Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Les Lèvres Rouges (Sour Ale Aged on Cherries) - Brew Day

So, in the interest of experimentation, I'm going to be attempting to brew a sour in a quicker fashion than your usual lambic.  I'm hoping that my process (detailed below -- and similar to a Berliner Weisse), will result in a sour beer that can go from grain to glass in a matter of several months, rather than the normal 12-18 months required as a minimum for most sours.  I fully imagine that this will result in a "less complex" soured beer, but I'm planning to age it on cherries for some time to add some complexity and try to emulate some of the characteristics of a kriek.

My plan is to produce a moderately fermentable, traditional grist, lambic wort from a mid-range mash temperature.  After the sparge, I'm going to adjust the pH of the wort pre-boil to a touch below 4.5.  The reason for this is that Lactobacillus has an enzyme that denatures head forming proteins at a pH above 4.5, and I want there to be an acceptable head on this batch.

L. brevis starter along with some Brett Trois
After boiling, I'll pitch a culture of Lactobacillus brevis once the wort is chilled to around 100F.  This will be hooked up to my temperature controller and the FermWrap will be attached to keep the carboy at around 80f for a couple of days.  I'm going to take daily pulls of the beer to check the pH levels and taste for acidity.  Ideally, I'd do an acid titration as the pH can fall pretty rapidly once the buffers have been overcome, but I don't have the equipment (nor, coincidentally, do I have any idea how to do it).

Once the pH has fallen into the mid-low 3 range, I'm going to pitch an active starter of Brettanomyces bruxellensis var. drie (Brett Trois) and proceed with a primary Brett fermentation.  After this has subsided, I'm going to give it a taste.  If there's a decent amount of sourness and a pleasant funk, I'm going to pitch it onto sour cherries at a rate of 1.5lb/gallon.  If it is mediocre, and could be better, I may do a split batch with cherries in both but an additional Brettanomyces strain in one of the carboys with the idea of blending them down the line.

This probably won't work, but fuck it.

Of course, on brew day my pH meter decided to completely go haywire.  I fucking hate those things.  I used my brewing chemistry spreadsheet to try to figure out the acid addition required to drop the wort pH below 4.5

Les Lèvres Rouges (Sour Ale Aged on Cherries)
Est OG: 1.049
Est FG: 1.008
Est ABV: 5.45%
IBU: 5
SRM: 5

7.50lb Belgian Pilsner Malt
4.00lb Flaked Wheat
0.62lb Aromatic Malt

0.30oz Willamette @ FWH (5 IBU)

1pkg Wyeast Lactobacillus Brevis WY5223
1pkg White Labs Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois
1pkg White Labs Brettanomyces Clausenii (maybe)

7.5lb Frozen, thawed tart cherries

Mash @ 151f for 60 minutes

12/9/2014 -- Brewed by myself.  Mash efficiency came in at 83%.  My pH meter conked out and failed to calibrate at one of the most inopportune times possible, so I was unable to check if my spreadsheet estimates of the acid required to drop the wort pH down to below 4.5.  Anyways, gathered 5.5 gallons of wort at 1.051 gravity.  Pitched lacto starter when the wort was around 100F.  I have the FermWrap set to 85f, but I think its too cold in my basement for it to hold that temp.  It was probably around 78f through the night.

12/10/2014 -- Figured out that I needed a new electrode for my pH meter.  Amazon Prime same day shipping is a wonderful thing.  I measured the pH of some wort that I had in a hydrometer tube from last night and that came in at 4.86.  My pH is now down to around 3.85 less than 24 hours later, which is a pretty nice drop.  There is a slight lactic tartness in the nose, and even less in the taste, but the taste is tough just because its still fairly sugary wort.  I'm going to resample tomorrow evening and most likely pitch my Brett Trois starter.

12/12/14 -- Down to a pH of 3.6. Going to keep her going for a while.

12/13/14 -- pH down to 3.55. Still truckin.

12/15/14 (Morning) -- So, pH still at around 3.55.  I managed to put the carboy into my fridge with the FermWrap on and had the temp raise to around 95f.  It doesn't seem like it's make much of a difference.  I have a smackpack of Wyeast Oud Bruin that I might toss in as well tonight if there's still no budge in pH.

12/15/2014 (Evening) -- Added the smackpack of Wyeast Oud Bruin.  This is one of their Private Collections and contains a fast-acting Lacto (probably another dose of Brevis) and a Sacc strain.  I do want some Brett character in this so I'll be adding that Brett starter as well.  It'll be interesting to see who wins -- Sacc or Brett -- as the strain that does the primary fermentation.  My bet is on the Brett, given its in a starter and then Sacc is in a somewhat old smackpack.  Lets see how this does.

12/17/2014 (Morning) -- Some activity in the fermenter.  Took a pH sample this morning and it was down to 3.52.  So, some slight progress.  Will check again tonight and potentially pitch the Brett.

12/17/2014 (Evening) -- pH dropped down to 3.50.  Definite activity in the carboy, although not a lot of krausen.  Really hard to tell if it was the alleged brevis in the Oud Bruin blend or the sacc strain.  It definitely didn't look like a sacc fermentation to me.  Anyways, I pitched the starter of Brett Trois and lowered the temp in the fridge to 80f from 95f to bring it more into line for a Brett fermentation.

12/18/2014 -- pH down to 3.40.  Nice light lactic tartness that I hope continues to develop.

12/28/2014 -- pH remains at 3.40.  Like before, there is a nice lactic bite to this one, not super strong, but I'm sure that will develop over time.  At almost three weeks, it is similar to 6-7 month sours that I've had in my pipeline.  I'm pretty happy about my approach on this one, as I believe the fruit and other additions I'm toying with will complement this nicely lactic, although one-dimensional, beer quite well.

1/3/2015 -- Split the batch into two carboys.  One half got 5lb of apricot puree and will get some vanilla bean and cinnamon stick before bottling.  The other half got 5lb of tart cherries.  Sample before fruiting was a soft lactic.  Added half a vial of Brett Brux to each.

1/25/2015 -- Racked off of fruit to clear before bottling.  Added 0.33 beans of vanilla to the apricot portion.

1/29/2015 -- Bottled both batches to 3.1 vol.  Finished around 1.004.  Bottled with Brett C.


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