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06/07/10 11:26 AM  
Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
I have about 50gal of various sours and I am rather disappointed in all of them for various reasons, most commonly the quality/level of the sourness. If any of them have any sourness to speak of, it is acetic sourness, and I despise a dominant acetic sourness.

I have begun having some luck with my berliner technique, using commercial lacto, sometimes with some dregs to assist, and I began wondering about using this sort of technique to make a beer such as a Flanders Red (sans acetic quality) or sour Blonde (lambic-ish) or sour Saison.

I was thinking of doing a no boil, single decoction, mash hopped lightly, sacc rest at 154, OG around 1.050-1.055, huge starter of lacto, neutral ale yeast (or Saison yeast if I was making a sour saison), and then adding brett alone or adding some bottle dregs and letting it age anaerobically like a Berliner would.

This would hopefully establish a firm lactic base, and the brett (and possibly some pedio from dregs if present) would fill out the flavor over time. The 154 mash temp would leave some residual sugars for the brett to work on in a lower pH environment, the sourness would increase (hopefully) as the lacto continues to work, as long as the increased alcohol over a berliner doesn't deter it too bad.

I have also made a few berliners using brett as the primary yeast, and the one with Brett L from WL turned out really tasty, so I have also been considering doing 2 bug sours with no real secondary fermentation. So, for example a red beer, around 1.045-1.055 OG, mashed around 152, normal boil, 2-5 IBUs, add a huge pitch of commercial lacto and a small pitch of Brett. I imagine doing this you will end up with some nice subtle brett funk, good lactic sourness, and a short turn around time of less than 6 months or so.

I am pretty much done making traditional sours outside of barrels, so I am curious how well a non-berliner made with berliner techniques like outlined above would turn out.


Mike T
06/07/10 04:09 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
Seems like a worthy experiment. I just did a Berliner and left 5 gallons ~1.045, just tossed some oak cubes froma previous sour in there to add some other bugs. I mashed @ 145 for the Berliner, so I may toss some malto-dextrin and/or flour in there to feed the other bugs.

Give it a shot and let us know how it goes, plenty of American brewers have alternative ways of doing sours (Russian River does a big lacto/pedio pitch followed by Brett a few months later, Cascade and New Glarus leave out Brett etc...)

06/07/10 08:12 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
Sour mash and/or acidulated malt come to mind for the quickness. Limited IBU's in a beer might make it hard to pass for a certain style if that is what you are going for. I see and feel your pain, man! What about making one batch with pure lacto culture and blending to taste with another hopped batch of 100% brett beer?
06/07/10 09:05 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
I thought of doing something similar but my idea was adding specific yeast/bugs at different intervals based upon growth phases and nutrient/pH needs. I was thinking of going back and doing some re-reading of Wild Brews to get a better understanding of growth phases, etc.

I like your idea and think it would work, as long as as when the abv grows, it doesn't change the effect of lacto production.

06/07/10 11:18 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
I fermented several beers using only yeast and lacto. Some were traditional berliners, some were fruit beers, some were saisons. I've tried pitching them both at the same time, one after the other, and also into separate batches that were later blended together. I've had various levels of success with all methods.

When you say you have had luck with your "berliner technique, using commercial lacto" are you talking about just a regular pitch of lacto? I know you previously said you were experimenting with sour mashed berliners.

From everything I've read, lacto can be inhibited by as little as 10 IBUs. I haven't tested that theory in any type of controlled setting, but I have pitched lacto into beers with higher IBUs and gotten some sourness from it. I've also tried to get around that potential "problem" by pulling a gallon or so of unhopped (or lightly hopped) wort for lacto fermentation, then adding hops to the rest of the wort that will be fermented with yeast, then eventually blend the two. I don't see why you couldn't do the same thing with brett.

06/08/10 01:24 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
I have also done something similar to sl8w, diverting 1/2 to 1 gallon, unhopped, from the mash for souring. I pitch a starter of commercial dregs and blend back in for secondary/aging. I've had great success except for once. I didn't add anything, just let it go, hoping lacto from the grain would do the job. It grew a nasty black pellicle and smelled wretched so it went down the drain.
06/08/10 03:55 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
For those of you who have diverted a small amount to sour, how long have you let it go before adding to the other and what changes have you seen after some time being blended?
06/08/10 04:24 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
In my most recent attempt, I fermented 4 gallons of wort with ale yeast, and separately fermented ~.75 gallons of wort and some tart cherry concentrate with lacto. Then blended. After blending, there was some additional fermentation, but I wouldn't say that it got too much more sour. With brett/dregs, I'e often made a "starter" to build up the bugs in the dregs before pitching into my "regular" batch. I guess that is pretty much the same thing as what TimC describes, although for whatever reason I always think of it in terms of starter/regular batch, rather than separate fermentations. The flavor change after blending those beers has been more pronounced.
06/08/10 05:13 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
I would say I go 2-3 weeks before blending. That gives the primary strain time to do its work and for the sour portion to get going. One batch was a oud bruin that ended up slightly tart after about 6 months with a little additional fermentation showing (step mash with the main rest at 145 so there wasn't much fermentables left). With another batch I added 1 lb/gal raspberries which showed a lot of bug activity and got a lot more funk/sour. So you may want to control the gravity before blending by adjusting the mash.
06/09/10 04:29 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
Basically when it comes down to it there are a lot of ways to skin a cat. It all depends on which works best for you.

