Brewing sour beer at home. From a presentation for the San Francisco Homebrewers Guild. Tidbits about Lambics, pLambics, Brettanomyces, 100% Brett beers, Pediococcus and sick beer, blending your sour ales, and more.
RR Framboise for the cure DON”T AGE FRUIT LAMBICS! Drink these young!
Duchesse De Bourgogne
Modern 1880s beer Eugene Rodenbach sent to England 1889 (1885 carlsberg clones lager yeast) lndustrial revolution
Don’t shortcut with lactic acid
Lack body French farmhouse beers. Some wines.
I am paranoid about getting something bad in there, so I pasturize fresh-squeezed juice You can even use a lot of juice to get to the gravity points needed to carb, though that will drop your final abv
Purchased blends contain 3 or 4 species.
Think of Saccharomyces -- we work mainly within a few species, S cerevisiae (ale, bread..) S pastorianus (lager) S bayanus (wine
TEMP However, you can make sourdough culture at room temperature.
Somewhat hop tolerant gram-positive bacteria
So can bees !
Never too soon to go sour - sour beer homebrewing ideas
It’s never too soon to go sour
(Modified slightly for a presentation to the SF Homebrewers
Guild with scientist Steve Smith from the exciting new Bay
Area yeast company, GigaYeast )
Steve Smith introduced the organisms involved, so that part
of this slide deck was omitted for the event. I have added a
few of my other slides back in to this version, and included
some thoughts on Brett and souring organisms at the end.
Gail Ann Williams
Sour homebrewer since batch 3
Sample traditional styles
Lambic – taste history – Belgium only
Aged straight uncarbonated Lambic
Gueuze, carbonation through blending
Fruit Lambics: Oude Krieks and more
Flanders Red, a “modern” sour
Oude Bruin/Flanders Brown
German lactic wheat beers (Berliner & Gose)
Savor these beers. Enjoy being here for early days of
“American Wild” sours and the rarer outside-of-Belgium
new “spontaneous” sour beers. Near SF we have great
local examples of praise-worthy pseudo-Lambics!
It’s easy to go sour with the Steve Piatz
method for (pseudo)Lambic wort
Just do it: Create 5 gallons of wort from dry extract.
OG 1.056; G <1.016; IBU 0?; SRM 3; ABV
3.0 lbs (1.4 kg) light Dried Malt Extract
3.0 lbs (1.4 kg) wheat DME
0.25 lbs (0.11 kg) malto-dextrin*
3 oz (85 g) aged or oven-dried low-alpha hops
Long boil, from 90 to 120 minutes, with hops
* Makes up for mash temp and lack of unmalted wheat starches in real Lambics.
Consider whole wheat pasta for easy gelatinized starches. Pop into fermenter!
Coolship wort cooling, as breezes waft
Inoculation by air at Timmerman’s in Be. How do we do this at home?
Piatz pLambic fermentation tips
In order to mimic the Lambic sequence of dominant organisms, Piazz
suggests something like this:
your kitchen as coolship room: 48 hours hotcooling-to-room temperature in your kitchen with the
lid ajar *
Pitch any clean ale yeast, add airlock
2 weeks later, add a blend of Lacto, Pedio, Brett,
and possibly commercial Lambic dregs, all at once.
Note that adding those cultures in various
sequences is also practiced by some brewers, but
save that idea for later.
* Scary? That should be. Also, don’t use kitchen inoculation or bottle
dregs when testing commercial cultures.
Not every batch turns out great
My husband Steve Shapiro and I were thrilled to help at a brew day at
Cantillion in Brussels. Alas,“bad bacteria” meant the batch was dumped!
“A beer must be sick to become strong”
- Jean Van Roy, Cantillon brewer
Pediococcus (among other organisms) can organize an
unfinished beer into coils of slime.
Belgian brewers call their beers “sick” when these structures
◦ The English brewing term is “ropey.”
◦ Scientists say “exopolysaccharides.”
The beer will liquify again after 3 or 4 months.
A beer can be sick twice. The old Belgian tradition of brewing
in the winter, and then having the Lambic in the barrel for two
summers, encouraged this pattern.
A beer that has been “sick” and has recovered exhibits a
deeper acidity and richer perceived mouthfeel.
It’s harmless, and much desired as a step along the way,
Sick beer only looks gross. (Unless it’s sick in the bottle!)
Fruit Lambics and pLambics
Finish out your pLambic, then taste it, and decide on a fruit.
If your pLambic is mild, choose a more tangy fruit such as
apricots. If you use the most traditional choice, cherries,
consider sour, tart or pie varieties. Table cherries can be
Fresh, dried, flash-frozen fruit all work better than bottled
Crush the fruit. You may also freeze it briefly. If you don’t,
the Brett will get in there, but may take longer.
