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Old 03-04-2012, 10:44 PM   #1
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Default Low mash, lots of bugs, faster sour?

I'm starting this as a thread here because it was off topic to where I originally posted it. Basically I've been experimenting with faster sours by mashing low in the 140s and pitching a bunch of active bugs right off. So far in the two batches I've tried the flavor developed and soured up in 6-8 months. I'm not saying that the process will give the exact results for some of the classic styles like lambics and reds, but for beers like american wilds and other farmhouse ales I think this can be a viable option for shortening the process to well under a year.

Basically my theory is that the reason sours take so long is because of long chain sugars and low pitching rates and that by shorting the sugar chains and raising the pitching rates the time frame can be condensed while still getting the desired flavor. Has anyone else tried this successfully? Thoughts?

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I have a theory I've been working on that is to help get a fast sour I mash low and pitch very active bugs up front. So far in the two I've done they were decent at around 5 months and real good at 8. Both had jolly pumpkin dregs which are real aggressive, not sure if the wy/wl bugs or Belgian dregs would do the same.
1 year is generally the minimum. It's similar to smoking meat for 16 hours rather than microwaving it, you "can" do it quicker, buy why?

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There are a variety of ways to easily make a quick sour (sour mash, lactic acid, etc), but none of these methods is going to produce the complexity that makes sours/lambics so interesting. Patience, letting the microbes work slowly over time, is what makes these beers unique and delicious.

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Old 03-04-2012, 11:36 PM   #2
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I'm doing the same thing. I'm using the agressive ECY cultures like ECY20 and ECY01. I have done a saison in 4-5 months. The only issue is the beer got slightly viscous after bottling when it went completely normal before bottling. Either way. I might be looking at a full six months now that its in the bottle. I just have to wait for the brett to break down the sugary slim from the pedio.

I will be trying this again very soon with a higher pitch rate and two different cultures. One will be ECY01 and the other will be a massive mix of tons of different dredges I've saved up. I will ferment at high temps like I would a normal saison and hop it to about 20ibus.

I like proving the "year minimum" blah blah guys wrong as much as possible.

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Old 03-05-2012, 02:02 AM   #3
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It takes a year (or 2) because we like to try and replicate the 'great' beers of the style.

For me, I have a decent pipeline that I don't need to find a quicker method.

But ...... from everything I have heard, it seems that pitching onto a sour cake makes the beer sour quicker. My assumption is that the souring organisms are in a greater number that they get to work quicker. Not sure what you lose by this, but it seems there is a way of getting a sour beer quicker.

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Old 03-05-2012, 03:34 AM   #4
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Certainly longer chain sugars and starches will take longer to break down. However, you shouldn't have too much starch in your beer unless you are doing a turbid mash, mashing incredibly high, or adding starch during the boil. Unless you have a lot of starch, most sours can probably be fermented stable enough to bottle after a year but in addition to breaking down and fermenting sugars and starches there is a wealth of other activity in the beer that produces those complex flavors and some of that goes on well after a year.

What you have in the fermenter is also a factor in the time. Brett alone will dry a beer out in 6-12 months (again, depending on the sugar and starch content). Lactobacillus will peter out in a few months. Pedio is really the laggard but it helps create more depth of acid flavor than lacto and pedio and brett together work real magic over time. That doesn't mean that you couldn't have a tasty beer with pedio and brett (or any other combination) in six months but not letting it ride longer misses out on an improved flavor over time. Some of the biological processes are obnoxiously slow but in my opinion, worth the wait.

Mashing low to speed up the process leaves some of those processes out (particularly brett while brett breaks down the long chain sugars and starches) that produce the flavor complexity. So while you might accelerate the overall process of reaching a stable final gravity you risk producing a beer that's finished at nine months but isn't as complex as a beer mashes a bit higher that might finish at twelve or fifteen months. Is the difference of three or six more months worth the loss in quality? That's an individual question. I do some sour mashing with clean and brett beers and I like the results but they don't compete against my year old lambic. I enjoy all of them but the lambic stands out by metes and bounds in terms of sourness and complexity. I don't mean to discourage experimentation. You might produce an excellent beer in a shorter time frame. I would just like for you to report back the results.

