Monday, March 23, 2015

5 Way Berliner (and My First Competition Ribbon)

Not strictly a "split batch" or formal experiment (or should I say ExBEERiment) I nonetheless wanted to taste test 5 variations on sour wheat beers side by side to see which method I liked the most.  While 3 of the beers were started at the same time and used identical worts, the other two were made earlier and one used a very different wort (the extra runnings from my Hefeweizen).  The breakdown of each beer is listed below.  Each batch was a little less than 1 gallon.
  1. "B" Hefeweizen 2nd Runnings w/ Lactobacillus Delbrueckii followed by British ale yeast
    • The 1st version was fermented on the Lacto Del for 3 days before being moved to secondary with the British ale yeast.
    • OG ~1.040, FG 1.003
  2. "C" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii only
    • Pitched on the lacto cake from version 1.
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.002
  3. "X" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii, British ale yeast, and Brettanomyces (BKYeast C2)
    • Pitched with the final slurry from Version 1 with Brett added 5 days later.
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.002
  4. "Y" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii and wild microbes (my Sunroom blend)
    • 1 pint pitched with my Sunroom blend (of wild microbes harvested from my Sunroom) before receiving a small amount of the Lacto slurry while being stepped up from an to 1 gallon.
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.003
  5. "Z" Wheat Extract w/Lactobacillus Delbrueckii and Brettanomyces (BKYeast C2)
    • Given a pitch from the Lacto slurry before being given Brett 5 days later
    • OG ~1.030, FG 1.005

B- cloudiest, light pale color, short lived white head
C- darkest by far, longest lasting head, most carbonated, fairly clear
X- 2nd cloudiest, almost no head
Y- 3rd cloudiest, 2nd biggest head
Z- clearest, smallest head

B- fruity, light citrus,
C- medicinal off smelling, especially as it warms
X- lots of Brett funk, fruity citrus
Y- lightly fruity, vanilla, maybe a touch of butter, very interesting
Z- light fruit, berries, light Brett

B- fruity and tart, sourness is moderately high
C- lightly medicinal, just lightly tart
X- funky, light to moderate sourness
Y- moderately sour, some definite diacetyl butteriness, a little fruit
Z- light grain, lightly tart, fairly restrained

B-Super dry, lightly carbonated
C- medium body with medium carbonation
X- dry with low to medium carbonation
Y- a slightly slicker mouthfeel (diacetyl?) medium low carbonation
Z- medium low in body (the Brett and lacto don't seem to have attenuated as well as the lacto and yeast combos) medium carbonation

B- my favorite of the bunch, moderately sour but with some nice banana, lemon, and wheat in the mix
C- my least favorite by far, just using the lactobacillus is clearly not an advisable option as it surprisingly is under sour and very medicinal
X- my second favorite, and the second most sour. Brett character is a little too high and sourness a little too low
Y- while it was cold this one was really interesting and enjoyable, as it warmed it seems that diacetyl is the most dominant character and the sourness isn't quite high enough
Z- an alright beer, this sort of feels like a bland saison with a light Brett touch. The sourness of the lactobacillus and Brett alone isn't high enough.

This small test has made me think that lactobacillus followed by saccharomyces is the best option for quickly fermented sour beers. I'm a little disappointed in how buttery the wild fermented beer came out and learned to never do lacto only beers, but otherwise the results weren't overly surprising.

Spoke to a brewer at Tired Hands in Ardmore Pennsylvania and was told that they use a very similar process as version "B" for their sours: lacto for 3 days followed by British ale yeast.

Happy to say version "B" received a score of 35 and third place in the Sour Ales category at the DC Homebrewer's Club Cherry Blossom Competition.  Sure, it was only out of 6 beers in the category but for a beer not brewed to style and with no expectations it still did well enough to receive a ribbon.

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