Mid-Week Mini-Mash: Fake Flanders Red (Sour)

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Last night, and probably much against my better judgement, I decided to get another mid-week mini-mash on.

I find the mini-mash style of brewing (see here: https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/10/30/first-steps-in-all-grain-brewing-the-mini-mash/) particularly satisfying as it means I can try things out without sacrificing 23L of wort and several hours of work; plus of course, it’s a doddle to clear up.

The mini mash also helps me to prove to myself that I’ve still got the moves and can hit my targets as an all-grain brewer, especially as my bigger brews are mostly done in the partially automated Braumeister…

So, a Flanders red, eh?  It’s a style that I dearly love: you know, solid and malty with a good sour tang and a delightful acetic acid/vinegar edge.  If it helps at all, try to think of balsamic vinegar…that sort of theme.  Is that better?

The malt bill for this recipe was (very loosely) based on recipes for Rodenbach/Duchesse de Borgogne clones that I’d seen on the web – albeit with substitutions based on what I had kicking about in the grain box:

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The mashing happened at between 66 and 67C as I was busy with other things whilst it did it’s bit on the stove-top.  I’m not a stickler for maintaining temperature too closely when it’s such a small batch, and north of 66C and south of 70C was my mash temperature window.  That range should also provide a slightly less fermentable wort for any Brettanomyces present to get chewing on.

All went off OK, but I did taste the wort towards the end – and that one gram of Magnum in the recipe seems to have imparted a little more bitterness than I cared for, so let’s hope that it doesn’t upset the Lactobacillus too much (Lacto doesn’t generally flourish when there’s too much hop bitterness, hence only 8IBUs in this recipe…I’m hopeful that L. Plantarum is a bit more hop tolerant than others I’ve heard about)

And yes, a 45 minute boil!  Whatever next!  And with Pilsenser malt too!  Aren’t you worried about a DMS bomb and lack of hop isomerization, Jon?!

Umm, no.  Bitterness, is bitterness as far as I’m concerned, and in all my brews so far I’ve never come across DMS yet; Although, If I get it this time I’m prepared to eat my words…but, to be on the safe side, I did boil the wort rather violently…

Yeast-wise, as this was a tiny 1 gallon batch, I wasn’t going to jizz away seven or so quid on the traditional Flanders “Rosealare” yeast ‘n’ bacteria culture – instead relying on the yeast and Lactobacillus and god-knows-what that came out of the fermenter that had my (puzzlingly, well-fermented) Berliner Weisse in.

I just did a standard yeast wash procedure (https://yeastismybitch.com/2015/06/01/washing-and-re-using-yeast-for-fun-and-profit/) on the gunk left after bottling the Berliner – and stuffed the washings in the fridge; oh yeah, and I also threw in some bottle dregs from a Lindemans Cuvee Rene that I polished off last week, too.

This delightul yeasty soup should contain Lactobacillus Plantarum, an unknown but plucky brewers/wild yeast of some sort and assorted other yeasts, Lacto cultures and Brettanomyces strains from the Cuvee Rene sediment.

The fun thing about all this is that I’ve no clue how long this will take to get going, ferment right out, drop in acidity and then eventually drop bright and clear.

What larks…

I’ll post updates.

PS: 8am yesterday morning and the airlock was starting to bubble, so that’s a good sign.

Inadvertent LAMBIC Berliner Weisse (Mini Mash)

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After my first taste of Berliner Kindl Weisse, I’ve been lusting after a gorgeously tart Berliner Weisse for a while now and have been promising myself a crack at brewing one.

Well I’ve just managed to get one going:

Here’s the recipe:

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Trouble is, it’s a little more involved than the standard mash, boil and bung in the yeast routine – to start with I did a mini mash on the stove top (I’ve no idea what I’d do with 23 L of Berliner Weisse?) with the mash rests as follows:

15mins 54c
60mins 68c

5mins 76c

When I sparged, I needed to ensure that there’d be enough wort to fill a demijohn almost completely – air is our enemy here…oh did I mention that I’d be souring this bad boy with Lactobacillus?

…and, because I’m as tight as a gnat’s chuff, I’m going to be doing the souring with Probiotic “healthy gut” Lactobacillus Plantarum tablets.

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Yeah, you heard that right: Mmmm-hmm, deal with it girlfriend.

Rather than forking out six or seven quid a pop for a single-use WL/WY lactobacillus culture in a test tube, I’m just going to crack open a couple of these Swanson Pro-biotics “healthy gut” tablets into some cooled and boiled water to re-hydrate and then pitch the whole lot into the wort.

Each tablet supposedly contains 10 beellion viable cells, and I apparently need 20 beellion for a gallon of wort, so two will do nicely.

(BTW the tablets are seven quid for 30 – so I can do lots more of soured beer with the other 28 or so.  OR I can make a starter and make even more!)

Brewing on the cheap AND supporting my bowels, you’ve gotta like that.

