I like sours. That’s not really any sort of secret. However, my general malaise on jumping into the deep end with actually brewing them hits on two main points:
- The time intensive process of brewing them (whether it be a traditional aging or kettle souring)
- Contaminating my system
Those are both incredibly valid issues with the process. Granted, I do have a bourbon barrel that I am slowly managing to burn the bourbon out of, but there’s at least another 2 batches in that oak before it’s neutral enough to really hunker down and start culturing in.
Beyond that, with the fact that I generally am about an hour away from my beers during fermentation, kettle souring was also a challenge, as I can’t constantly check my pH and taste, let alone turn around and then finish the beer out.
Luckily, problems one and two were solved with little actual difficulty. After blending out the Blended Blackberry Sour, I was now left with a PET carboy that I was never going to put clean beer into ever again. With dedicated souring vessel in hand, the only other obsticle left was the commitment of time. As if the wheels of fate had hear the barbaric yawp of my soul, Bootleg Biology had announced their seasonal release of their strains of bacteria and wild yeast blends. I hastily scooped up a few different blends to experiment with at home – namely a fast souring Pedio blend, a funky Saison blend, and a complete blend of just Brett(s). Combining that with some Christmas presents, I now had a semi-autonomous method for controlling my temperatures to keep it warm enough for doing the quick/kettle souring method, alleviating the “difficulty” of managing the temp of the fermentation over the course of a night or multiple days.
With both of the problems seemingly solved, it was time to embark on a voyage into the land of tart ‘n’ tangy.
Batch Size: 5.5 gallons
Mash Temp: 152F for 60 min.
Boil Time: 30 min.
Batch Efficiency: 60%
Original Gravity: 1.040 // 10 P
Final Gravity: 1.006 // 1.5 P
SRM: 4.9 EBC // 2.5 SRM
- 6# Belgian Pilsner | 60%
- 2# Red/White Wheat | 20%
- 1# Spelt |10%
- 1# Rye| 10%
- 1 oz. Cashmere @ Dryhop (3 days)
- Bootleg Biology Sour Weapon – Fermented at 85F for 3-4 days, then lowered to 76F
- Bootleg Biology Saison Parfait – Fermented at 76F
Spices and Stuff
- 1 tablet Whirlfloc @ 15 min
- 2.2# // 1 kg Boiron Mango Puree
- 2.2# // 1 kg Boiron Passionfruit Puree
This was actually the second batch of a double brew day, but the beer was carbonated much faster than anticipated (them damn saison and critter blends do work).
After finishing the first batch, which was the Imperial Graff fiasco, this was a walk in the park.
Real catch to this one was that I ran out of malted spelt in the last batch that I brewed, and I was being a bitch about paying for shipping when I didn’t need to but a bunch of other grains, so I scrambled. Luckily, the organic/hippie food store around the corner from my apartment had some local, organic spelt – unmalted of course. But, I was not to be deterred and I figured that was nothing that a short cereal mash couldn’t handle. So, before I even started heating the water in the “HLT” to mash in the second beer, I did about an hour long cereal mash at 120F on the stove in the kitchen. Pretty much just got them to temp, slapped a lid on that bad boy, and then added them to the mash tun when it was time. Easy enough -1# of spelt with 2 cups of water, heated on the stove top.
Rather than the droll and boring process of describing a mash that was just as remarkable as every other one, you instead just get a picture. Everything went off without a hitch, and hit temp pretty much on the nose.
Even though this is essentially the same recipe as my base saison, minus some base malt to keep it a little lower/sessionable, I also knew that I was going to be working with critters and Brett (presumably), so I wanted to keep some light residual sugars for the Brett to enjoy after any of the Saison Sacc had burned through the fermentables. Thus, a slightly higher temp than I’d usually shoot for, with the intention that it’d probably still end up bone dry.
I wasn’t particularly worried about adding the cereal mashed spelt in and throwing off my temp, as the amount would maybe add on another degree, at most.
Post mash, I collected first runnings and sparged like normal. Beyond the labor of paying attention to those details, the quick boil was a breeze.
I opted to do something almost like the Reverse Kettle Souring from Milk the Funk, but I really had no plans of re-boiling afterwards to add any sort of bittering hops or to kill off the bacteria. Partly was the distance, as noted in the beginning of the post, but it was also a little bit of a hassle that I didn’t really care to deal with. The wort got a 30 minute boil to make sure that nothing was living it, as well as dosing it with whirlfloc to help with clarity. It’s worth noting that I had also burned through my pectic enzyme on the graff as well, so the Whirlfloc was an attempt to mitigate some light clarifying out of the beer, since it was going onto almost 5# of fruit puree. Cue immersion wort chiller, dropping to about 70F. I did think about just cooling it down to the ~85F that the BB Pedio blend would have prefered, but I ultimately decided to opt for having a solid cold break, as I could easily heat the wort back up to the temperature I wanted to ferment at with my set-up.
Also slightly atypical of what is usually done (soured, fermented, then fruited), I went ahead and added both packets of puree to the carboy before I racked into it. Reasoning behind that was contact time and simplification of the process for my dad – i.e. I wanted to have to give as few directions over the phone as possible, despite how complicated the finishing was going to be compared to the initial brewing process.
