Sunday, 30 November 2014

Brew Day: Bug County Solera

As the number of sour beers fermenting in my closet increases, the way I think about individual batches has started to change slightly.  When I first began brewing sours a few years ago I thought of each batch as a separate beer: that was a Flanders Red, that was an Oud Bruin, etc., and when they were done I'd bottle the whole batch like I would any other.  But these days when I brew sours I don't really think of each batch as a beer in its own right.  Instead I've started to see them as possible components in future blends, or as a base for further experimentation.  The beers I'm most excited about at the moment are a Flanders Red-style beer that is aging on cherries and raspberries, and various saisons that are undergoing an extended secondary fermentation after being cut with a small amount of aged sour beer.  My goal in brewing more sours has become having more components around for projects of this sort.

With that in mind, when my bottle of this year's ECY20 arrived I started thinking about the best way to use it.  One vial is more than enough for several batches on the scale I brew at: last year I spread one vial between a number of beers, using some as a sole fermentor, some along with a sacch strain, and even adding some to beers that were already undergoing secondary fermentations.  This year my fermenter space was much more limited---both in terms of the number of fermenters available, and the room I had available for buying new ones---so I knew I would probably be more limited in the number of batches I could brew.  In the end I decided the best thing to do was to use most of it in another solera-style project, so that the diversity that characterizes the blend could be maintained into future batches.

What passes for a solera round here is pretty small fry: I brew two regular three gallon batches and combine them in a six gallon carboy.  The idea is that I can then pull off half of this into a three gallon carboy some time later and replace it with a single three gallon batch.  Later again, when I do the next pull from the six gallon batch, I could either pull from the three gallon carboy into smaller jugs and then top up with the pull from the main solera, or I could just pull into a new three gallon carboy so that I had beer at different ages readily on hand.  I already have a few batches going on this system, and I'll begin pulling from them and topping them up again in the next few months.

With the ECY20 batch I wanted to brew something that I could use for cutting future saisons, where the aged beer could provide microbial diversity and sourness and give me a higher overall yield (since I can just about brew four gallons of saison on my current equipment, then age this with one gallon of older beer in a five gallon carboy).  With that in mind I went for a relatively straightforward grist of 70% base malt and 30% adjunct, but to keep things interesting I varied the malts used in each batch: for the first I did a cereal mash with both spelt and buckwheat, hoping to provide some mouthfeel in the finished beer, and also perhaps some precursors for interesting flavours from the brettanomyces; for the second I went with a more typical blend of wheat and oats.  I'm hoping this beer will get reasonably sour, so to encourage the LAB I mashed on the higher side and kept the hopping rate below 15 IBUs.

The O.G. for both batches was 1.044, and they are currently fermenting separately in two different buckets; in a few weeks, after some of the yeast has dropped out, I'll combine them into the six gallon solera. I'm hoping to be able to take the first pull in around 6-8 months and to use it as part of some blended saisons.  Of course those will also have to age for a few months, so it will likely be almost a year before I get to taste any of this, but I'll at least have an ongoing source for future blends after that.

1 comment:

  1. I've been working on doing something similar... taking 1 gallon out of my 6 gallon Solera and racking it into another 5 or 6 gallon fermenter, and topping it up with wort. I'll let the 1 gallon of old sour beer incubate for a couple of days, then pitch fresh Sacch. I get a blend + a good sour inoculation all in one! Cheers!