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Old 12-13-2012, 05:49 PM   #1
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Default Commercial Sour Beer Production

The purpose of this thread is for anyone to share any information they have regarding commercial produces of wild/sour beer and their production techniques. Obviously a lot of the consistency (or inconsistency) of these produces arises from having many barrels on hand to blend from. Regardless, please do share an bits of info you have come across from reading, direct contact with producers, etc. Personally I have been just pitching as many dreggs and slurries as I can into my sour beers and am hoping to be a bit more calculated in my process.

I'll start with a more obvious resource that probably most of us have used already:

http://www.brettanomycesproject.com

Chad Yakobson's (of Crooked Stave) website with a vast amount of free information on brettanomyces from his dissertation "Pure Culture Fermentation Characteristics of Brettanomyces Yeast Species and Their Use in the Brewing Industry"



http://www.themadfermentationist.com/2009/11/brewing-sour-beer-at-home.html

Although not commercial, this is a great write up from Old Sock if anyone is looking to get started.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FmUjoJkKoYs&feature=youtu.be

This is the morebeer interview with Vinnie from RR, some great stuff in here. Here's a summary of the points if you don't have 20 minutes to kill:

Grain Bill
-RR pretty much caters their grain bill to what kind of barrel its going in.
-Supplication (pinot barrel): aim for fruity flavors w/ more crystal malt.
-Consecration (cab barrels): dark malts, chocolate/carafa III for tobacco/chocolate flavors found in cabernet.

Mash/Boil etc
-Mash really high, 159-160 to leave lots of long chain unfermentables for brett/bugs.
-Most RR funky beers are 12-15 IBUs.

Yeast/bugs pitching
-RR underpitches sacch for their funky beers (about half the normal amount).
-They then centrifuge out the sacch, put into barrels, and pitch brett (so not relying on autolysing yeast for food).
-They let the brett go for about 8-10 weeks to give it a head start (~1 million cells/mL).
-Airlock on for brett so it can gas off, then they bung it once bacteria is pitched.
-Top off barrels at this time (Vinnie says he tops off with more brett, I am a little confused by this). Then pitch bugs.
-Barrels never opened after this, samples pulled by SS nail.
-Pitching everything at the same time could result in bacteria taking off too fast and dropping the pH too low (below ~3.5) and make the brett stop working.
-Total time in barrels 6-12 months.
-They have 1, 2, and 3 year old barrels. After this, they are sold off or used in their spontaneous fermentation program.

Fruit
-RR uses dried fruit and the fruit is in the barrel the entire time. Fruit is a great way to add complexity to wild beers.
-Some belgian producers fruit with fresh fruit for ~8 weeks in SS tanks.
-RR framboise is aged 9 months then fruited with fresh fruit for about 6 weeks.



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Old 12-13-2012, 07:42 PM   #2
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Great thread idea! Hopefully this takes off as I would also love some more or new pro techniques for fermenting sours.

I think the main thing that makes you a pro brewer vs homebrewer is reproducibilty. And with sours that is where some large skill in brewing and blending come in.

The book "Wild Brews" has been of large help to me. From what I've gathered the main souring organisms are peddioccous and lactobacillus. Basically, all you need to create a somewhat reproduceable, non spontaneous beer, are two pure cultures of these souring organisms plus your yeast(s) of choice. Pitch all organisms at once or pitch your yeast first followed by bacteria and your good to go. Of course write everything down, take meticulous notes, and be as scientific as possible. Pitching rates, ferm temps, acid levels, etc. A good pH meter is probably a must if you really want to get into reproducability. Some argue that an acid titration kit is a better option, either is fine at the HB level.

If you go the spontaneous route then consistency in your process is key. You wont always get the same organisms in a spontaneous batch but the more consistent you are in your process the closer you will be. This where the art of blening comes in to play. This is where a large part of consistency is made on the back end for those breweries that produce spontaneous fermented beers.

Now, I have also been trying to perfect what I call the cheater's sour, or fast sour beers. There are several ways to do it, from a technique as bland as using acidified malt or pure lactic acid, to using a sour mash. I prefer to use a sour mash as this adds a bit more character and depth than using pure acids. Not as much character as a full sour beer but enough for my tastes while I wait for my full sours to reach prime.

