Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Brew Day: The Sour-Chris (Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer)

Last year at HomebrewCon in Baltimore I bought two books in-part because the authors were there and I wanted to have signed: Water and American Sour Beers. I also picked these books up because they were on my wishlist and entailed topics I wanted to learn more about. After brewing the Dawson's Kreik kit, I wanted to get some ideas on brewing my own sour beers.

I am a reader, but over the last several years most of my reading seems to be random internet articles and Wikipedia. I have an embarrassing number of books that I haven't started reading or am working my way through. Last summer I did get through the first two chapters of American Sour Beers. The final section of Chapter 2 is Brewing Your First Sour Beer. From the book:
The easiest way to brew your first sour beer is to start with a favorite recipe that fits these constraints: original gravity 1.040-1.060, fewer than 20 IBUs, and minimal late boil hopping...Pitch the standard amount of whatever brewer's yeast you usually use, but also add a souring microbe blend from Wyeast or White Labs. You can also add the bottle dregs from two of you favorite unpasteurized sour beers...
Author Michael Tonsmeire suggests the reader will take more away from the book by having a batch of sour beer to observe while reading. I waited until I got around to brewing my first original sour beer before starting Chapter 3.

I really intended to have brewed my first sour beer by now. At one point I even bought extract to brew a simple batch that I could sour. I ended up using that extract in other batches. I suspected while planning The Anti-Chris Double IPA, I would be able to make a bonus beer from the second runnings. It turned out that I did! What better time to start dabbling in sour beer?

The second runnings were right in the original gravity range. Not wanting or needing to extract too much bitterness, I only boiled half an ounce of Glacier hops for 15 minutes. The hops were old and shouldn't impart too much hop flavor. The short boil provided the added bonus of not boiling off as much wort as a full 60 or 90 minute boil. After boiling and cooling, four gallons went into the fermenter.

For the souring itself, I was more interested in using bottle dregs after already using a sour blend. Any bottle conditioned beer, many commercial sour beers are bottle conditioned, will have sediment or dregs at the bottom of the bottle. Tonsmeire has a list of commercial beers that contain viable dregs on his website.


From his list I picked up a bottle of Captain Lawrence Barrel Select Gold. I also pitched dregs from Allagash Golden Brett from a bottle I had in my collection. Golden Brett was not listed on Tonsmeire's website, but Midnight Brett is. The beers are similar in name, packaging, and description. I am fairly confident it will work here. I added dregs from both of those bottles along with a sachet of Fermentis Safbrew T-58 dry ale yeast.

As I recall from the Dawson's Kreik kit was that the instructions warned against exposing the beer to oxygen in the secondary fermenter and leaving too much headspace. Since both "Chris" beers finished under five gallons, it would probably be a good idea to brew up some extra wort to top off both batches. I can make a small brew-in-a-bag wort easily enough. In hindsight I should have run off even more wort from my grains. This is something to keep in mind for my next batch in the kitchen with the mash tun.

As I learn more about brewing sour beers, I want to have at least one or two in the pipeline at all times. The past few months I have really hit my stride in brewing batches and having fresh beer to drink.  I am also making progress on my Brew Years Resolutions.

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