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12/05/10 02:25 PM  
less vinegar in beer
Made a couple of sours. Flanders red and brown. Both fermented in buckets. Red is 7 months and brown 10 months. Both have a good flavor but more vinegar flavor than I would like. How do I get a sourness without as lib vinegar taste. It's not overwhelming just there. Ferment in a carboy instead?
12/05/10 03:57 PM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
Too much oxygen exchange can lead to growth of acetobacteria. These critters are responsible for producing acetic acid (that vinegar flavor) in the presence of oxygen.

The buckets are by far more permeable than a glass carboy with a carboy cap and airlock (which allows for more than enough gas exchange). In no way am I saying that a good sour cannot be made by long term aging in a bucket, but I do know of the effects of acetobacter growth and what it can do to your finished product.

If they are too sour, then why not brew another batch of that recipe (or something close to it) and blend the two together to reach your happy medium?

12/06/10 01:22 PM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
No matter what you secondary/tertiary ferment a sour in you want to make sure it is filled to the brim. any headspace means all that oxygen is going to diffuse into the beer as well as what ever else is diffusing through the container.

For long aging, a carboy has always seemed like the best idea, fit a self burping bung in the top for the first couple of months then hard bung with a solid rubber or the wooden dowel, which I've never done but seems like it would work.

12/06/10 08:23 PM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
FWIW when we did a flemish red swap/tasting, the most authentic smelling beer (in my opinion) was fermented for a year in a bucket. Oddly enough, it was only perceivable in the aroma, and was not nearly tart enough to meet the flavor profile.

Led me to try an experimental strong flemish red fermented in a bucket, which I haven't even looked at in a year, and is probably getting on two years since brewing now. I should check in on that!

However.... yeah, what Chad said. Don't want vinegar? Go with glass!

12/06/10 08:55 PM  
Re: less vinegar in beer

Do you plan on topping the ulage in your new project?

I talk with wine makers and they love topping their barrels. Then I read about Lambic producers and other sour makers here in the US and they tend towards not topping. Seems like a good idea.


12/07/10 01:17 AM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
B_Dub are you saying it seems like a good idea to top like the wine producers or not to top like the US sour brewers I read your post 3 times and wound up scratching my nogin
12/07/10 07:22 AM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
Think B-Dub is saying that US lambic/sour makers do not top their barrels.

My best lambic to date was done in a bucket for 3 years.

If one gets over the top you can blend or maybe try the egg shell thing, mine have never been bad enough but I am interested to see how it works.

12/07/10 03:59 PM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
Sorry about the confusing post. It sounds like a good idea to me to top your barrels to insure low to no acetobacter growth. If you wanted some vinegar notes a separate beer could be made for blending before bottling. I personally have a low threshold appreciation for vinegar in beer.

That being said it sounds like there are plenty of sour/lambic producers that do not top barrels and make fantastic products that show little aceto notes.

12/08/10 11:04 AM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
For me it depends on how much head room there is. I'll check about a week after filling to see where the beer is sitting in the barrel. Then if I feel, I will top it up.. As for during the long aging, after about a month to 6 weeks its good to top them some from early evaporation and beer working into the barrel. I know American breweries who have lactic soured beer in fermenters just for topping up, how great that would be! My plan is to always have beer chilling in a keg for topping, maybe I will add some lacto to it as well to get it on its way. IMO topping is safe brewing practice for barrel-aging and Its better then ruining a batch... which I saw happen a few times where I previously worked, this was due to massive headspace and sitting on a beer too long.

After the 6 week topping a hands off approach is best, but I have in the past and do plan to top when and if needed. Like winemakers who have been doing this for much longer and with greater regularity its important to top "when and if needed". I find this is what the Lambic brewers are doing. They are crafty belgians they don't want to say that they may or may not do something so they'll give general answers but from time to time they top to get a barrel to start producing or add characteristics. Guess that could be seen as for a slightly different reason though, with the same outcome...

As far as the acetic acid its an important flavor component in sours to a level. The perceived flavor changes as the level goes up so when its high its vinegar when in lower concentrations its sweeter. Its is also crucial for balancing the lactic acid. In my experience with Lauren Salazar at NBB and tasting for blending La Folie it is the lactic acid that is the harsher of the two acids when its too high in a sour. That tingling feeling in your nose after drinking a sour and it gets you in the side of the mouth is the lactic. The acetic acid is what rounds the lactic acid off and makes it actually softer. Now vinegar is a whole different story, it's flavor should never be in there, and that is from too high of acetic acid concentrations! At least I don't like the presence but I know other brewers who are different so to each their own. I've found I usually get "enough" acetic from the Brettanomyces species present and whatever acetic acid bacteria is present and slowly working.

From other brewers I visited with I would chalk up 90% of the problems brewers have had with their sour beers was due the barrels not being maintained well enough and not being topped or filled enough to begin with.

That was a long answer when a simple "yes" I will top would have done...


12/08/10 11:08 AM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
Thanks, now I get what you are saying. I have a solera and I added freshly frozen pie cherries to the thing. I noticed they all floated up to the top of the liquid and white bret pellicle growth is on top of them. Not a omplete block to oxygen and I know the wood is porous, But the co2 from the fermentation is blanketing those two layers on top of the beer. I guess it takes very little exposure to oxygen to goof your project up with vinegar, for now I do not have any vinegar notes and I hope it stays that way.
Tom from Raleigh
12/09/10 09:07 AM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
A comment and question:

another factor to consider in controlling vinegar character is temperature. I had three sours in kegs in my fridge and I moved one out of my fridge to my warm garage. I'm convinced that the warmer temps allowed the acetobacter to take over the flavor of the beer.

What do folks use for an air lock? I tried using a conventional air lock but I kept forgetting to fill it. Have people used the silcone stopped from b3?

12/09/10 11:23 AM  
Re: less vinegar in beer
Your right on that temp is important. Most brewers try to keep their barrels aging between 60-65 although, I hear Tomme has no temp control at Lost Abbey??? and I know New Belgium doesn't... but in the big foeders temp flux is less of a concern

I'm pretty sure a product called ferm-rite fermentation bung also has sizes for glass caboys. I've seen it at a homebrew shop or two... Those are good during fermentation and can be used for aging otherwise a hard silcon bung or wood dowel works as well.

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