The process for my fast sours is relatively easy, reduces potential for uncontrolled events/contamination, and is far more reproduceable than a spontaneous or a fully soured beer. I mash as per usual, and sparge as usual. I then heat the wort to pastuerization temperature for 15minutes (approx 176F. Dont boil it as this makes it harder for the lacto to take hold), chill the wort down to 120F, pitch a pure culture of lacto and let ferment for approx. 2 days, no more than 3. I taste it twice daily and when it hits the sour level i like I then transfer the sour wort to the boil kettle, do my boil as per usual, chill to 70F and pitch my yeast culture. At the end of the yeast fermentation you have a sour beer that is ready to drink in the same amount of time it normally takes to make a non sour beer (+3 days for the lacto ferment).



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Old 12-14-2012, 12:15 PM   #3
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interview with Jeffrey Stuffings from Jester King
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Old 12-19-2012, 12:17 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bb239605 View Post

The process for my fast sours is relatively easy, reduces potential for uncontrolled events/contamination, and is far more reproduceable than a spontaneous or a fully soured beer. I mash as per usual, and sparge as usual. I then heat the wort to pastuerization temperature for 15minutes (approx 176F. Dont boil it as this makes it harder for the lacto to take hold), chill the wort down to 120F, pitch a pure culture of lacto and let ferment for approx. 2 days, no more than 3.
Do you keep the wort at 120F ? or just let it go at ambient?
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Old 12-19-2012, 03:53 PM   #5
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The problem I've run into researching my book is that the processes at many breweries are still very much in flux. What brewers told me initially had changed substantially by the time I did my fact check, and they'll most likely change again by the time I'm ready to publish.

Lots of great podcast interviews out there, and some good articles in industry publications like New Brewer. In the end though most of the most interesting specific stuff I got was from talking to brewers. lots of very generous people out there.

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Old 12-19-2012, 07:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
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Do you keep the wort at 120F ? or just let it go at ambient?
Once I pitch the lacto I keep it at 120F. For the whole time it is souring, usually 2 full days. I use a combination of a brew belt and a mobile electric room heater placed right next to it.
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Old 12-19-2012, 07:46 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oldsock View Post
The problem I've run into researching my book is that the processes at many breweries are still very much in flux. What brewers told me initially had changed substantially by the time I did my fact check, and they'll most likely change again by the time I'm ready to publish.

Lots of great podcast interviews out there, and some good articles in industry publications like New Brewer. In the end though most of the most interesting specific stuff I got was from talking to brewers. lots of very generous people out there.
Whoa! You can't just drop this bomb that you are writing a book and not provide any more details. What kind of book? When is the estimated publish date?
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Old 12-19-2012, 07:49 PM   #8
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From Vinnie Cilurzo, email, regarding his best-of-class Flanders Red Consecration:

Here is a brief run-down of Consecration:

We brew a pretty basic Belgian Style Strong Dark Ale fermenting with White Labs Abbey Ale Yeast. We are using dark candy syrup to gain some of the color and some of the fermentables, we are also adding some dextrose sugar to the kettle at the same time we are adding the dark candy syrup, combined the two represent around 10% of the fermentables. The OG is 1.072 and it finishes at about 1.012-1.016 in the fermenter.

We give it a short period of cold conditioning before we separate the yeast out of the base beer. From there we put the entire batch in a tank and mix the Brett in with the beer. For a single barrel like you are doing you can add the Brett right to the barrel, we add anywhere from .75 gallons to 2 gallons per wine barrel of Brett.

We’ve also added 30 pounds of dried currants to the wine barrel. These are all used Cabernet Sauvignon barrels. The beer will sit initially in the barrels for 8 to 10 weeks at 60F. We will also leave a few gallons of head space as the beer will have a good fermentation going early on as the currants are added sugar plus the residual sugar in the beer.

After 8 to 10 weeks we top the barrels with more Brett and the bacteria. In total the beer will sit in the barrels for 4 to 8 months. After this period we rack it off the fruit through a strainer and bottle or keg it using a wine yeast for bottle conditioning.

The beer will now sit in the bottle or keg for at least 8 weeks before we release it.

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Old 12-20-2012, 04:41 AM   #9
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2 gallons of brett pitched into a wine barrel!?! dafuq?

Oldsock - not surprised to hear thing are still in flux. We are relatively new to sours and still figuring things out here in America. I would think a program like the NB La Folie one would be relatively set in place though.

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Old 12-20-2012, 11:42 AM   #10
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Levifunk - I think that he means a two gallon starter. Which is about right for a barrel.



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