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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Lambic & Wild Brewing > Getting an early (very early) start
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:12 PM   #1
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Default Getting an early (very early) start

Hi everyone,

I just posted this in the pellicle picture thread, then realized I should have probably just started a new thread. Anyways...I need some help.

My situation is this: I've been brewing for years, but due to time/money/family constraints I'm still a novice brewer, brewing with extracts and steeping specialty grains in the kitchen. My goal is to make this beer. ALL of this beer! I want to get to the point where I can make a good sour/wild ale.

So first of all I'm working towards making AG brew since, as far as I can tell, there's no such thing as decent Flanders Red made from extract. I'm working on upgrading my rig and practicing until I can make a good AG beer. I'd say conservatively, I'll need a year. Then I plan on diving headfirst into sours, and probably never looking back.

My question is, what can I do in the meantime to prepare? I've got a year, at least, with a clear goal in mind. Should I be buying beers and saving dregs? Should I be washing yeasts from my other batches? I just wanted to gather suggestions from people who have travelled this path before me. Any and all advice, tips, wisdom, etc. are appreciated. PM me, e-mail me, I don't care, I just want to get some good advice!

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Old 02-03-2012, 11:22 PM   #2
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You can brew great AG beer immediately. I know a guy whose first beer was AG, and it probably would have killed it in a competition.

Get good at AG brewing by making small batches and making more of them. If you can brew good extract, you can brew good AG. Proper pitching rates, temp control, and good process are all things you might already have down. The only additional things you have to worry about is water chemistry/mash ph and hitting proper temps, which isn't hard at all to do.

If I were you, I'd start a sour right now. Make a one gallon batch and use a glass jug to secondary it. Seeing as you are going to wait for 6 months to a year for it to possibly turn out well, why wait? You can use a gallon from another beer. If it turns out well, great. If not, not much of a loss.

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Old 02-03-2012, 11:26 PM   #3
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The first thing I would recommend is to subscribe to http://themadfermentationist.com/. He has a ton of great information about sours. Also I believe he has a book coming out this year which should have a wealth of information.

I typically wait until around brew day to harvest dregs to make sure that I've got some fresh bacteria to work with. It helps if you can find non-pasteurised sours with some sort of date on them so you know how fresh they are. Here is a great resource: http://www.themadfermentationist.com...tle-dregs.html.

I've only done 3 sour batches (and have only bottled one thus far), but I have to say it is a fun experience. Hopefully you have some patience, some of these brews take a while to get them the way you want.

Also it should go without saying to read up on posts in this forum (which you are clearly already doing)

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Old 02-03-2012, 11:36 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice! I can make decent beer. Not great beer. I'm probably too hard on myself, but I'd say I get a really great beer (by my own standards) every 4th or 5th batch. I've re-ignited the flame under my lazy rear and will be striving for better.

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If I were you, I'd start a sour right now. Make a one gallon batch and use a glass jug to secondary it. Seeing as you are going to wait for 6 months to a year for it to possibly turn out well, why wait? You can use a gallon from another beer.
Huh. I guess I never thought of it htat way. Can you sour just about any ale? I assume that you can, as long as you don't go heavy on the hops. Would that mean separating out a gallon after primary and just pitching some dregs onto it?
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:36 PM   #5
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+1 to reading Mike's Mad Fermentationist blog, it's a tremendous wealth of knowledge and his beers are outstanding

Even if you have a year until you get your All Grain setup going, you could still get a few extract/pm batches started and let them age.

I'd also recommend Jamil's book, "Brewing Classic Styles" as it has some extract recipes for sours, in fact the Lambic recipes are based on homebrewer Steve Piatz's extract lambic that routinely wins awards.

Grab some of the sours from Russian River, their dregs are usually very viable. You can use them to simultaneously build up a house culture and 1 gallon test batches as rexbanner mentioned.

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Old 02-03-2012, 11:41 PM   #6
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The first thing I would recommend is to subscribe to http://themadfermentationist.com/.
Awesome. Thank you!

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Also it should go without saying to read up on posts in this forum (which you are clearly already doing)
I've read up and down these forums so many times, I think I'm going cross-eyed.
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Old 02-03-2012, 11:49 PM   #7
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I'd also recommend Jamil's book, "Brewing Classic Styles"
Cool, I'll put it on the wish list. Thanks.

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Grab some of the sours from Russian River, their dregs are usually very viable. You can use them to simultaneously build up a house culture and 1 gallon test batches as rexbanner mentioned.
Can do. I'll take any excuse to splurge for RR.
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Old 02-04-2012, 02:08 AM   #8
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I think you could make a pretty nice Flemish red out of an extract beer. Munich malt and pale malt extract, a few ounces of Maltodextrin, and some light and dark caramel malts like Special B to steep. The real key is getting the yeast/bugs in the right neighborhood for a Flemish red. You can do that by using dregs from commercial examples you like that were not pasteurized, or you can use commercial yeasts like wyeast Roeselare or East Coast Yeast 02 Flemish Red. The flavors from the yeast and bugs kind of overwhelm the subtle points of the grains. I agree with the idea you can't really make a great pilsner without doing AG. However, when I think of flemish red, I think sour, lots of dark fruit esters, and balanced with a malty, caramel taste. The sour and esters are the results of the yeast, bugs, and how you handle the fermentation. The malty/caramel flavors of the wort that are certainly within the reach of an extract brewer. I am not trying to argue against all grain, it does give you much more control and some styles are just not right unless you mash, but I still think you can make really good beers with extract, and flemish reds are one style that would be very well suited to extract brewing.

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Old 02-04-2012, 02:18 AM   #9
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You can do it now. Go for a 5 gallon batch. Steep some crystal (special B) + some wheat LME, any yeast (preferably Belgian), rack and add bugs (dregs from a couple of sour beers), and put in the corner for a year.

You have to start somewhere. Why not get a head start now, learn some things, taste it as it matures and see how it changes. Doing a simple batch now and monitoring it throughout the year will give you a heck of a lot more knowledge than you otherwise would have had come this time next year.

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Old 02-07-2012, 04:35 PM   #10
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Well I guess I don't have a choice, I'm just going to have to start setting up some one gallon test batches. Thanks for the advice everyone. I probably would have waited and waited, only because souring seems a little intimidating. I'm just going to jump in.

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