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gail williams
11/08/09 08:34 PM  
new questions after a year of sour brewing
Almost a year, anyway.

When I started with my fauz lambic explorations, I wanted to split everything into small to very small batches, and not taste anything for a year. My first batch was last December. I split the primary so I could see what a pure brett primary was like compared to a cal ale yeast primary, and that was exciting, then I pitched white labs' lambic blend onto both of those and split into some smaller containers... and swore to leave them for a year.

Tiny test batches have less to be able to taste and take gravities on... so I felt I should not disturb them.

In the mean time I have tried some other experiments, including spontaneous back porch innoculation -- the most exciting, but progressing slowly!

About a month ago I was having a problem with the hand-toasted wooden dowels I had put into two of my growing colony of one to five gallon containers in my San Francisco basement. They were wicking out sweet sticky moisture while the others were taking air in and getting thin pellicles. So I had to open those, and I had to taste. Incredibly interesting variety of flavors... I was delighted to finally experience what was happening.

In fact, I bottled one of them - four month old flanders red on fresh tart pineapple (lacking acetic character alas) - because even though i figured it could get better, it tasted so good I wanted to share it.

But some of the others leave me with beginner's questions... I have no idea when they will be ready to bottle or blend.

First, so far some have dusty or chunky surfaces that look like floating debris. Only one had a brain-textured latex-like pellicle! Question: If I like something that still has a dusty-chunky or brainiac pellicle, and I want to bottle or blend with it now, what do I do? Do I have to wait for it to fall naturally? Can I just filter chucks of pellicle out with nylon netting as I bottle?

Second, how do I decide about carbonation and priming sugar with brett still at work? Do I add another yeast in for priming? If I use a young beer instead of sugar, how can I calculate the mixture so as to have a reasonable level of carbonation? I don't keg, and now that I am this far into my sour experiments I am starting to ponder these issues. (For example, I did ok with a medium-high carbonation in the flanders pineapple that I recently primed with hand-pressed fresh pineapple juice, (took a gravity, added corn sugar to get the number where I'd want it for a regular saccharomyces beer, and pasturized at 185 degrees F for fifteen minutes) It's just ready, and nice so far. But will that eventually become a bomb just when I'm pleased that I've aged it in the bottles?)

So how do experienced lambic brewers calculate for priming/bottling?

thank you!

11/08/09 11:06 PM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
Hopefully others will jump in here, but I'll take a stab at a couple of your questions.

Not every sour will have a uniform, thick-coated pellicle. The "dusty" surfaces you have sound normal enough. Should you want to bottle them, you'll be pulling/racking from underneath anyway, so no extreme measures are really needed, unless you are greedy and need every little bit. In time (the main operative in wild beers), the bugs will eat the solids that make their way into the bottle. I have professionally brewed bottles with pellicles in them!

As for bottling, the easiest answer is to wait until the beer has fully fermented out before you bottle, and bottle in champagne or other thick walled bottles when you do. Prime normally.

Others will tell you different (ask three homebrewers the same question and you'll get three different answers). In the end your own approach is what is going to work for you.

One thing though, I applaud that you went ahead and brewed on your own first, at least making an attempt to answer your own questions by doing, rather than worrying and questioning every little thing so that you never get to the actual making of beer. Cheers to that!

11/10/09 01:16 AM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
Ok, good to know I can pull some off of some of my slightly older batches to blend, and not worry that the pellicle hasn't dripped. thanks Tim. I'm pretty much letting the bugs (and some reading) show me what to do, but the priming thing never completely made sense to me. How could the last stessed-out species left standing in aged beer wake up and happily convert a new dose of sugar to CO2? And how weird that the same amount of sugar would be appropriate. But I guess brett has got that up its sleeve along with all the other tricks.

Looks like I'll have to get a bottle-corker next.

11/10/09 09:35 AM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
Gail, while corking can be a great addition to homebrew packaging options, it is not strictly necessary per Tim's 'champagne/thick-walled' bottle recommendation.

A number of 12 oz Belgian bottles that accept normal crown caps, (such as Duvel) have a thicker wall to withstand higher pressures. Additionally, most commercial corked 24 oz bottles (incl. champagne) will take a larger (29mm) cap. This will also work well for 12 oz Saison Dupont bottles. 29mm interchangeable bells are available for many cappers, or just getting an inexpensive butterfly capper for this purpose is also an option.

Not that I would dissuade you from the fun and aesthetically satifsying practice of corking! Just wanted you to know there are other ways to go if you are concerned about carbonation pressure.

11/10/09 10:47 AM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
Thanks Erik! Good suggestion. I'd pondered those large lip bottles before (and we have put far too many out for recycling - ouch!), but didn't know what to shop for til now.

11/10/09 07:04 PM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
I have a bunch of sours going (all about 6-8 mos) and with regards to bottle conditioning I would defintely consider adding fresh yeast. I too am thinking that after a year or so that it would take a long time for those bottles to carbonate the way you want them.

I would be dissapointed if after a year the beer doesn't reach the desired CO2 level. I am sure there are many that will say let it ride and the bugs will eat away at the priming sugar, but how long do you have to wait? If you are satisfied with the taste of your product, package it up and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Cheers!

08/03/10 10:50 PM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
Ressurecting a thread rather than starting a new one.

I have a few sours which have been ageing for several months. Youngest would be at least 6-7 months, oldest closer to twelve. I'm swapping several bottles of one or all of these in October and I'm wondering if I need to repitch when I prime in order to carbonate. I don't need or want high carb - something around 2 -2.5 vol is good for me.

I'll be bottling into orval bottles. First was innoculated with wyeast roselare in secondary, second pitched onto the dregs and third onto the dregs of that with several bottles of orval dregs thrown in. Youngest is quite clear and gravity last time I checked was down below 1005.

Don't want bottle bombs (especially as I'm trading with some other, more experienced funk brewers), don't want flat.


08/04/10 08:54 AM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
I would recommend pitching either a fresh packet of brett at bottling time or neutral yeast such as US-O5 or a champagne yeast like Lalvin EC-1118. Just to make sure your beers get carbonated where you want them. If your gravity is below 1008 or so, I really don't forsee any bottle bombs providing you carb them around 2.5 vol.
tom sawyer
08/04/10 03:33 PM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
One other option for bottling are the plastic champagne corks and cages. You can just push those into champagne bottles by hand. I've had good luck with these.
08/05/10 02:21 AM  
Re: new questions after a year of sour brewing
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