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Old 03-05-2012, 04:37 AM   #5
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I think lambics are another beast altogether and what I've tried does not attempt to compete with them. For a proper gueuze flavor you really do need aged beer. I actually have a pipeline of lambics aging just for this reason, generally using a modified turbid mash. But for other styles, like what is produced by Fantome or Jolly Pumpkin I feel that the long term aging is not required if other procedures are altered. In fact, the first time i tried this it was with a JP starter and at just over six months it tasted like JP made it.

From what I've been able to gather, the brett and pedio work in tandem to break down the more complex dextrins over many months. By reducing the number of dextrins it reduces the time for fermentation, and in my limited trials not resulting in a lack of complexity. They each seem to still do their thing, but are no longer codependent.

I guess the reason I tried this is because the standard answer on HBT and elsewhere is to pitch bugs and wait a year, but with some thought an planning that's not necessarily the case.

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Old 03-05-2012, 10:46 AM   #6
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The thing I've been trying to make is something that doesn't really exist anymore. I have been trying to make old versions of more traditional saisons. So I have been using lots of unmalted grains, brett blends and lambic blends in their fermentation. This is not meant to compete with the lambics and gueuzes of the world. Nor is it to compete with the offerings of Russian River. I'm trying to make a style of beer that is not typically produced.

Plus I keep reading that some Jolly Pumpkin beers spend as little as two weeks in a barrel to sour. If you think they need a year I don't know what you guys think about Jolly Pumpkin then.

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Old 03-05-2012, 08:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smokinghole View Post
The thing I've been trying to make is something that doesn't really exist anymore. I have been trying to make old versions of more traditional saisons. So I have been using lots of unmalted grains, brett blends and lambic blends in their fermentation. This is not meant to compete with the lambics and gueuzes of the world. Nor is it to compete with the offerings of Russian River. I'm trying to make a style of beer that is not typically produced.
I can appreciate that. I have a brett saison that I sour mashed. I let it ride nine months in the fermenter because the brett will chew for seemingly ever. I could bottle sooner but it tends to overcarb in the bottle and nine months seems to be when the flavor stabilizes at a good point. I'm sure more aggressive brett strains could work more quickly.

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Plus I keep reading that some Jolly Pumpkin beers spend as little as two weeks in a barrel to sour. If you think they need a year I don't know what you guys think about Jolly Pumpkin then.
It's a good point. I'm not sure what JP has in their beers but from what I've read they are very aggressive strains. So maybe they can sour a beer quickly by pitching on an existing inoculation but I don't think the same thing can be said of the WLP/Wyeast blends. I've never used ECY so I can't speak to how aggressive those blends might be. I would be curious whether there is brett in those JP beers and if so how they limit overcarbonation in the bottle.
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Old 03-05-2012, 11:30 PM   #8
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Jolly Pumpkin also ferments their beers in primary to near dryness if memory serves. This leaves only a small amount of sugars for the mix. The beers also do most of their developing in bottles, wanted to try this, but buying that many champagne bottles could be expensive.

It was also mentioned in farmhouse ales that the saisons were held in barrels for up to a year or more before being served, making them close to lambics. ( I believe per Yvan de Baets, sp?).

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Old 03-06-2012, 11:19 AM   #9
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It was Farmhouse Ales that mentioned they would keep them in barrels. However I don't think it specified a time frame. Also just because its in a barrel doesn't mean it's going through a longterm second fermentation the whole time. If they mashed low for a well attenuated wort then the brett and bacteria I think would be done rather quick compared to a turbid mashed lambic with tons of starch and complex carboyhdrates.

Just save the bottles up. I had like six cases worth of champagne and belgian bottles saved up. I've since bottled a ton of beer up in them, and still have a case and a half left. If you don't want to buy them you can always go and scavenge the hotels/bars. Or kindly ask a place that has receptions frequently to box them and set them to the side. It's easy to accumulate the necessary bottles that are strong enough.

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Old 03-06-2012, 12:46 PM   #10
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Asking local businesses for them is a good idea, hadn't thought about it.

While I agree that the dextrins may not be there to feed them, the brett. may continue to generate esters. Though I do like the idea of this and have tried this on a recent brown ale.

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