Monday, 20 July 2015

Tasting Notes: Second Extraction Beers

Last summer I bought a lot of fruit at my local Farmer's Market.  Some of it went into pickles and preserves, but most ended up in sour beers.  The results were excellent, with some of the beers going on to take first place their categories in local competitions, so I've been looking forward to picking up more this year to use when I make blends from my soleras in the Autumn.  However, as a penny-pinching graduate student I was also very aware of how expensive all that fruit was, and I couldn't help wonder if I might be able to extend its use beyond single beers.  After all, Cantillon use their cherries twice, and Jester King have also tried a similar process for some of their beers.  What's more, by transferring clean beers onto the spent fruit, dregs, and secondary yeast cake of a sour beer I would be essentially repeating my process of cutting young beers with aged sours.

My basic idea, then, was to take clean beers that were already quite dry (mainly saisons) and transfer them onto the spent fruit and dregs from a sour beer.  I was hoping that the mixed culture might add some tartness and complexity to the finished beer, and that at least some of the fruit would come through as well.  Overall this has been pretty successful, especially with fruits that make a quite assertive contribution like Raspberries or Tart Cherries.  I'll certainly be repeating the process with more saisons this year.

Tart Brown Ale w/ Cherries from a Sour Brown

The base was a blend of American 2-Row and Pearl malt. along with some Medium and Dark Crystal for character, Pale Chocolate and Midnight Wheat for colour, and Golden Naked Oats to fill out the body.  I was going for a light tartness with this one, so I first let it ferment with a pitch of Wyeast Ardennes, and then transferred it on top of the spent fruit and yeast cake from a beer I'd brewed with Wyeast Oud Bruin.  I felt like the first beer I made with that blend was fairly one-dimensional and boring, and that's true to some extent of this one as well.  The fruit does come across nicely in the aroma though.

Appearance:  Dark brown with red highlights when I hold it to the light.  Thin but persistent head.

Smell:  Bright cherries prominent on the nose, along with darker fruit like blackberries or currants.  A sort of bready smell behind it, so that the whole makes me think of good quality preserves on toasted wholewheat bread.  Slightly metallic edge as it warms up.

Taste:  Light tartness first, kind of lacking in the mid-palate, and then a lingering taste that reminds me more of red currants than cherries. A bit disappointing after the aroma: a bit flat, I'd like more prominent fruit and more of that toasted bread in the background.

Mouthfeel:  The oats definitely give it a slightly fuller mouthfeel.  In fact, because of the low carbonation, it coats the back of throat in a way I'd describe a 'cloying' if it was sweet.

Drinkability & Notes:  The fruit comes across nicely on the nose, but the beer itself is a bit lacking.  I haven't managed to come up with a low ABV sour brown recipe that I'm happy with yet.  The oats certainly help with the mouthfeel, but there just isn't enough going on with the flavour.  With slightly higher carbonation it would be quite drinkable and refreshing: the tartness is just right.

Tart Saison w/ Cherries and Raspberries from a Flanders Red

The base was blend of Golden Promise and Pearl malts, aiming for a bit more character than plain pilsner.  I added some Golden Naked Oats again for mouthfeel, and around 1.5% Midnight Wheat for colour.  Once the beer had fermented out with Wyeast 3726, I transferred it onto spent fruit and and a small amount of beer left from a Flanders Red, and let it sit for about a month.  The O.G. was 1.044. and I'm sure it dried right out, giving an ABV of about 5.8%.

Appearance:  Reddish-brown colour.  I was going for a more brilliant red.  First pour is crystal clear. Head dissipates entirely after a few seconds.

Smell:  Raspberries and cherries dominant in nose, with some earthiness as well.  Smell of clean lactic sourness.

Taste:  Tart, jammy fruit up front.  Mid-palate is again a bit lacking, but it finishes nicely with a lingering taste of raspberries (fruit and seeds).  Hint of bready malt behind it.  Also fairly sour, to the point where I might struggle to drink more than one or two (my tolerance is low though).

Mouthfeel:  The high carbonation makes it crisp and refeshing.  Perhaps a touch thin, but it doesn't detract from the beer.

Drinkability & Notes:  Tart and refreshing, with the fruit coming through quite clearly.  Its actually a bit more sour than I'd like, but otherwise I'm quite happy with how this one came out.  I'll probably do the same thing again this year, perhaps adding some spelt for body and maybe some Munich and dark candi syrup for a bit more character and depth.

