Wild Blackberry Sour Ale

Blackberry Flanders 01This beer’s story began almost two years ago, brewed on 06.12.14 (detailed here: Barrel Project #02).  I took a five gallon portion of that beer and aged it longer still, on 4 LBS, 12.6 OZ of blackberries (mostly wild berries I foraged) and 12.3 OZ of raspberries (store bought, fresh) for the final two months.  Now after nearly 6 months in the bottle, this beer has just hit its stride; it is my favorite beer that I’ve made.

This beer earned me and Gregory a bronze medal in the Specialty Beer category at a local homebrew competition (the new sour categories had not yet gone into effect), and received a score of 41 (excellent) in the Mixed Fermentation category at this year’s annual AHA (American Homebrewers Association) sponsored National Homebrewer’s Competition.

The actual brewing process and recipe can be found in the linked post above.  Below I will only detail the berry additions and bottling date.  However, as usual, the tasting notes will follow those details.

Foraged BlackberriesWild Blackberry Sour Ale

Notes

08.16.15 — After a couple separate additions, a couple days apart, all fruit added to Flanders Style Red (4 LBS, 12.6 OZ blackberries, 12.3 OZ raspberries)

10.19.15 — Bottled beer with champagne yeast & corn sugar for approximately 2.5 volumes CO2

Blackberry Flanders 02Tasting Notes — 04.14.16 (Bottle Pour)

Gorgeous burgundy color with an off-white head which dissipates quickly and laces thin.  Aromas of jammy blackberry, raspberry, and cherry with background notes of wood and acidity.  The berries dominate the palate, followed by some drying oak tannin in the middle with a hint of vanilla and barrel char.  Finishes with a clean and strong lactic sourness, no vinegar notes detected.

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Merry Christmas, It’s Endless Stout!

Barrel 04Way back in late January of 2014 Gregory, our co-worker Matt, and I brewed an American Stout of moderate strength to be aged in a used whiskey barrel from local distillery Westland Distillery.  Each of us brewed roughly 18 gallons of beer to fill the 53 gallon barrel and each of us decided to create different versions of the brew after it was done barrel aging.  Nearly a year later, I have finally finished with my fourth and final version of the stout which is a soured version.  This post will review all four of my interpretations and I’ll post the original base recipe that spent approximately 5.5 months in the barrel.

First, we’ll start with the regular old whiskey barrel aged American Stout: we all agreed on a base beer recipe and tweaked it slightly with each subsequent brewing based on our results.  Disappointed with efficiency on some of the batches, our final batch incorporated some DME in order to boost the gravity of the overall brew.  The end result was a beer between 6% – 6.5% ABV that was a little overwhelmed by the boozy notes and the wood tannins that the remaining whiskey and barrel imparted.

Feeling that this framework would be able to take on some other flavors which might wed well with the barrel characteristics, I decided on my next two renditions simultaneously.

My second version saw strong cold-brewed lavender coffee, and Madagascar vanilla beans added to the base beer.  The lavender coffee was purchased from Pelindaba Lavender on Friday Harbor and was added at bottling, whereas the vanilla beans were found at Metropolitan Market and were used as a week long “dry-hop” prior to packaging.  This version turned out the best in my opinion and has been dubbed The Friday Harbourbon Barrel Aged Stout.

The third adaptation I made saw pie cherries, organic cacao nibs, and Madagascar vanilla beans added to the base beer.  I pasteurized the cherries the same way I did for The Cherry Ghost and the beer sat on all of these ingredients for two extra weeks before bottling.  The cherries are the most prevalent flavor component and they add a slight tartness to the beer without turning it into a true sour ale.

The fourth and final version is a soured version that I just bottled on December 17th 2014.  This rendition was kind of an afterthought as we had about 5 gallons of stout left over from our last barrel top-off batch.  It was just sitting in a carboy when Gregory, Matt, Derek (another friend and co-worker), & I decided to brew a Flanders Red Ale to age next in the whiskey barrel.  After the first of those batches was complete, I added the yeast cake from the Flanders Red Ale which utilized Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Blend and let it undergo a long secondary fermentation in which I also added the bottle dregs from Girardin Gueuze 1882, and the yeast cake from an English Mild that Gregory and I fermented with Wyeast 1318 London Ale III & White Labs WLP645 Brettanomyces Claussenii.  The resulting beer has a moderate tartness and a pleasant funkiness; I’ll elaborate more once it has carbonated and can be properly tasted.

