sour times

Sitting over coffee and prepping notes for a talk on sour beers for Better Beer Society University, I have mixed-culture fermentations on the brain and some raw materials to work with.

Raw material #1: Last summer I racked a nice, clean red ale base beer into an oak barrel and inoculated it with Wyeast’s Roeselare blend; 13 months on, it’s ready for … something. Cherries? Blending? Straight-up bottling? Whatever its fate, I need some fresh wort to fill that buggy barrel no matter what.

Raw material #2: Earlier this year a Brewing TV viewer provided some friends and I with a washed Brett culture from a bottle of Russian River Sanctification. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

Raw material #3: a couple pounds of frozen-ass Chernaya Lisovenko blackcurrants from Mary Dirtyface Farm. So I got that going for me, which is nice.

All this can only mean one thing: it’s about to get acidic up in this piece.

The plan: 10 gallons of base beer, split half and half between the to-be-emptied barrel and the Sanctification Brett and the blackcurrants (Russian River, Russian fruit – I love symmetry). Do something cool with the 2011 ale from the oak … I’d tell you now, but then I’d have to get you blackout drunk so you wouldn’t remember.

Recipe deets below, brew day to follow. Stay tuned.

Basecamp Sour 2012
Targets: OG 1.052, 7 SRM, 18 IBU


  • 16 lbs pilsen

Simple is good …

Mash: Flemish Sour regimen

  • 122F for 20″, 145F for 30″, 162F for 20″, 170F for 10″

… but complex is sometimes necessary. A high-temp alpha sacch’ rest will create plenty dextrin for the Brett to chomp on. Truth in advertising: I’m using up a stock of shamefully old undermodified Pils malt with this mash, elsewise the lack of unmalted adjunct grain would arguably make the 122F rest unnecessary for what these beers are going to be.


  • 1 lb D-45 Belgian candi syrup @ 60″
  • 1.5 oz German Brewer’s Gold (6.5%aa pellets) @ 60″


  • BRY97 primary for barrel portion – a nice, clean base beer for the acid bacteria now living in the wood to work with.
  • Russian River culture for the second portion – all Brett, all the time.

7 thoughts on “sour times

  1. I have used that RR Brett culture of which you speak, since I know your BTV view source…. twice now. Both times, it is NOT sour. Unlike the real Sanctification, it is more of a straight clean (but very nice) Brett beer. The 2nd time I used it, I split the batch after fermentation into two 3 gallon carboys. To one of those I added a Lacto culture. That beer now has Lacto bubbles on top, so it must be doing something (the other one does not). Anyway, just wanted you to not expect sourness from that RR yeast wash itself. You can expect a good fermentation, esp if you get it going in a starter, which I’d recommend since it’s been several months.

  2. Mike, I’ve been getting into “sours” ever since I saw your discussion with Adam. I’ve been using canned puree for my fruit additions but would love to use the fresh stuff. I’ve been a little nervous about unwanted contamination. Any tips for sterilizing fresh or frozen fruit?

  3. Hey Kevin – I have had good luck simply adding frozen fruit (cleaned & washed, plus peeled or pitted if needed, before freezing) directly to the fermenter. I’ll try to document the process with some pictures for a future post.

    Hey DonO – thanks for going first! I remember you and Chip saying that this culture wasn’t very sour, but these blackcurrant are pretty acidic so I think it’s all going to work out. I’ll be eager to get your opinion on the finished beer.

  4. Thanks a lot Mike. I’ll give it a try. I’m making a Dark Belgian with a sour cherry kicker. I’ll let you know how it turns out. I don’t have the experience to manipulate the different Belgian “bugs”, so I’m just going to play it safe with Roeselare. I still have to claim newby status with the sours! Prost!

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  6. Pingback: basecamp sour 2012: the Brettcurrant edition | the beer engine

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