Sour Mash Brewday: All-Brett Lambicus / Farmhouse Ale Split Batch

So, t’is the season of brewing experiments, and today, I mashed in on a brew I’ll actually be boiling up tomorrow… that’s right, I’m trying a sour mash on a double-batch of beer for the first time. I’m only planning to leave the mash souring for 24 hours, mind you, but then again,  that’s not nothing. I figured, since I have a Farmhouse Ale Blend and a smack pack of Brett L., now would be a good time to try brewing with both… especially since I’ll have a nice population of Brett L. to spike a sour beer with later on. And since Brett likes a slightly acidic environment, I figured… might as well give it a shot.

The recipe was simple, and very fitting for a Saison; after all, these beers were brewed with whatever the farmer happened to have on hand, and I, too, am sorting through the grain in my stores, since I need to power through what I’ve got and use it all up by January.

Grain Bill:

  • 5.5kg Pilsner Malt
  • 1.5 kg Munich Malt
  • 100 grams Gambrinus Honey Malt
  • 130 grams Victory Malt
  • 300 grams Torrefied Wheat

The latter three are pretty small, so I’m not sure they’ll add much character to this beer, but then, I’m not sure they would add much to anything, and I felt like complexifying this grain bill up a little, without using any of the things I’ll be throwing into later brews I have planned.

Also among my plans are a nice big adjunct addition of 1kg of Agave Nectar–66% of it blue agave, and 34% of it the pale stuff. The blue adds some color, flavor, and a hard-to-describe change in mouthfeel (but a nice one), unlike the pale, which only affects the latter.

I’m hoping for an OG of about 1.060 though if my efficiency dictates 1.050, I won’t weep or anything.

I plan to use all Amarillo and Strisselspalt, and also plan ona long boil tomorrow evening, running the mash off and then letting it boil for between three and four hours. I’ll obviously have to top up both batches, but that’s fine with me.

In any case, I’ll be running off the wort and sparging tomorrow night, so I can’t say much more except this: in past cases, I’ve run off the wort and then inoculated it with grains and covered it with tinfoil. Since I’ll be letting this sour right in the mash tun, though, I figured I might try a slightly different approach: that is, I flooded the airspace in the mash tun with CO2, which, being heavier than air, I’m hoping will stay right on the surface of the mash. Worst case scenario, I end up having to boil off the stink, in which case a nice long boil will do handily.

In any case, I’ll update when I’ve got this stuff in the fermenter.

UPDATE: Well, I ended up boiling the beer after something like 36+ hours of souring. The CO2 seems to have helped significantly, as there was no baby-diaper/trash-in-the-hot-sun smell, just a mild sourness. Also, the boil lasted a full four hours, though the wort didn’t darken as much as I imagined it might. Probably a little bit, but I can’t really say how much. (I’m wishing I’d kept a sample of the raw wort before boiling, to facilitate a color comparison. Well, I’ll try it again on the next long boil. I also no-chilled the wort, just leaving it in the pot with the lid weighted down. I figured after 4 hours of boiling the stuff, DMS would not be a problem.

I ended up not adding the agave syrup, so the original gravity was 1.044, which is fine with me: it’s a nice, gentle start to fermentation with both of these yeasts, meaning perhaps I can even make something more with each one. The Brett L I’m thinking I may use in an all-Brett IPA of some kind, to see what I think of Brett + hops,  The Farmhouse Ale Blend half is bubbling away , but the Brett L., as I’ve read one should expect, is lagging. (Especially since I was lazy and didn’t bother with a starter.) However, this was how it was with my all-Brett C beer a few years ago, so I’m sure that it’ll turn out okay, especially with something so low-gravity.

UPDATE (12 Nov. 2012): Well, on Saturday my friend Rowan and I sampled the Brett L. half of this batch, and it turned out pretty fantastic: a lovely orangey color, sweet and very fruity; it’s hard to tell what’s from the Amarillo, and what’s from the Brett. Oddly, I don’t taste sourness; maybe some of the fruity characteristic is more pronounced because of the slight tartness of the (short) 36-hour sour mash… I’m not sure, but we both like what we tasted.

I’m leaving the Farmhouse Saison for a little longer, but I’ll rack it into its own keg soon, to age as long as we can let it… though sadly that won’t be long enough for all the Brett character to emerge.

2 thoughts on “Sour Mash Brewday: All-Brett Lambicus / Farmhouse Ale Split Batch

  1. By reading this post I suddenly miss our farmhouse in Texas. Well, it wasn’t my family’s technically but I grew up there. Some wort of squatter really.

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