sours in the night

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Giving it both barrels: five gallons of 2011 sour (really, really sour … plus dark and oaky) red comes off the wood and onto 5 pounds of rhubarb, five gallons of Basecamp Sour (alcoholic fermentation complete, sir) begins its oak nap.

Like ships in the night, these two separate but similar beers pass each other so closely but never quite manage to hook up. They would be so good together, but it’s like they just can’t see it because they’re at such different stages in their lives. Will they ever meet again and, you know … consummate? I hope so – I like brewing stories to have a happy ending.

15 thoughts on “sours in the night

    • It was frozen, cut-up rhubarb – we started out pureeing some of it (the pink slurry in one of the pics) in a blender to speed up the interaction with the beer, but then decided it wasn’t totally necessary/worth it, so the rest of it just went in thawed but in chunks.

  1. I can’t wait till my sour comes out. I will be checking the gravity this weekend to see if the fermentation is over. I need to educate myself on whether Brett can cause bottle bombs if it hasn’t had long enough in primary/secondary, and if a secondary is really required even.

  2. Very cool. I just started my first sour. I have a base American Brown that I racked into a 6 gallon whiskey barrel (used a couple times) and added the Roselare blend. I’ll rack that onto some raspberries in a couple months and let it hang out for a while. I’ve watched the BTV Sour episode many times for inspiration. Now I just need a clever sour name for this beer.

  3. Very cool. Just starting my first sour. Took an American Brown and racked into a 6 gallon whiskey barrel (used a couple times) then added the Roselare blend. I’ll rack on to raspberries in a couple months and then wait. The anticipation is killing me already.

  4. Dawson- How do you bottle your sours? Or more specifically, how low should I let the gravity go? I want to bottle when its tasting right, but have concerns about overcarbing it/using to much priming sugar.


    • TG depends on a lot of factors, including which blend or bugs are being used … it needs to go until it stops, I think, and the bug selection plays into the time requirement as well – e.g., with a lambic-style blend the Brett may not even kick in (in my experience at least) until weeks or months after the S. cerevisiae and bacteria have done their work. Maybe weeks for something with a Berliner Weiss profile (w/o Brett, at least) or years for a lambic culture. Once it’s stable, I use a priming calculator and a gram scale to dose out corn sugar or sucrose, factor in beer temp, and aim for the low end of the CO2 range on the assumption that it may continue to build pressure from slow fermentation in the bottle over years in the cellar.

  5. Mr. Dawson, I have a sour question for you. Or more precisely a question about sour and bugs and barrels. A few of us have this borderline idiotic/awesome plan to brew 60 gallons of Flanders red, primary ferment in “normal” 5 gal fermenters for a week with 1056, and then transfer it into a used French oak Cabernet barrel for aging and souring. We’ve included a touch of maltodextrin in the recipe so that the bugs have something to eat for a year or so. So the question is how many packages of Roeselare should we add to a 59 gallon barrel? Is one package enough, or should we be putting more in there? Any insight would be much appreciated.

    • Take this for what it’s worth, b/c I’ve yet to personally ferment a batch of sour that large, but – since you’d be using the blend strictly for souring and not for alcoholic fermentation, my understanding is that the actual inoculation rate can be extremely low and still sour the beer … so in theory, 1 pack would sour the 60 gallons just fine given enough time and the proper conditions. More packs is probably better, but also probably not linear. However, since it sounds like the barrel will be filled from a number of constituent 5 gallon batches, why not dedicate a carboy or three to inoculate with a pack each of 3763 (along with or in place of the 1056) and use those as big incubators for the bacteria & Brett load?

      Let us know how this turns out – idiotic and awesome is my all-time favorite combination!

      • Thank you very much for the reply and the incubator advice. Yesterday was brew day, and both idiotic and awesome showed up ready to play. If you asked my wife, I think she’d say that idiotic had more of an influence over this process than awesome, but she’s rolling with it. Right now I’m in a room with 13 buckets/carboys filled with happily feasting 1056 and one carboy filled with a nicely growing population of 3763. In another room is a barrel swelling and getting ready to hold all of this. So, having never tried to sour a barrel of any size before, we have another question. Should we throw the whole cake from the 3763 carboy into the barrel to maximize the bug load? Do the benefits we would get from the number of bugs and brett in the cake outweigh the potential problems that may come from dumping the trub and a huge saccharomyces load, or should we be satisfied with only the population of bugs suspended in the 5 gallons of beer?

        Again, your insight is greatly appreciated.

        • My understanding is (and experience has been) that autolysis isn’t a concern since the dead cells are essentially Brett food. Space permitting, I’d say dump it all in and let the bugs sort it out.

          • It’s all dumped in the barrel, and the bugs are busily sorting. Based on the smell of the stuff oozing out of the airlock, I’d say the Brett has a nice early lead. Thanks again for your help. I’ll be back in a year or so to let you know how it goes!

  6. Pingback: the imp of the perverse | the beer engine

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