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Sour brewing plan...

PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 5:01 pm
by alms66
Let me know what you guys think about this plan, because I think I'm ready to start doing some sour brews now...

I will buy a 15.5 gallon keg here:

Then I will use wheat extract to get it started - for simplicity and speed. I'll fill it with wort and dump some "blend" packs into it and just let it go for a year. I'm thinking that I'll buy 5 different packs, and just dump them all at once, with nutrient, but not really making a starter.

These are the blends I'm thinking of getting:

Buying all those blends will be a little expensive, but I figure it's a one time investment and it will get me a wide variety of bugs.


PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 5:35 pm
by aleguy
Sours are always a little difficult to get exactly what you want. If you're going for a Lambic style, you're probably on the right track, Though you really ought to do a turbid mash. For a Flanders Brown you need to ferment using a standard Belgian ale yeast, then rack it into your secondary to get it off the sediment before adding in the bugs.
Honestly one bug blend should be adequate to get everything you need. Unless you're after a particular Brett profile, I would just get whichever blend best fits with your tastes and/or style you're trying to match.
Of course you can always do a quickie sour beer without risking infection of your equipment and kegs by doing a sour mash pre-boil. The boil sanitizes all the bugs and it's ready in 2 weeks like any other ale.

PostPosted: Mon Dec 20, 2010 8:50 pm
by alms66
Well, now that I'm not at work, I can more thoroughly explain my plan and at the same time, respond to your post Aleguy.

I've read up a bit about turbid mashing. What I found was that while most commercial breweries that brew lambics do still use it, though a large number of people (a few professionals and a lot of homebrewers) also say it doesn't really add much to the finished product. It is due to this researching that I decided to just do the quick and simple method of using wheat extract to make the initial batches, just to fill 'er up quickly. I'm thinking that the extract will produce good sour beer, maybe not great, but then again, maybe it will. However, once the initial fill is over and I start pulling stuff out (in about a year), I will then do all grain batches with turbid mashing. That was the plan anyway, just better explained than before.

Oh, and yes, I am leaning more towards the lambic style. I figure at the end of the initial year or so, I'll take one 3-gallon batch and keg it as straight lambic. I'll take another two 3-gallon batches and dump them on two different types of fruit for some fruit lambic, which then go to kegs for drinking. I'll take another 3-gallon batch and stick it in a carboy and let it continue to age, so that eventually I can also be making blended lambics. That would leave approximately 3 gallons in the keg, along with lots of yeast and bugs, upon which I would throw the all grain/turbid mashed batches, fill 'er up over the course of a few weekends, and wait another year or so and rinse/repeat.

You're right that one blend would probably do just fine, but I'd like to throw as many different types of bugs in as possible. There's no real logical reason really, I just want to. The three brett strains are a "must" then. The Lactobacillus gets me some lactic acid, while the Wyeast Blend adds in sherry yeast and Belgian wheat yeast. I think that pretty much covers every "bug" on the market, or at least it was all the bugs I could find. I'm not 100% sure on using the blend (sherry and wheat yeast), because it also has two different bretts and lactic acid, which may end up being too much of those specific bugs. Perhaps just a belgian wheat yeast starter and all the others linked above, without the Wyeast blend.

I plan on having two sets of equipment, one for sour and one for non-sour, just to err on the safe side of infections.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 8:47 am
by yeastmeister
I've tried fermenting with belgian yeast before, then adding bugs. The results were not what I was looking for. Subsequent batches have been pure bug blends with no pre-fermentation.

Sounds like an interesting experiment. I have no idea what the taste will be when you add all of those. Guess you just need to let them fight it out amongst themselves.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 9:22 am
by alms66
yeastmeister wrote:Guess you just need to let them fight it out amongst themselves.

Let The War of the Bugs begin!!! :lol:

I made a change in my previous post so I only pull four 3-gallon batches instead of five, so that I always leave some behind in the bio-reactor...

yeastmeister wrote:I've tried fermenting with belgian yeast before, then adding bugs. The results were not what I was looking for. Subsequent batches have been pure bug blends with no pre-fermentation.

So, do you think I should not throw the Wyeast blend (with sherry and belgian yeast) in, but just the bugs?

PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 12:08 pm
by aleguy
I would leave out any sacharomyces yeasts if you're not doing a turbid mash. The reason for a turbid mash is to provide lots of starch for the Bretts and bugs to eat once the sacharomyces have fermented out all the available sugars. They grow much faster than the Bretts so the turbid mash ensures the Bretts have food. Bretts can also live on the cellulose in wood, so you might consider throwing a few oak cubes in the bioreactor. That will also help to perpetuate your zoo, er, wild kingdom.
I didn't bother to look at all the blends you listed but Pediococcus is a must have for bug blends, so I'm sure it's in there somewhere. If you want quick and dirty, you could always just throw some AP flour or even corn starch into your boil to substitute for the turbid mash. Just throw it in at the end, don't boil it so long that you get wort gravy.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 21, 2010 3:19 pm
by alms66
true, on the brett/turbid mashing... I hadn't thought about that, so I'll definitely drop the lambic blend (sherry yeast and Belgian yeast) and just go with straight bugs. And good call on the oak cubes too, I hadn't thought of that either but I'll definitely be doing that. I guess a good soak in everclear to sanitize them?

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 7:53 am
by yeastmeister
Up to you, but I personally never sanitize my oak cubes when I add them to a sour beer. I'm looking for bugs after all.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 9:24 am
by alms66
Well, it's true that I want bugs, but I don't want any bad bugs...
But I guess you're saying I don't have to worry about that with oak cubes. I think I'll just go ahead and do it anyway though as I'd rather be safe than regretting not doing it later.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 11:04 am
by aleguy
The only Bad bugs that live in oak are the kind you actually want in this beer. You just don't want them in other wood-aged beer styles. Honestly, any bugs in the oak are either already in your blend, or they should be.
Let's just say that you don't need to worry about infections in sour beers. Nothing that will make you sick can live in beer once it's been fermented. True Lambics do have some very nasty pathogenic bacteria in them for the first few days, but they all die off as the alcohol content rises and the oxygen diminishes.
Sanitize or not, the Brett lives so deep in the wood that you would have to pickle your oak long enough for it to sink to the bottom (Probably more than a month) to kill it off anyway.
You can sanitize your oak if you choose, but I think you stand to lose more than you will gain.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 12:21 pm
by Imakewort
More Beer has a nice tutorial on how to use oak or wood in your beer, Here is a section on sanitizing your oak or wood cubes and a link to the tutorial. Prost

The Process

Many homebrewers have not experimented with oak, mainly due to one fear-sanitizing! ?How should I sanitize this stuff? Do I soak them in sanitizing liquid, boil them in water?? Sanitizers should not be used, as the sanitizer will be absorbed by the wood and carried over into your beer.

A simple way is to steam the wood, killing anything that may be living inside. One method is to put the wood in a Pyrex measuring cup with just enough water to cover the wood. Cover the top with a saucer and heat it in the microwave until the water starts to boil. Turn the microwave off and let the wood steam for two minutes. Repeat the process twice. This should kill anything that may be living in the wood. Add the oak and the water left behind to the keg, as the water will have a nice oak essence to it. If you plan on soaking your oak in alcohol, such as whiskey, this is all the sanitizing you will need as the high percentage of alcohol will kill anything that may be living in the wood. Kegs are the best container to store your beer while it is aging on oak. You can carbonate it at the same time, and it is much easier to pull samples than from a carboy. Once the beer has been racked into the keg, it is time to add the cubes. Eventually the cubes will end up sinking to the bottom of the keg, and because this is also where the dip tube will be pulling your samples from, you will no doubt taste a very unbalanced beer. Every three weeks or so, rock the keg gently back and forth to ensure the portion of the beer that is in contact with the oak gets properly mixed with the beer toward the top of the keg.

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 2:48 pm
by alms66
Ok then, I think I'll do this for oak then...

Spirals :D

PostPosted: Wed Dec 22, 2010 10:16 pm
by GuitarLord5000
alms66 wrote:Oh, and yes, I am leaning more towards the lambic style............
You're right that one blend would probably do just fine, but I'd like to throw as many different types of bugs in as possible. There's no real logical reason really, I just want to.

If that's the case, then I can highly recommend that you try the Bugfarm that I talk about here: ... ht=bugfarm
My lambic is still very young, but so far the Bugfarm is making a pretty decent sour beer. It's not quite as sour as my Flanders yet, but the Flanders has a pretty good headstart.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 5:36 am
by alms66
I was already planning on doing sours eventually, but it was actually that specific thread, and my inability to take and use your bugfarm starter when you offered it, which got my plan rolling now rather than later. So, I guess I owe you a thanks and maybe a "damn you" for making me spend the money right now... :lol:

But at this point, now that I've actually got a fully developed plan, I think I'll just go ahead with it as-is and see what my initial handi-work produces. I don't think I want to get bugfarm 4 and leave the thing in the fridge for a year or two of waiting, but I'll be looking at getting bugfarm for sure, eventually at least, because I may do the initial batch, then refill for a second year with all-grain batches to see how that differs from the initial all-extract batch before I add any more bugs to the mix.

I do have another question though...
Once I've done the initial batch, am I going to have to replace those oak spirals or will I still be able to get enough oak character out of them for further batches? I've never used oak before and thus have no first hand experience on their contribution over timescales like this.

PostPosted: Thu Dec 23, 2010 6:34 am
by yeastmeister
I always add more oak whenever I refill my bioreactor. I don't remove the older oak. Of course, I'm using oak cubes, so they are taking up very little room. Spirals you will probably need to remove otherwise you may not be able to add any more.

So to answer your question, yes, you need to add more oak, it gets used up, but the bugs still live in it, so I let it stay.