Competition Brewday: Wonmisan Sour Pale Ale

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I brewed two beers today. I am trying to make a unique post for each beer recipe or batch I make, so I can update them separately. Since I’m not disclosing the recipe for that until after the contest, I’ll just say that I have high hopes for this beer to turn out as I want. I’ll be souring the wort starting sometime tomorrow morning, and boiling it sometime on Sunday or Monday, depending on how the souring proceeds.

I managed to get my hands on some lacto delbrucki, but I won’t be using it for this batch. Rather, I’m planning on souring it with malt, a method I’ve found to work well, and then reboiling the wort, the second time with hops. Then I’ll pitch some Brett Brux into it and let it rip.

For this beer, I’m thinking of going really sour — like, as sour as my Berliner Weisse got, which is a pretty daunting proposition as I may need to top up the sugars in the brew if the acids get that high. Either that, or I’ll need to accept that I’ll never know exactly how much alcohol is in the beer.

I don’t plan on entering this beer into the contest: chances are very slim a sour beer of any kind would even place, and in any case I don’t expect an all-Brett recipe to be welcomed by the brewery planning to brew the winner. But I figured it would be something interesting to do with the other half of the wort. Since Brett likes to have a slightly soured wort to work with, and the acidity seems to bring out the flavor, it all just makes sense. The only thing I’d do different would be to do this beer with Brett Lambicus, except I don’t have any of that on hand.

Once again: nailed the OG, volume, color, and everything. If I can get it to clear, it’s going to be a gorgeous pale ale.

UPDATE (20 Nov. 2011): Had a busy day today making hop soap and teaching brewing to a few novice brewers, but I got a taste of this wort, which has been sitting at around 45-50°C. The souring is very clean and mild so far… I’m hoping it stays clean, but gets much more sour tonight. I’ll be checking it once more tomorrow evening, and if the sourness is at about the right level, I’ll boil it up, chill, and pitch some Brett Bruxellensis. (For which I will probably make a starter tomorrow morning…)

Worst comes to worst, I can always let it sour for one more night, then boil it for a little while on Tuesday morning to stabilize it, and then do a proper boil in the evening. But I am pleased and have a feeling this brew is going to turn out quite nicely…

UPDATE (23 Nov. 2011): Sometimes, life gets in the way of your best plans. And sometimes, that’s not such a bad thing.

The sourness stayed really clean, but the pH hung around 4.1 or so, so I let this wort go one more day, and boiled it up on the night of the 22nd. However, after doing a little research, I decided that I wanted neither a Brett B nor a Brett C character to the beer, and that besides, the yeast contained in the White Labs vials I have is too small an amount to pitch into a large wort.

(Not as large as originally planned, by the way: the wort got two separate one-hour boils; I figured a little bit of caramelization couldn’t hurt, but didn’t account for the boiloff. That’s fine, though: I’m planning to boil up some candi sugar in a gallon or so of water, cool it, and siphon it into the mix. Consider it a stepped sugar addition.)

Anyway, I cast about trying to decide which yeast to use, and finally ended up deciding on Wyeast 3787 (Trappist High Gravity) yeast, mainly because the aroma and flavor of the wort I left it in in the jar was still so good after such a long time. (I think the sample I pulled was from 6 or 8 months ago.)

The beer is at high krausen already, less than ten hours after pitching the yeast into a very well-oxygenated wort; I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

My one regret? Not being able to find my long-lost Whirlfloc tabs. I’ve ordered more, and they should arrive next week, with my barley crusher — just in time for me to make something else, maybe even an all-Brett beer.

But probably something more like an Xmas spiced beer — I’m still thinking about making that Gingerbread Brown ale, and I should be receiving some chocolate and English crystal malt as well to make it actually kinda English… or maybe I’ll just make Miss Jiwaku a Northern Brown, since she likes them so much. If, that is, I can get myself an appropriate yeast.

UPDATE (6 Dec. 2011): Well, this beer attenuated down to 1.004, which is pretty dry, but the long, low mash makes it unsurprising, and gravity readings always get odd when I sour a beer using the method I did for this one. I kegged this half of the batch this afternoon, and will keg the non-soured half sometime tonight too… I am curious to compare the two halves, brewed in such a different manner… Such similar appearances will, I’m sure, conceal large differences in flavor and aroma.

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