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12/19/10 12:47 AM  
Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
Tip of the hat to Mike @ MadFermentationist for this idea and I thought I'd post it to show success of the method...

In 11/09 I brewed up a Flanders Pale Ale inspired by the recipe in Wild Brews. I added 5 lbs of fresh picked fall raspberries in August and kegged the beer in early December. The final batch just didn't have the sourness that I wanted, and the raspberry flavor was a little muddled. pH of carbonated beer was ~3.7. FG was 1.001.

I picked up a 1mL pipet, a small beaker, and some 88% lactic acid and set up a chemistry experiment, which ended up being quite fun. I added 0.025, 0.05, 0.075, 0.15, and 0.25 mL of lactic acid to 100mL samples and noted both the pH and some tasting notes.

I maintained a control sample for comparison and tasted each batch, eventually settling on the 0.075mL addition as being the best. 0.25mL started to add an almost metallic flavor along with unpleasant levels of sourness. I scaled the additions to the 5 gallons that I had in the keg and added that volume to the batch.

So, for $8 I was able to take an ok beer and turn it into something quite nice. The extra acidity brightened up the raspberry flavor and made the beer more flavorful and refreshing. Since I was only adding a little bit of sourness/acidity from the lactic acid, it didn't seem that I picked up any of the negative flavor additions (butter) that others claim when adding lots of lactic acid.

I just thought I'd post this to support the idea.

12/19/10 01:35 PM  
Re: Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
I agree that adjusting acid levels after a batch is made works very well. But I prefer to do this more naturally.

So my idea is to always have a gallon of lactic starter going and allow this to get very sour. I guess it might also be a good idea to have an acetic acid gallon.

I also think that this idea will help on the front end also. The more I read Chad's paper on Brett Only fermentations, I understand how important it is to have those acids for Brett to turn into different esters.

12/19/10 05:57 PM  
Re: Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
"So my idea is to always have a gallon of lactic starter going and allow this to get very sour."

That's how Lightning Brewery in Poway does it. Jim has a vessel full of house-made lactic acid that he uses in his hefeweizen. Tastes like yogurt flavored lemonade.

12/20/10 06:12 PM  
Re: Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
I've done my fair share of adjustments with lactic acid. I've also found that a splash of pear vinegar helps, in addition to lactic. I too prefer the natural approach but in pinch adjustments definitely help round out some flavors.

Almighty, care to share any tips on keeping a lactic starter? My prior attempts haven't worked. One turned acetic after about 3 weeks, and the other was a dumper for one reason or another (can't recall off-hand).

12/21/10 12:51 AM  
Re: Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
Funny enough this being on a "Belgian" brewing board and all but this is standard German brewing practices and IMO important for correcting sours when it needs to be done. I know a few commercial breweries who keep sour wort for correcting pH in the mash and kettle as well as breweries keeping reactors full of sour wort for R&D beers.

I like the idea of having sour wort ready for acidifying mash, acidifying wort in the kettle, getting a more balanced acidity in a fermenting beer, you name it. I don't buy into the lactic acid from a bottle is different from the naturally made as lactic acid is lactic acid, its all about the balancing of the acids and the correct amounts. I would still prefer to use something which was made from the bugs as I like the bugs, but in a pinch don't over look other sources. You can over do anything whether its naturally produced or in a concentrated compound form.

Almighty touches on a good point. It's not all about the lactic acid, there are other acids which can be very complimentary to these beers.

12/21/10 01:10 AM  
Re: Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
Sorry if I mislead you but I haven't tried to do this yet. I just got the idea when I read Chad's paper last week. I was going to get one going for the Old Ale I was discussing in another thread.

I was just planning on using some of the same wort and using a vial of White Labs. I know from reading various Berliner Weiss threads (and I believe Chris Kennedy talked about it) it is very important to keep lactic acid fermentations as aerobic as possible. So he recommended doing this in a keg that you first purge with CO2. I was just going to purge a gallon container and then fill the wort all the way to the top and put in an airlock.

Alternatively I was listening to the BN Session with the Women of White Labs and they mentioned another way to get an aerobic fermentation. Basically take a big "bowl" or container then place your vessel under this and light a candle. Then tape off around the container, when the candle goes out no more oxygen. This sounds like a fun experiment I might try soon.

Also as Adrian mentioned Lightning Brewery does this and I work a few blocks away. So I'll go ask Jim for ideas (Thanks Adrian).


I bet the notion that the natural stuff tastes better is from the other flavors that are produced by the bugs and then are added along with the lactic acid.

12/21/10 10:37 AM  
Re: Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
Just realized I said aerobic instead of anaerobic for the lacto fermentation. It needs to ferment without oxygen present hence purging and lighting the candle to burn available oxygen.

This paper also talks about it. But I can't find the exact spot right now.


12/21/10 11:26 AM  
Re: Lactic acid adjustment of sour beer
OK. If your attempts work definitely report back. I haven't tried to sustain a lacto starter for a while, but definitely will again sometime. For now, I've got a few bottles of uber-sour beer that I can mix in if I need it. I just added 12 oz of this stuff to 3 gallons of saison and it seems just right.
12/23/10 12:32 PM  
Adding Lactose?
Has anyone tried adding lactose to a beer that has already fermented to TG? I know that Sacch can't ferment lactose, but can Wyeast's lacto ferment lactose? I pitched Wyeast's Berliner Weiss blend (which also has brett)and the first generation was really not sour enough. I am trying to find a more natural way to sour this beer (and to add a more complex flavor) instead of just adding lactic acid.
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