The common consensus is that you can expect about 24 – 36 hours for the souring to happen…but it’s standard practice to use a smidge (3ml or so in my case) of lactic acid in the wort after you’ve sparged to get it down to 4.5 pH – which should stop any unpleasant bacteria taking hold in the meantime…

You can use a pH meter or pH strips to check for acidity – both of these seem largely hopeless when I tested.  I think, on reflection, I probably trusted the strips more…

Once it’s soured to an acceptable level (and that’ll be pleasantly acidic, rather than strip the enamel from your teeth acidity) I’ll get the lot into a pan and re-boil for half-an hour, adding the hops to 8 IBUs, etc. and then bunging in a clean ale yeast to ferment it to a finish – as I would for a normal beer.

God this brewing lark is giddily exciting sometimes…

STOP THE PRESS:

So it’s a couple of days later, now.

The Lacto has been taking it’s time souring the wort – despite my best efforts: swirling up the all-too-flocculant sediment and keeping the whole lot over 25c if I can.

Last night, it tasted as if we were finally getting there: the wort was still sweet, but getting a pleasant, if subtle, acidity to it…

Then this morning I noticed a Krausen!  I mean a high krausen with a right old load of brown yeast on the top and bubbles in the airlock and everything.  That wasn’t supposed to happen…I haven’t put any hops in it yet, let alone any yeast!

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I mean, I did briefly boil it for ten minutes prior to pitching the Probiotics and that was only to “sanitize” it…

After freaking out about it when I first found it this morning, I thought about boiling it all quickly and adding the hops and all that; but I’d no idea how much alcohol would boil off and what it would do the taste…so in the end I’ve decided to just leave it to do it’s thing.

It smells and tastes fine* and I suppose it’s accepted practice to brew Berliner Weisse under a no-boil procedure: because of the eventual acidity it shouldn’t need the preservative power of hops, and the style isn’t hop-forward in any sense, I might just get away with it.  I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

(*I shouldn’t have tasted it at all really: tasting is a big no-no when fermenting with unknown wild cultures – at least in the first few days – heaven knows what could be growing growing in there…a fact I remembered slightly after taking the first sip…)

In any case, I’ve now moved the whole thing to a cooler area of the house to try and keep the yeast from chucking out hot fusel alcohols in the first few days.  What happens next is anyone’s guess.  I suppose there’s two possible outcomes to this whole business:

1) I end up with a gacky, smelly thing that I’ll have to pour down the sink and afterwards, scrub the demijohn ’til my fingers bleed

or

2) I get a tart and interesting Berliner Weiss, in fact a LAMBIC BERLINER WEISSE.  Yeah, take that and smoke it in your Briars, Hipsters!

I may also get an interesting Lacto/Brett/Brewers house culture that I can clutter up the fridge with…  Happy days.

http://www.swansonvitamins.com/swanson-probiotics-l-plantarum-inner-bowel-support-30-veg-drcaps  (They’re available in the UK…)

UPDATE No. 1

Well.  I tasted this beer in primary (10 or so days gone)  and it’s gloriously tart; and, amazingly, it doesn’t have any off-flavours at all.  I’ll just let it finish off and get it into some bottles and let you all know what it ends up like.

And because I’m me -and it’s such a quick way to make beer- I mashed in again the day before yesterday: this time it was a single infusion mash of 68C  for sixty minutes, with a mash-out of 76C.

For the grain bill I used 300g of wheat malt, 300g of Pilsner malt and 300g of Maris Otter.  I did the same routine of re-hydrating the contents of the Swanson’s gut tablets and pitching that in after a ten minute boil, cool-down and pH adjustment to 4.6

Then, guess what?

Less than 48 hours later and it was merrily fermenting – just like the other one.

It’s no fluke, and despite my tongue-in-cheek statements, it’s not a Lambic.  Something’s going on, here’s my current top conspiracy theories:

  1. Somehow there’s yeast on some of my equipment that is contaminating the wort.  Starsan just won’t kill yeast.  A fact that I usually love it for!
  2. The Swanson’s pills have some yeast in them…doubtful, the ingredients don’t mention yeast at all.
  3. I really do have a resident microbial flora (yeast in particular).  I do actually live next door to an orchard and it is Autumn, after all…
  4. The Lactobacillus Plantarum in the Swanson’s pills have found themselves in a situation where they can act in a heterofermentative way: i.e. they can produce lactic acid AND alcohol.  More info here: https://foodsafety.foodscience.cornell.edu/sites/foodsafety.foodscience.cornell.edu/files/shared/documents/CU-DFScience-Notes-Dairy-Cultures-HomoHeteroferm-10-08.pdf

Either way, as long as the beer ends up finished and clean-tasting, I couldn’t really give a toss.

I’ve saved myself a couple of sachets of S04!

These two beers are evolving – so I will fill in more detail as I have it…