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TAK

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I'd like to get some fellow HBT'ers feedback on choosing bugs for a sour ale. I'm really trying to decide between two methods.

I think the most common method, certainly advocated by The Mad Fermentationist, is to pitch Saccharomyces, a "pre-mix" such as the ubiquitous Roeselare Blend, and also the dregs from a commercial bottle or two.

For some reason, with no real justification, I'm more inclined to pitch direct cultures. I.e., pitch Saccharomyces, and vials/packs of Pediococcus, Brettanomyces, and maybe Lactobacillus, as well as the dregs from a commercial bottle or two.

Bottle dregs, by the way, of sour beers are hard to come by here in Lincoln, NE. There's three bottles, that I know of or can think of, that I'd be pitching. I have a bottle of a wild beer named Maggie from a CO brewery, Crabtree, I can get one bottle of decent lambic from a nice shop in town, and I'd probably pitch dregs from Orval too.

Am I fooling myself? Should I just use the Roeselare Blend + bottle dregs? Is there solid reason to use a blend over individual strains, or to use strains over the blend?

I'd like to hear your experience.

Cheers!
 

rickyn06

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I don't necessarily have the most experience, I have only brewed 2 sours, but I will try and answer your question. I do not think either of them is a bad choice, just more so what you want to do. The blends are nice because you do not have to worry about buying each individual strain. My buddy and I brewed a lambic last weekend, and made a starter with east coast yeast 20 (bug county). He made the starter about 3 days before we brewed, and the fermentation kicked off quickly.

I would think which ever route you go, it would be good to make a starter before pitching. I have also read that it can help if you pitch the lacto first, and let that go for a couple days at warmer temps, and then cool it down and pitch the sacch. I am going to try this in the next week or two with a berliner weisse. This would be a good reason to buy separate strains if you want to pitch at different intervals.

I do wonder how well dregs do. If you pitch a small amount of dregs with the large amount of cells contained in the packs, I would think they would keep the dregs from really taking off, unless they are eating different sugars.
 
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TAK

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Thanks for the reply. This will be my second sour. My first was a Berliner Weiss, and I did just that. I let the lacto go first, no starter, but I kept the carboy around 100F. I had pretty good results. I pitched the white labs lacto, which is heterofermative, and that gave me most of the alcohol, not sure I even needed the Sacc.

But I digress. I want this next one to be a Pedio-dominant sour ale. I'm not even sure I'll pitch lacto, unless I choose to use a blend. When pitching dregs, I think the goal is not to get the primary activity from them, but to increase the biodiversity of the beer, getting additional complexities from the non-dominant species. Also, commercial dregs are supposed to usually be more hardy than cultures from yeast banks, though less viable.

This is one of the reasons why a blend might be nice, it has multiple varieties of the same species, plus others like sherry flor. But, if I get those from dregs, I'm wondering if pitching direct cultures of Pedio and Brett for the primary work might be as good or better than a blend?
 
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TAK

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Passedpawn,

With your success with Roeselare, did you pitch the blend as primary, in primary with a starter of Sacc, or after primary?
 

kingwood-kid

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Is there solid reason to use a blend over individual strains, or to use strains over the blend?
The argument for the blend is twofold. One, you're buying one pack instead of 3-6. I'd rather buy one blend and save $40. Two, the blends contain what's theoretically a proven combination at the correct ratio. However, that combination may or may not be to your taste, so if you have a collection of single-strain cultures, you could tailor the mix as you saw fit. The problem with that method is that you'd have to wait over a year while a nearly infinite number of combinations fermented away.
 

Warthaug

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I would disagree with those advising against mixing your own, for 2 reasons:

  1. The blends you buy are not guaranteed to work, nor is the ratio guaranteed to remain "ideal". Once in your fermenter it is the environment (e.g. pH, gravity, oxygenation, temperature, temperature stability, osmolarity, etc) that will determine the growth rate of the individual organisms, and you can end up with radically different organism ratios (and thus, flavours) depending on these factors. I've seen these pre-mixes make great beers and bad ones - for example, keeping the beer too warm can lead to a lot of bacterial activity, leading to overly-acidic beers - even though you've pitched an "ideal" blend in the form of a sachet of roeselare.
  2. Mixing your own gives you an additional level of control over the flavour profile of your final beer. With a pre-mix you are "limited" to manipulating temperature and recipe, while mixing your own gives you the option of adding only those organisms you want, and also gives you control over the timing of those additions. For example, I've made beers where I let the brett eat most of the dextrans before adding pedio, thus giving a less acidic finish than I would otherwise have been able to achieve.

Bryan

PS: roeselare contains multiple Saccharomyces strains
 

Gus_13

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Roeselare also contains a Sherry yeast. It's more than enough to work on a brew alone. I also advocate bottle dregs. Especially from beers you really enjoy.

Good luck!
 

BGBC

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PS: roeselare contains multiple Saccharomyces strains
Excerpt from the Wyeast website:
"Specific proportions of a Belgian style ale strain, a sherry strain, two Brettanomyces strains, a Lactobacillus culture, and a Pediococcus culture"

Not arguing for or against either option, as they both have their merits and both, if done properly, can/will yield great beers. If you want to pitch your own cultures, go for it, because that's what homebrewing is about. You'll probably need to do some additional research to determine what you want to pitch and when. And you might go through a few test batches before you produce the result you're looking for, but hey, it's all beer.
 

Warthaug

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Excerpt from the Wyeast website:
"Specific proportions of a Belgian style ale strain, a sherry strain, two Brettanomyces strains, a Lactobacillus culture, and a Pediococcus culture".
Belgian yeasts and sherry yeasts are saccharomyces

B
 

DurtyChemist

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I have read a little of the America sour beers book and went with WLP 655 sour mix. Y understanding is pitching individually is if you're familiar with what each contributes an want more control over the flavor each contributes by deciding when to pitch.

I'd like to get some fellow HBT'ers feedback on choosing bugs for a sour ale. I'm really trying to decide between two methods.

I think the most common method, certainly advocated by The Mad Fermentationist, is to pitch Saccharomyces, a "pre-mix" such as the ubiquitous Roeselare Blend, and also the dregs from a commercial bottle or two.

For some reason, with no real justification, I'm more inclined to pitch direct cultures. I.e., pitch Saccharomyces, and vials/packs of Pediococcus, Brettanomyces, and maybe Lactobacillus, as well as the dregs from a commercial bottle or two.

Bottle dregs, by the way, of sour beers are hard to come by here in Lincoln, NE. There's three bottles, that I know of or can think of, that I'd be pitching. I have a bottle of a wild beer named Maggie from a CO brewery, Crabtree, I can get one bottle of decent lambic from a nice shop in town, and I'd probably pitch dregs from Orval too.

Am I fooling myself? Should I just use the Roeselare Blend + bottle dregs? Is there solid reason to use a blend over individual strains, or to use strains over the blend?

I'd like to hear your experience.

Cheers!
 
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