Chris, tried using any Pedio? The problem with Lacto is it doesn't always get things sour enough. That's one of the problems some commercial brewers have ran into when first trying to start sour programs is not getting enough sourness, as they try to just use Lacto. If your getting acetic it mean you have too much oxygen present and continuing to be present in your fermentation so therefore the Lacto wouldn't be producing acids as its not the suitable environment for its lactic fermentation...or at least that should be playing a part..

Also about this sour side starter. This is very common in German brewing, and some producers making Oud Bruins in Belgium. What you want to do is pull wort pre hopped and boil it. You want a OG of 1.025 or maybe 6 plato. Keep this with the lacto, and just keep it always going. You can pull from it to inoculate sour batches or blend for a nice lactic tang to a wit/wheat beer. This is the way to go, and keeps it simple! There is a lot of secrets in brewing and I can tell you in Belgium keeping sour wort/beer around is important and useful for Lambic brewers also.. they have alot it as its what they produce but they have uses for in the kettle and in those interesting horny tanks...

MikeT.. you got it backwards..RR adds the Brett to the beer upon racking to the barrel lets that go for some time, then does a pitch of Lacto/Pedio and hard bungs the oak barrels for the final duration.


06/10/10 12:01 AM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
Thanks Chad for the information. Any tips on the best way to "keep a lacto starter going"? I'd love to have a readily available source of lacto-only sour wort, but every time I've tried to maintain one it has eventually gotten infected with acetic. Any idea how often you would need to "feed" the starter to keep the lacto healthy so that it can do its thing when added/blended to the regular batch?
Mike T
06/10/10 10:54 AM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
Chad, correct you are. Interesting about the hard bunging, suprised the Brett isn't continuing to work after the first few months (maybe just slowly enough for the CO2 to escape through the wood?)
06/10/10 12:19 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
sl8w.. In the homebrew setting I could see how it could be tricky. The most important is great sanitation and then being able to maintain the anaerobic conditions. Do a search for a Duran gl45 or gls80. Which ever you like better. You could leave the lid completely tight, don't really need to worry about pressure build up, but just cracking it here and there would expel and gas and that positive pressure keeps anything from getting in during venting. Then when you want to use it, be fast when you pour it off, always use sterile techniques and close it back up quickly. As for topping it off... maybe every 2-3 weeks, depending on how much you use it. Lacto should stay well and active at room temps also. Mostly likely the source of acetic was from cooling of the wort you would use to step up of "feed" it though.. In the lab we autoclave wort in the Duran jar then let that sit and cool and under a flow hood, flame the lip of the duran jar pour wort off into the culture to step it up, then flame that and secure the lid back on...

Mike T.. Well the barrels can take a considerable amount of pressure (even with the nail in them and the cork at the bottom for emptying), The beers that have sat in the barrels for a couple of months are nearly flat or flat at that point (well below saturation point) so any CO2 produced will only go into solution not raising the internal pressure and then will come out of solution and diffuse through the barrel over time, once again become mostly flat. Brett will still continue to create CO2 especially if the beer gets sick and produces tons of more carbohydrates (the ropy slime is a carbohydrate bundle) but at this point it's generally safe to hard bung and let barrel finish with its final maturation period.

02/07/13 10:06 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
I currently have a low gravity saison, ( 4.8%), 35 ibu's, wl565, that I'd like to add some lactic twang to. thinking of making a 1gl batch of just lacto fermented wort using either some leftover grain or some DME.

Chad Y's suggestion of a 1.025 wort sounds like a good start. I'm guessing an IBU % of 5-8 oughta do it?

Big question on my mind is: since this is already low gravity to begin with, I'd rather not lower the ABV all that much, which seems likely to happen. So I'm also assuming that in order to keep from lowering the ABV all that much, a VERY sour blending wort would be required, yes?

Does anyone know if there any ways to calculate how much volume from a soured blending wort would be required to drop the pH of the main wort down to the desired level?

03/26/13 12:12 PM  
Re: Translating Berliner Techniques to Other Sours
Always surprised people have trouble getting beers to sour. I mostly use blends of dregs in a starter, and don't bother it for a year after pitching. I get a nice complex sourness every time. I've saved an re-pitched cultures too with success.
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