With the wort chilled, mixed into the fruit, and set up, I added in the first packet from
Bootleg, the Sour Weapon Pedio blend. Bootleg’s website says that this is a 100% Pedio blend, but the fact that it’s cultured from grain and has a (seemingly) self-terminating pH of about3.1 makes me think it *might* have some Lacto mixed, but I’m not a science guy, nor am I going to look a gift horse in the mouth. The Sour Weapon blend was pitched into the carboy and I set up the Inkbird/heat wrap combo to blast that shit at 85F for a few days, just to make sure that I got the souring effect I wanted. After 3 days, the pH dropped to 3.24, which was about where Bootleg advertises it can get to, and from there, the thermal control was lowered to 75F and the Saison Parfait blend was pitched. After 5 days, fermentation seemed to have subsided and my dad checked the gravity which gave him a reading close to 1.002ish (I’m not totally sure on the accuracy of that one, but thanks, dad), meaning we were almost as terminal as possible.
Bottling was still a few days off, but 3 days out I instructed my dad to follow protocol and drop in 1 oz. of Cashmere hop pellets. Seeing as I wasn’t going to be double dryhopping, and it was such a small amount, they just went right into the carboy.
3 days later, and it’s bottling day. I settled on shooting for about 2.7 volumes of CO2, giving it the carbonation level of a nice kölsch, since I figured this beer was more along the lines of a Berliner Weiss as far as a stylistic point. I heated a cup of water on the stove and dissolved 3/4 cup of granulated table sugar into it, or about 5 ounces, to prime the 5 gallons of beer with. The great surprise was when I pulled out the bung to remove the temp probe for moving the carboy. Jesus fucking christ, this beer assailed my nostrils with such pungent passionfruit and mango notes that I almost dropped the carboy from surprise. I mean, I expected fruit, but the nose on that beer was just straight up juice.
After the simple syrup had cooled, I poured it into the sanitized bottling bucket, lowered it onto a box to be below the carboy, and fired up that autospyhon, careful not to oxidize the beer as much as possible.
I pulled a sample aside to check for a final gravity reading, which came out as 1.006/1.5 P. I was satisfied with this result.
After that, because I am a pedant with a flair for the dramatic, I also waxed the tops of the bottles, because why not be fancy as fuck? Opting for trying a 2:1:1 ratio of hot melt glue sticks to crayola and paraffin wax, I ended up with some sleek, Maker’s Mark style wax, complete with sexy drips down the bottles. Sadly, since the bottling day was a bit more short notice than I prefer, I wasn’t able to get my hands on the really nice vinyl adhesive sticker sheets I like to use for the labels, so the majority of the bottles are rocking a serious desnúda variant right now (hopefully to be rectified shortly). Worth noting also, this beer bottle conditioned in 2 days. From grain to glass, this has to be the absolute fastest beer I’ve ever done.
This beer straight looks like a good ol’ Bee-Dubs with that moon glow pale color. It’s almost like the color of a good white tea, not even a beer, until you pour it into a larger glass.
I’m not sure if it’s something with the fermentation or the pectin from the fruit (since I didn’t use any enzymes for it) or what, but it has very little head retention or lacing to speak of. It’ll give you a decent head for maybe 45 second to a minute, but then it’s gone, aside from a few whisps. That’s the worst that I can honestly say about this beer. Seriously.
Remember how I said that I lost my shit when I opened the carboy? Yeah, all that aroma is still there and it’s kicking up all sorts of musty, funky, sweet, tart smells like a Filipino fruit cart in the barrio. I don’t even think I imagined I’d get this kind of result from the beer. If I’m gonna be honest, I don’t even know if the dryhopping contributed anything to this, as I’ve never used Cashmere hops before, but judging by the descriptors on it (lemon, lime, and melon) it probably just blends right into the tour de force of tropical fuckery. For real, this gets me half-mast. I’m talking getting flashbacks to middle school dances with your crush trying to slow dance to K-ci & Jojo’s All My Life type shit.
From just the nose, it’d have to have been a serious fuck up to not follow with the flavor. This is a juice bomb. All those smells translating perfectly into a hybrid gusher/warheads candy type orgy of tropical fruit, grains, and lactic tartness, with just the tiniest sprinkled of Brett barnyard funk in the mix. I think the rub is really the fact that it’s just shy of being too tart, as in I can still feel the enamel on my teeth afterwards, which is always a plus.
It’s bubbly, it’s light, and best of all, it’s dry. I mean, this shit is almost English cider level of dry, stopping short of putting paper towels in your mouth, but it’s the dryness that makes you realize, after you stop smacking your gobs for a second, that your mouth is literally watering for subsequent gulps of this impotent potable.
I have accidentally created the ultimate summer session sour, and just in time for the shitty heat and oppressive humidity that’s about to start rolling into central Pennsylvania. At 4.7% ABV, this definitely is straight croosh, with the only real limiting factor being it goes just too hard in the paint on that lactic front to drill more than 4 in succession.
In summary: got. dayum.
Suffice it to say, I will most certainly be continuing my patronage of Bootleg Biology. Those classy motherfuckers are putting out some high quality product, albeit at irregular intervals, but I can’t argue with results. If you missed out on the last round of ordering, keep your ear to the ground moving forward. You won’t regret it.