Here is the recipe for my last edition of the base beer:

Roesalare StoutWestland Distillery Whiskey Barrel Aged American Stout

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.5
Total Grain (Lbs): 13.76
Anticipated OG: 1.069
Anticipated SRM: 43.0
Anticipated IBU: 31.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

Grain

74% – 10.31 Lbs. Marris Otter Pale (UK)
05% – 0.75 Lbs. Flaked Rye
05% – 0.75 Lbs. Golden Naked Oats (UK)
04% – 0.60 Lbs. Midnight Wheat
03% – 0.45 Lbs. Crystal 70L
02% – 0.30 Lbs. Black Patent
02% – 0.30 Lbs. Chocolate Rye
02% – 0.30 Lbs. Chocolate Wheat

Hops

0.50 oz. Columbus (Pellet, 15.0% AA) @ 60 min.
1.00 0z. Perle (Pellet, 7.8% AA) @ 15 min.

Extras

1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.

Yeast

Ferementis Safale US-05

Water Profile

Seattle
1.00 tsp Calcium Chloride
1.00 tsp Gypsum

Mash Schedule

Single Infusion  – 60 min @ 156F

Notes

Brewed 02.17.14

02.17.14 – Chilled wort to 65F before pitching rehydrated yeast.

02.19.14 –  Vigorous fermentation, temperature holding steady @ 60-65F.

03.03.14 – Transferred to whiskey barrel for conditioning.

07.21.14 – Transferred stout out of barrel and began different renditions.

Tasting Notes

Regular version: Lots of whiskey flavor on the front end that tends to mask the base beer; finishes dry with some noticeable wood tannins from the barrel.  This beer has mellowed over time with the whiskey flavor blending better with the base beer; still lots of barrel character but hints of bittersweet chocolate and cola have asserted themselves.

Lavender Coffee Vanilla Bean version: Although lavender coffee was used, the lavender notes are subtle while the roast from the coffee is bold.  It has aged well and the flavors meld into the whiskey character nicely.  Very subtle hints of vanilla on the drying finish.  Drinks better now (7 months later) than it did when first bottled.

Cherry Chocolate Vanilla Bean version: This one tends to come off as more sweet than the other versions.  Its viscous and mouth-coating with the cherries lending a slight tang to the finish.  The chocolate flavors from the cacao nibs are subdued; its slightly nutty.  Vanilla could be more apparent.

Sour version (non-barrel aged): This turned out rather well for the afterthought experiment that it was.  There’s lots of body and sweetness to this one which could be from the top off batch containing all of the DME we used (which would mean it wasn’t converted properly) which I rather like since it becomes fairly sour on the finish.  It has notes of tropical fruit and some restrained funk on the finish.

Calculated OG: 1.060
Calculated FG: 1.015
Approx. ABV: 5.9%

The Cherry Ghost – Cherry & Kumquat Berliner Weisse

CKB 04“A sour wort Berliner weisse aged 8 weeks on cherries and kumquats with a ghost of an ABV.”

Berliner weisse is a classic tart German wheat ale that is traditionally fermented with a mixed culture of top-fermenting yeasts and lactobacillus.  Examples of the style can range from mildly tart to bracingly sour with firm acidity and notes of lemon and other citrus fruits.  In Berlin it is available “straight” but is often served with sweet raspberry or woodruff syrups to blunt the acidity and sourness.  At only about 3-4% alcohol by volume this beverage proves to be an excellent thirst quencher and has become quite popular during the summer months in the U.S.A.

There are different methods of souring a berliner weisse, each with its own involved process and merits.  Briefly, you can pitch pure strain lactobacillus, or lacto with an additional yeast culture; or you can do a sour mash with pitched yeast, or a sour mash with pitched yeast and additional lacto.  If you’d like to read more in depth about these methods, Derek Dellinger has done a great job of explaining them on his Homebrew and Beer Blog, Bear Flavored.  Additionally, you can conduct a normal mash and pull some or all of the wort, pitch your lacto starter at this point and perform a sour wort.