Ripe fruit is better than semi-ripe fruit. Usually farmers
market fruit is better than supermarket fruit. Smell and taste
are more important than color in fruit selection.
Typically transferring the pLambic onto fruit for 3 months will
do the trick. At 3 months see if the flavors are there.
One pound per gallon is a starting point. If your base beer
provides less interest, use more fruit.
Fruit used to go into barrels
A messy second fermentation follows. Now most Lambic brewers
transfer from barrels to stainless for the three months on fruit.
Red beers are “sour,” not wild
Flanders are a “modern” take on ancient sour beers.
Brewers make a dry, bland, low-hopped and fully attenuated
lager or clean ale, rack it and then inoculate it with Lactobaccilus
and perhaps Pediococcus.
that lives in the barrels is the clean-up team for these
beers, not a dominant driver of the process.
There is typically some acetic acid tang from Acetobacter. You
may want to dose with vinegar.
The classic examples are often stabilized, (filtered or flash
pasteurized) then have sweeter beer blended in.
Duchesse De Bourgogne even uses saccharine or aspartame
to become both sweet and intensely sour.
Acetic beers may not age as expected
“Brett has an affinity for taking acetic acid and ethyl alcohol to
create ethyl acetate. In very low concentrations, ethyl
acetate can be a nice ester that is said to be lightly fruity.
But what happens is that quickly continues to go, and ethyl
acetate becomes more solventy and eventually becomes a
nail polish solvent aroma.
You may find a little acetic acid in a beer that tastes nice
when you blend it, but as that beer ages you get a potent
- Chad Yakobson
Crooked Stave & The Brettanomyces Project
The beer is ready when it’s ready.
is the most important ingredient. Give
your pLambic projects privacy for 3 months and
then taste at intervals, not daily.
You are not the master of this brew. (You are more
like the midwife or coach for the birth of a beer).
Jean Van Roy: “You need passion, the best
ingredients, and time.”
From Lauren Salazar, “The beer must die first.
Then it’s reborn”
From Vinnie Cilurzo: “If you are just starting out
making funky beers, making a beer that is
palatable will be considered a success.”
“A blender must envision what the end beer will
taste like after blending and after it is
- Vinnie Cilurzo.
Russian River Brewing they keep some highly acidic beer
that is used for blending to bring up the acidity in a beer.
They also keep a “more mellow” dry, finished Brett beer to
blend down acidity.
Consider blending with tasty water before carbonating
Belgian blenders speak of blending more and less bitter
batches, and of three year olds with one year olds.
Lauren Salazar of New Belgian speaks of Users, Blenders,
Waiters. The Users are the stars.
100% Brett fermentations
Increasing the oxygen increases cell counts and decreases
the overall character of the Brettanomyces: More O2 early
makes “clean” Brett.
An all Brett fermentation will have a long lag phase. It takes
an extra day or more to go into vigorous fermentation
Lower cell counts up the “funkiness” of a 100% Brett beer.
On a 1.060 original gravity wort, once active, a 100% Brett
fermentation will ferment to 1.020 in about 10 days.
RR says that it takes about 8 full weeks for the beer to drop
further, to a bottling SG of 1.010. Beware bottle bombs!
All-Brett beers without acidity from lactic acid bacteria tend to
lack body, as Brett does not produce glycerol at the levels
Cleaning and Sanitation
Boiling 15 minutes is a solid approach. Fermenting in a metal
keg that can be boiled works, though washers and other
rubber parts must be replaced.
Sanitizers will kill Brett off a non-porous surface like glass.
Plastic should be considered uncleanable because it is
porous. (Unless you have boil-proof plastic items)
Have two of everything that is not glass or steel, including all
plastic bottling equipment parts if you bottle.
Even if you brew an all-funky beer line-up, you may not want
to not risk the luck of the draw of what lives in your carboy
hood, etc. You may be brewing with one mix of bacteria and
Brett, and not want other species in there too.
Bottle conditioning & carbonation
An aged Lambic or Flanders Red inspired beer will have
nearly no dissolved CO2 left in it.
The Bruery uses a 1.5 multiplier to estimate priming sugar.
It can take months to become carbonated by the Brett.
You can add a dry red wine yeast that is acid tolerant to the
beer, then add priming solution. The new fermentation may
make a pellicle in the bottles is there is O2 present.
Belgian Gueuzes are classically carbonated with young and
old Lambics mixed together. This is done by taste!
Fruit juice can be an excellent priming solution. Make a small
amount of usual priming solution and take a gravity, then
match that gravity with your fruit juice addition. (Add sugars
to the juice to meet the gravity needed.)
Next read Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow
My inspiration for these slides. Nice!
http://www.themadfermentationist.com/ Articles & recipes
http://www.brettanomycesproject.com/dissertation/ Supergeeky great information!
Early info, fun to explore
Bonus thought: How can bacteria and yeast cells collaborate?
