down.  
  • If you are an extract brewer, add some long chain sugars i.e. dextrin (maltodexterin).

You can take it from there. You can even make a dry fermented beer, like a highly attenuative saison. Just ferment it out all the way,  add some maltodexterin dissolved in boiled h2o, and then add the brett dregs. The brett will work on the maltodeterin for months and create the funky taste profile you are seeking.

Well, check the list and buy a beer
that you love.  Don't drink the last 1"
of the beer.  Pitch it into your sour. 
So what dregs should you use?   This is actually the bigger question in my mind.  What dregs can you get a hold of that are still viable?  What dregs are not pasteurized?  For that we turn again to the a great source, .   Mike keeps a list of sour beers that are not pasteurized.   My personal favorites are Boulevard Love Child Dregs, and Boulevard Saison Brett Dregs.   But, I am partial to Boulevard, and I live in the KC area, so they are readily available to me year round.  By the way, is another great resource, more on that in our next post.

"Can I use commercial Brett/lacto/bacteria strains to get the same result?   Yes, yes you can.    Wyeast makes several that I love.   #5112 Brettanomyces bruxellensis™ , #5526 Brettanomyces lambicus™, and # 3763 - Roeselare Ale Blend.  I will admit that I haven't used White Labs for sours yet.  This past weekend, we pitched a starter made with Chimera by Imperial yeast into an un-fermented Hennepin (saison) wort.  It is low attenuation Belgian saccromyces, lacto, brett L and brett C.  Can't wait to try that in 9 months to a year.  Should be great beer for next spring / summer.  Yes, spring or summer.  It really does take time to make a great sour beer.  But, the good news is that it takes way less time when you are pitching on to a previously fermented beer.   Those are generally ready in 3 to 6 months.  

"Should I save and culture my sour dregs?"  No, no you should not. Or perhaps I should say, not yet. Get some experience with sours before you start culturing.  I know guys do this.  And I know some have success with it.  But my experience is, these strains mutate quickly. It is just not worth the risk of handling these strains more.  We are trying to keep sour beer easy.   When they are done, pour them out.  That is all.  Just pour them out. Wash your hands.  Clean and sanitize with a bleach solution.  Wash your hands.  Rinse, wash your hands.  Mist everything with the bleach solution, and you are done.  And then, wash your hands.  Do not touch any of your other beer stuff until you have washed your hands a couple of times.  And hand sanitizer isn't a bad idea either.   If you are really experienced with culturing, and you want to do it, go for it. Just keep it separate from your other cultures.  Eventually, I'll write on culturing dregs.  But let's let the newer guys get comfortable first.

Here is my favorite recipe to make an easy brett sour.

See? making sour and funky beer isn't that hard.  Next time,  I'll write about an easy sour that is ready in weeks, not months.  That should be cool.   Cause, I really need this beer for the summer.   It is the counterbrew sour blonde ale.   Liason Fast Sour!  But I'll explain all of that next week. 

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