The base for this berliner weisse is extremely minimal.  Gregory and I decided to do a four day sour wort with a lactobacillus starter made from yogurt followed by a 15 minute boil after which we pitched Wyeast 1007 German Ale along with Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis.

CKB 03

As the tag line that begins this post suggests, not everything went as planned for this brew.  Although some might consider 3-4% a ghost of an ABV already, the base beer only ended up being about 1%!  How did this happen, you ask?  Well I have a few theories though I’d love to hear others if you’ve got them.  First of all, while hot holding the sour wort at around 100F for the four days, it began to ferment creating some alcohol that would later be boiled off (since we only boiled for 15 minutes to kill the lacto/other bacteria I’m unsure if this had much of an affect on the finished product).  Additionally, I forego a starter for the German Ale yeast (this was brewed at a time before I always made a starter) and assume that the PH was too low, disrupting the ale yeast’s fermentation.

Regardless of the reasons for the lower than usual ABV, the beer went through a 16 day primary fermentation followed by a 56 day secondary on cherries and kumquats.  In addition to the final refreshing brew tasting fantastic, the “sessional” aspect of this already session style beer allowed it to be entered into Xbrew — the Mount Si Brewing Society’s annual homebrew competition that accepts session and imperial versions of each traditional BJCP style.  I am honored that this little beer took the silver medal in the fruit beer category.  I plan to brew this recipe again although I haven’t determined which souring method I’ll experiment with.  The recipe is as follows:

Cherry Ghost Berliner Weisse

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 5.0
Total Grain (Lbs): 8.2
Anticipated OG: 1.047
Anticipated SRM: 2.0
Anticipated IBU: 6.0
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75%
Wort Boil Time: 15 Minutes

Grain

43% – 3.6 Lbs. Belgian 2-Row Pilsner
43% – 3.6 Lbs. White Wheat
12% – 1.0 Lbs. Acidulated Malt

Hops

0.50 oz. US Cascade (Pellet, 7.0% AA) @ 15 min.
1.00 0z. Columbus (Pellet, 15.0% AA) @ 3 day dry hop.
0.40 oz. Galaxy (Pellet, 14.2% AA) @ 3 day dry hop.
0.25 oz. Amarillo (Pellet, 9.3% AA) @ 3 day dry hop.

Extras

1.00 Whirlfloc @ 15 min.
1.00 tsp Yeast Nutrient @ 15 min.
9.00 Lbs. Pie cherries
2.00 Lbs. Kumquats
0.50 Lbs. Rainier Cherries
0.50 Lbs. Red Cherries

Yeast

Wyeast 5112 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis
Wyeast 1007 German Ale

Water Profile

Seattle
1.00 tsp Calcium Chloride
1.00 tsp Gypsum

Mash Schedule

Single Infusion – 60 min @ 150F

Notes

04.05.14 – Made a lactobacillus starter from yogurt (but didn’t give it enough time to culture up)

Mash & sour wort 04.07.14 with Gregory

04.07.14 – Hot held wort @ 100F for 4 days

04.09.14 – Temp drop to 80F, pulled some wort, brought it to boil and added back into water cooler mash tun to raise wort back to 100F

04.10.14 – Noticed signs of lacto fermentation

04.11.14 –  Brought wort to boil for 15 minutes to kill lacto/other bacteria

04.11.14 – Chilled wort to 65F before pitching German Ale yeast and Brett.

04.27.14 – Pasteurized 9.0 Lbs. frozen pie cherries by adding them to water and raising to 165F, used StarSan on 2.0 Lbs. kumquats

04.27.14 – Transferred beer to secondary and added the fruits

06.09.14 – Added 0.5 Lbs. Rainier cherries & 0.5 Lbs. red cherries

06.20.14 – Transferred beer into bottling bucket and dry hopped for 3 days

06.23.14 – Bottled Berliner weisse with 6.2 oz. corn sugar @ 3.45 volumes of CO2

Tasting Notes

Great summer quencher — light and crisp with a slight mineral note announcing itself after the tart finish.  The fruit is spot on; big sour cherry flavors and some citrus from the kumquats.  It actually seems that the kumquats have become more apparent over time.  I’m excited to make this one again.

Calculated OG: 1.014
Calculated FG: 1.006
Approx. ABV: 1.05%