I blog some at http://beerbybart.com/ and will put a link to my
portion of these slides up there. Feedback appreciated!
P.S. - six more slides…
Steve Smith of GigaYeast had
provided a list of organisms in his
slides, so I omitted the following
pages on some of my favorite
“bugs” in the presentation.
Here they are, in case it’s useful
Bugs: A Lambic cast of characters
Brettanomyces species (wild yeasts)
Lactobacillus species (Lactic Acid Bacteria)
Pediococcus species (Lactic Acid Bacteria)
Acetobacter species (Acetic Acid Bacteria)
Minor organisms, such as Kloeckera apiculata
“Kitchen” flora? Backyard contributions?
Don’t forget Saccharomyces (ale and lager
The microorganisms are in communication through
quorum sensing. They take turns and behave
differently in a mixed group. In the ambient
coolship environment in Belgium there could be
as many as 200 species chattering away.
The Brettanomyces Family
“British fungus” isolated from British stock ale at Carlsberg in 1904
There are many species and strains of Brettanomyces aka Dekkera
The most commonly available species (With many strains)
B. bruxellensis “Brett b” out of Brussels
B. claussenii “Brett c” with Anglo ancestry, may also be the
same as what has been called B. anomalous
There are many, many Strains of B. bruxellensis (including Lambicus
™ from Wyeast), all over the world
Strain-dependent flavor characteristics are worth considering:
Tropical fruit, Citrus, Leathery, Apple, Stone Fruit
Horse blanket, goaty, mousy, wet dog, sweaty, poopy, etc. can be
accepted in minor amounts, but if dominant, may just mean more
time is needed for Brett to transform compounds into something
For more on the specific compounds and how they transform, see
Chad Yakobson’s thesis work at the Brettanomyces Project
More on Brettanomyces
Brett will slow at 3.4 pH, which is quite sour.
Brett forms a pellicle - a thick white biofilm that blankets the top of
the beer in fermentation. The yeast cells and sometimes a mix of
species form chains that make a floating on the top of beer. The
pellicle guards against oxidation, allowing just enough through
during aging. The pellicle also guards against acetobacter, which
uses oxygen to break down alcohol
Leave the pellicle intact, if you can. (Vinnie nail, ported carboy)
Oxygen at bottling can lead to a pellicle ring forming in the bottle.
Brett can ferment sugars (cellobiose) from a toasted oak barrel.
Brett can ferment dextrin and starches, it’s “super-attenuating” and in
a mixed culture, it can pull the gravity down close to 1.000
Brett can even shift gears and metabolize alcohol like acetobacter if
it has enough oxygen to utilize. Luckily this is not usually the case!
Lactobacillus doesn’t just like milk
Lactobacillus, the yogurt, cheese and sourdough family of souring
bugs, plays a major role in Flanders beers, Berliner weisse, Gose
and the American sours from Cascade Brewing, for example.
L. prefers reduced levels of oxygen, close to body temperature.
L. makes a gentler sourness than Pediococcus does.
The Lactobacillus commonly used by brewers, L. delbrueckii
produces lactic acid as well as carbon dioxide.
Usually Lactobacillus will cease to function at a pH of ~ 3.8
L. dislikes hops. 10 IBU is a rule-of-thumb ceiling for lacto-soured
beers (strain specific, however.)
True Lambics derive little acidity from Lactobacillus. May still matter,
in dropping pH and influencing early behavior of Brett.
There are many methods around. I like the kettle-soured, no-boil
Berliner as a first endeavor for an ale yeast and lacto beer.
This is the “sick” and “ropey” temporary texture maker.
Pediococcus is responsible for the clean lactic acid intensity
of Lambics and most contemporary sours
Somewhat hop-tolerant bacteria
Pedio ferments sugar into lactic acid, but produces no carbon
dioxide. Can make a “brain surface” pellicle.
Pedio produces heavy amounts of diacetyl. Comes off as
muddy, almost peanut butter notes. Brett cleans up!
Pedio is retarded by oxygen, or by rising alcohol.
Pedio grows slowly. Likes an apple or tomato juice starter,
and if you want to encourage it in a blended product, use
juices and no oxygen to grow it up.
Acetobacter, for that Balsamic quality
Flanders Red beers usually have an acetic quality. The
classic examples are blended then stabilized, so they do not
go further towards vinegar in the bottle or under the cork.
Acetobacter works with oxygen and ethanol to make Acetic
acid, as found in vinegar. It wants to eat all the alcohol.
Your other organisms want little or no oxygen as they finish
the beer up for you.
Fruit flies – historically known as vinegar flies - can carry
acetobacter. Probably why the spider is a Lambic mascot!
Dry airlocks admit both fruit flies and oxygen. “Neglect” your
beer, but check that there is liquid in the airlock, etc.
The organism is never pitched. (You could blend in vinegar if
none evolves from contamination by what is in the air)