advice on new sour "solera" project

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DarkBrood

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At any given point, I have 6-20 fermentors going. I primary in 4gal buckets that I get from work (a batch fills 3 or 4 of them). Every so often, one has a little bug left in a scratch that the sanitizer couldn't get to and I end up with a lactic pellicle (that can sometimes persist in the bottle). When this happens, I've been retiring that bucket and using the contents for cooking.

Currently, I have two infected buckets - a special bitter (4gal) on WLP002 and an oktoberfest ale (3gal) on White Labs German/Kolsch yeast. I also have some brown ale (a Moose Drool clone) that showed the lactic pellicle in the bottles.

I am considering starting up a solera-like project blending the two buckets and maybe adding in a few bottles of the brown. Since these are all a bit hoppy for sours, my thought is to brew a nearly hopless wheat-heavy turbid mash to thin the hops and supply some starches. Perhaps a small sour-mashed batch to introduce some brett?

My questions are these:
1) with such malty base styles, what should I be considering as possible end-target style?
2) are there recommendations for particlar commercial bug blends or dregs that would be more suitable for the base styles than others?

I'd like to set up a solera-style continuous vessel, periodically drawing off a portion and replacing it with fresh wort.
 

Coff

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My first question would be how do the 2 infected batches taste? If they arent very good I wouldnt recommend using them as a base for a beer that you will be aging for quite some time. If they are good, why not package them as is? Then start your solera like you said, and if those infected batches are good as they develop in the bottle you can add the dregs of those beers to your Solera to add your own house bugs.

But it doesnt hurt to try out your plan, who knows what you'll end up with, which is fun.
 
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DarkBrood

DarkBrood

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All the lactic buckets taste okay, just not what I intended. The lactic tang is quite pronounced in the special bitter, tastes out of place. It's light in the oktoberfest - the melanoidins from the munich malt are still masking it. Haven't tasted the brown yet - there was a slight surface skim in the bucket, but full-surface thin lactic pellicle in the bottles. Could be appropriate for the style...
 

Calder

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Hoppy + Alcohol; I would be surprised if the contamination was Lacto. Pedio might survive, but that might take a long time, and I don't think that really likes much alcohol or hops either, but is more tolerant than Lacto.

Are you sure you don't have an actobacter infection and you are tasting a low threshold of acetic acid.
 
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DarkBrood

DarkBrood

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A thought on an alternative approach. Since the oktoberfest and special bitter are still in their fermentors (primary on the okt, secondary on the bitter), suppose I thinned out each fermenter with some boiled dme, dextrose, and maltodextrin and dosed each with a different bug pack for blending later on.

I've heard the souring bugs really prefer to be active in the primary to get full effect, which is why I was considering an immediate blend/mix with a fresh mini-brew....would a small sugar dose like mentioned above provide enough to get them really active? I.e. would the greater control afforded by separate bug buckets outweigh the gains in bug population (aka flavor) gotten from adding a lot of turbid-mashed wheat starches with an assortment of bugs and worts?

Since both original brews are fairly hopped (avg 30 ibu), how much interference should I anticipate from the hops? How high can a sour/solera be hopped before it's an issue (I.e how far do I need to dilute for hop reduction while maintaining prospective gravity)?
 
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DarkBrood

DarkBrood

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@Calder - I'm pretty sure it's lactic. I've compared to an awful lot of pellicle photos and the tang in the flavor is much more reminiscent of old milk/yogurt than earthy, funky, or prominently sour. The pellicle is a thin white film, looks almost a little dusty (bit no mold furriness or chunkiness to it) with light strands, like if you stretched a piece of plastic wrap flat then reduced tension and let the surface wrinkle a little. Consistent full-surface coverage with only a little liquid exposed at the edges from container movement, consistent thickness. Very little aroma. The pellicles were pretty complete after 10-14 days in the fermentors.

I do have another fermenter that had a broken seal on the lid I didn't notice that has definitely gone ascetic (sitting near the heater now to encourage for some malt vinegar). Smell and flavor has no comparison to the ones I'm planning to keep for souring.
 

TNGabe

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I don't think it's possible to identify microbes by the pellicle. Although the strains from the yeast companies are somewhat intolerant of hops, many wild strains are not impeded by hops. Personally, I've never tasted a contaminated beer that was good. It you want to do a long term project like a solera, I'd suggest starting anew. I'd also suggest finding a vessel larger and less permeable than your buckets or you'll end up with vinegar.
 
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