Tart Saison w/ Apricots and White and Yellow Peaches from a Golden Sour

I planned this beer as a pale saison that I would age on spent yellow peaches and apricots from a Golden Sour/pLambic.  The grist was  again a combination of Pearl and Golden Promise, rounded out with a bit of torrified wheat.  I added some El Dorado and Mandarina Bavaria hops to the whirlpool, hoping they'd accentuate the fruit.  Once it had fermented out with Wyeast 3726, I transferred it onto the spent fruit and dregs, but this time I added three pounds of frozen white peaches as well.

Appearance:  Pale yellow colour.  Crystal clear.  Billowing head that dissipates very quickly.

Smell:  Interesting aroma.  Lots of grass and hay.  Strongly evocative of cut grass that's dried out in the sun.  Reminds me of summers when I was a kid.  Peaches are very subtle in the background behind it, emerging a bit as it warms up, but I don't know that I'd pick that description if I didn't know they were there.  Aroma is probably more reminiscent of apples at this point.

Taste:  Tart, and a little juicy.  Peaches come across a bit more here.  Same warm and bready malt emerges in the background.  I quite like the dimension this adds.  Lingering tartness with a slight taste of peaches

Mouthfeel:  Crisp, with fairly high carbonation.  A touch thin though, which makes the sourness a little sharp, although is already softened a little compared to earlier bottles.

Drinkability & Notes: The 'dried cut grass' aroma is very striking, and wasn't there in the earlier bottles.  Peaches are subtle but there if you look for them.  All in all a tart and refreshing beer with a bit of added complexity.  I was hoping for a bit more from the peaches, but they seem to make quite a subtle contribution in all the beers I've made with them.  It'll be interesting to see how this one continues to develop over the next few months.


  1. I really like what you did here. I've done this once or twice, but never thought of designing a beer to go on the spent fruit and yeast cake. How long did your first beer sit on the fruit?

    These beers sound like they are all very close, but nor exactly what you wanted. Have you considered blending some of these beers? From my experience, the dark malt based beers require blending of fresh beer to bring up the malt character and balance the beer. Also a touch of oak in the darker malt beers really adds complexity as long as it's restrained.

    Nice stuff.

    1. Thanks! Most of the original beers sat on the fruit for 2-4 months. I tried to plan the second beers so that it would be fine if the fruit was more of a background element than a predominant flavour.

      You're right that I wasn't completely happy with the darker beers: in fact I've had a lot of trouble brewing dark sours. I'm going to try some blending later this year, but I wonder, how do you deal with the possibility of refermentation when you blend in fresh beer? I was going to use some stronger 'old ale' type beers that have been dried out a bit by brettanomyces.

  2. I'm a bit surprised after 2-4 months that you still get noticeable flavors since I've tasted the fruit I've used and most of it tastes like nothing. Are you cutting the fruit in small pieces and freezing it first? I'm wondering if our differences are coming from the form the fruit is in and how quickly extraction happens.

    For blending darker beers, it matters if you are planning to bottle or drink on draft. Obviously with draft you can just blend and force carb and keep cool. This is an advantage for homebrewers and one I use often at home. If you plan to bottle and you don't want to pasteurize or try to use campden tablets/cold crashing then I've been very successful with using this blending calculator. (
    The idea here is that you assume the beer will always drop to the lowest FG in the blend. So any beer you add with a higher gravity, the sugar in it will be subtracted from the priming sugar needed. We've used this at the brewery across many styles (some with big differences in FG). This doesn't preserve the sweetness of the blend, but it does well with malt flavors, mouthfeel and head retention - at least for a while in the bottle.


    1. I freeze the fruit, but I don't cut it into pieces. I suspect that only mre assertive fruits like raspberries and cherries will give residual flavour in a secnd extractiion: the peaches didn't make much of an impression even when I added fresh fruit along with the spent stuff. I'd be curious to hear about the experience of breweries like Jester King who are doing something along the same lines: I haven't tried any of the beers they've made in this way.

      I don't have a kegging setup so I'm limited to bottling all my beers: I'm planning to use your calculator when I make blends from my various soleras and sours in a few months time though. I might even brew some fresh beer to include as well.