Process Experiment: Can you Ferment a Sour Beer and a Clean Beer Side by Side?

As previously noted in my sour beer post, I love sour beer. After brewing my first sour, and doing a little sample, I was freaking stoked! I could not believe that I had produced something even remotely similar to the sours I’ve enjoyed over the years. With the knowledge that I wasn’t going to be able to enjoy this beer for another 6-8 months, I figured it was time to brew more sour beers so I would have a steady supply sometime in the future. I didn’t want to sacrifice my fermentation chamber for another three weeks at 80 degrees to get 5-10 gallons of beer that would be ready a year from now. Searching the internet I found mixed results on whether or not you can ferment sour and clean beer in the same chamber, let alone at the same time. Since no definitive answer could found I decided this should be my next process experiment. Around the time of deciding to brew this I was listening to a lot of Jamil’s old shows on the brewing network, and, became really interested in trying the Roeselare blend from wyeast. After deciding to try this blend, I settled on the recipe from the first sour, and chose to do a 10 gallon split batch between WY3763 and a normal Trappist ale. The Trappist ale would be fermented side-by-side with the sour and subsequently entered into the NHC to determine if BJCP judges noted this beer as having any off flavors consistent with cross contamination. Also, with the high FG, I decided to use the Trappist ale to top off my sour which would eventually be transferred to a Hungarian oak barrel for aging.

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Hop Experiment: Hallertau Blanc vs HBC 438 vs Mandarina (ECY28 Kellerbier)

For as long as I can remember I’ve struggled reading descriptons of hop flavor/aromas. It’s no secret that smell and taste are extremely subjective, but the liberal use of words that many people don’t have a frame of reference for can be downright frustrating when building hops into a recipe. Catpiss, dank, resinous, fruity, piney, lemony, lemongrass stalk, grass, weed, stone fruit, currants, and the list goes to infinity. I’ll easily concede that there isn’t a more realistic or effective way for us to convey attributes about beer to each other. However, it can be very difficult to read profiles on hops and translate flavors to  the final beer. Looking through my recipes it’s quite easy to pinpoint the hops I’m comfortable with and not many others. One thing I’ve done that has been helpful is utilizing the hop aroma/flavor chart. Tracking my experiences with hops numerically has been a great way to quantify why I like certain flavors and what the cause of that flavor/aroma might be. With the explosion of flavorful hops in the past few years I’ve been remiss by not experimenting more and expanding my brewing knowledge by incorporating new hops into my routine. We harp on process and repeat-ability so much as homebrewers, but sometimes we just need to try something different and see where the flavor takes us (maybe I’m learning some from Jeef).

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Yeast Experiment: ECY01 Bug Farm vs INIS913 Brett Barrel Yeast III & WLP645 Brettanomyces Clausenii (Belgain Golden Sour #1)

Recently, I was lucky enough to try a beer I had been trying to get my hands on for years, Pliny the Younger. Denver usually receives a couple kegs which are served at events, but I had never been able to make it to one. This year, Parry’s Pizza got a keg, so a friend and I woke up super early and stood in line to ensure we got to try this impossible to find beer. While we were waiting for Younger we were able to have a couple Russian River sours that I hadn’t had in a while, and was instantly reminded why Russian River is the best! The complexity of there sours is world class, I’ve been lucky enough to have a few Cantillon lambics, and can say that Russian River is right there with them. Sitting there waiting for Younger, we were inspired to craft our own Temptation.

Also, recently, I had been lucky enough to get a vial of East Coast Yeast’s (ECY) annual Bug Farm blend. Having never brewed with ECY before, I did a few internet searches and could tell they had a decent cult following and pretty rave reviews. Though the specific strains used in Bug Farm are not disclosed, the description from the website sounds like a blend which would create a great lambic style sour. With my inspiration to make a beer similar to RR’s Temptation, I settled on The Mad Fermentationist’s Temption clone as a starting point in building my recipe. I had been very interested in 100% brett fermentation as well and thought this would be a good split batch comparison to really dial in which flavors in a sour are brett versus bacteria. In Colorado we’re lucky enough to have a great new company called Inland Island Yeast (INIS) which claims to sell 200 billion cell pitches and sells some interesting strains. Their INIS913: Brett Barrel Yeast III is apparently directly from Crooked Stave (CS) and is the CS house brett. Reading the white labs website it seems that their brett c strain would be a great addition to add some pineapple character.

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