Sunday, 25 October 2015

Autumn 2015 Blending: Red and Brown Sours

When it came to blending dark sours, I already had some fairly set ideas about what I was going to do before I sat down to try out the blends.  Last year I made a strong ale that I called a 'Stingo', based on an article in Zymurgy and some research into historical versions of the style.  It underwent secondary fermentation by lactobacillus and brettanomyces clausenii, and while it never got particularly sour, it ended up with a very nice array of dark fruit flavours.  As I tasted it over the past year, I started to think that it might be interesting to use it as a component in a blend with a sour red ale, which would add some sourness and some slightly brighter fruit flavours to round out the beer.  In fact, why stop at one beer?  By varying the proportions of Stingo to Red, I could come up with a few beers on a spectrum from red to brown.

So when I sat down to try out some blends, I was already thinking about doing one beer with two parts Stingo to one part Red, and one beer with one part Stingo to two parts red.  I was also planning on coming up with a three gallon blend of reds to transfer onto fruit, and on saving a few gallons for cutting some dark saisons I brewed for that purpose (more on them in another post).  The blends all tasted good enough, so I didn't do too much experimenting.  The one thing that was lacking a bit was the sourness.  At the last moment, it occurred to me that I could use some of the pale sours I'd set aside for cutting saisons to increase the sourness of these blends.  So I pulled out a gallon jug of the ECY20 pale solera, and included some of it in the two Stingo blends.  The fruit in the third beer should add sufficient sourness by itself.

I was a bit less prepared this time, and made this adjustment on blending day.  This meant that the proportions of each beer were a bit less precise, as the bucket I used for blending only has gallon markings.  In future I'll use one with litre markings for more accurate blends.  Tasting the final beers, I was a little worried I'd overdone it with the sour element: I only used a small amount of the pale beer, but I've found that a little goes a long way when it comes to increasing sourness.  Hopefully the elements will continue to meld as the beers ferment in carboys over the next few months.

If these beers turn out well, I'm planning to start another solera using this old ale I brewed a few months ago.  The idea would be to have a strong dark ale to blend with the red solera to make a range of red and brown beers.

Base Beers

Gravity: 1.008
Brew Date: 02/08/14
Notes: Dark fruits, Xmas cake.  Still a bit of alcohol bite.  Very light tartness.  Blends well.

Gravity: 1.002
Pull Date: 08/02/15
Notes: More leather than younger version.  Berries.  Fruit aromas more muted.  Light tartness.

Gravity: 1.002
Start Date: 28/08/14
Notes:  Berries and darker fruit.  Some leather.  Slight astringency.  Light tartness.

Gravity: 1.007
Brew Date: 17/09/14
Notes: Jam, toast.  Cherries and red berries, but more subdued than fresh solera pull.  Light tartness.  Nice base.

Blended Brown

The main component of this blend was two gallons of Stingo.  To this I added a little less than a gallon of the Old Solera Pull, which rounded it out a bit and complemented the aged flavours.  I finished it up with some of pull from the ECY20 solera, which added some sourness.  These were transferred to a CO2-flushed three gallon carboy, to which I also added about 10g of Medium Toast Hungarian Oak cubes

Blended Red(ish)

This blend consisted of the rest of the Stingo (around one gallon) blended with just less than a gallon each of the English Red and the Old Solera Pull.  This brought out more of the berry and cherry fruitiness.  Again I finished it up with some of the ECY20 pull to add some sourness.  The finished blend was probably closer to brown then red.  These components were transferred to a CO2-flushed three gallon carboy, to which I also added about 10g of Medium Toast Hungarian Oak cubes.

Red w/ Black Raspberries and Cherries

This blend consisted of a bit less than a gallon each of the English Red, the Old Solera pull, and the New Solera Pull.  These were transferred onto about three pounds of Montmorency cherries, and one pound of black raspberries, picked up at a Farmer's Market this summer and stored in my fridge since.  I will top this up with more sour red once the fruit has finished its refermentation.  Again I added about 10g of Medium Toast Hungarian Oak cubes.

In the next and final post, I'll talk about some dark saisons I blended with beer from the Red Solera.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, Amos! I linked it here: