Friday, December 4, 2009

Quad rescue attempt

Ok. Its been nearly 6 months since I've determined the quad just wasn't anywhere near a beer that I'd drink, nor offer to a guest. I decided at that point that I'd take this very underattenuated beer (~1.035), and try a sour rescue. Well, I'm just getting around to it now. But first, I'm guessing that I made one critical mistake...too small of a pitching rate. I don't have adequate notes, but I remember making maybe a 1liter starter (non stir plate). Not even close to enough, per the pitching rate calculator. The beer seemed to ferment fairly aggressively to start, but it just stalled well before the target FG was reached.

Jump ahead now to earlier this week, I made a 1.040 100g DME/ 1000ml starter of wlp655 and let it ferment out for four days. As you can see by clicking through the link, this blend of microbes includes the usual ale yeast Saccharomyces, as well as what is considered a 'beer spoilage' organism in non-wild beers: Brettanomyces. I'm not sure if its a single strain of Brett, but I'm leaving some faith that the White Labs folks know their stuff. The blend also contains some souring microbes that will add organic acids, among other critical aromatic compounds that round out the complexities commonly found in these types of sours. From the recommendation of the mad fermentationist, I didn't use the stir plate beyond some initial aeration, as the pedio + lacto bacteria thrive in a anaerobic environment, and I really want these guys to contribute a significant sourness to this beer. If you are looking for a book that can help form a basis for understanding wild ales, and their related culture, take a look at Wild Brews. My sister Chelynn actually gave this fantastic book to me last Christmas, and has been read in regular intervals since. Really, the only thing that has kept me from going wild until now has been the extended aging that is required to properly develop the flavors of these beers, several years later since I first had the inclination to brew wild, seems like I made a poor choice. I could have a healthy stash of some of my favorite beer styles really starting to come in to their own. Oh well. 2011 looks to be a good beer year for me.
So, the (purported to be wlp001 cali) ale yeast took off in ~12 hours, and the krausen fell in ~2 days. I took a sniff at that point, and I already am getting some musty, barny type smells from the brett, completely unlike what I get from a typical starter. Hmmmm, I have a feeling my carboy fleet is about to grow significantly in size...these wild ales really chew up conditioning capacity due to the extended secondary required for the relatively slow growing bugs to do their thing.

I took the next step with the sour mix starter...I uncorked three of the corked and caged quad 750s and added them to a one gallon jug with the starter. The next AM, the airlock was active...a definite krausen had reformed, and CO2 bubbling up through the beer could be seen in the jug. I suspect the hardy Cali sacch yeast had restarted on the residual sugars left behind by the inadequate primary ferment.
Tonight, I went through the painful task of slowly pouring the rest of the bottles in to my bottling bucket, doing my best to not aerate the beer too much.
This beer smells phenomenal, and its really a shame that the fermentation was sub par underattenuated mess...figs, prunes, dark caramelized sugars all over the place. faint whiff of warming alcohol, rich sherry and port notes, perhaps giving the impression of brandy soaked sour cherries...this all without the aid of volatilization from CO2 fizz. I'm hoping that these aged aromatics aren't driven off by this restarted ferment and are minimally oxidized by all this less than ideal handling of the beer.

So, now I'm hoping to wake up to the krausen reformed in the carboy, as I saw in the 1 gallon jug, but the true test of patience will be holding off taking samples until the pellicle drops which may be as long as 6-12 months (photo from hope to have my own image soon.)

Almost forgot to mention...after primary krausen falls, I will soon add ~1.5 oz of boiled sanitized medium toast french oak 1. to (theoretically) give the bugs at least some square footage to set up camp (they also are said to metabolize some of the sugars in the oak, though this must be a very, very small percentage of fermentables, but more importantly, 2. to add a background barrel character. If I can get anywhere in the neighborhood of Stille Nacht, I'll be exceedingly pleased.

4/8/10 - 600ml of cultured up dregs oro de calabaza, consecration and fantome printemp added.

4/24/10 - positive pressure on S-shaped airlock is obvious. random bubbly film forming on surface. pellicle formation finally starting. I need to add some oak to this beer.

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