July 14, 2012

Wild Ale 2.0 -- Hot Carl Returns

A couple years ago I became fascinated by the idea of culturing wild yeast. After a couple failed attempt I managed to harvest something functional off a peach I bought at the store (so the yeast and bacteria were probably a combination of local and foreign entities) and made some beer with it. It started off tasting fairly normal, then became really diacetyl-filled, then brett showed up and made it nice and funky. For more information about the original attempt with this beer -- named Hot Carl -- check out this old post.

A few months ago I found a mason jar of yeast washed from the original cake and decided to dump it because I didn't think I would want some more buttery, funky beer. I smelled the mason jar after I dumped it out and it had a nice tart cherry aroma. Damn. Fortunately, I had stored some of the yeast/bacteria/whatever at my super-secret frozen bank. (It's just my parents' chest freezer. For more information about making a frozen yeast bank, check out this threat at HBT.) Over the Mother's Day weekend I visited my parents and picked up a vial of Hot Carl and, as I've written almost nonstop this year, I got too busy to do anything with it for a while. In June I made a small starter and chunked the slurry from the vial and sure enough there was fermentation. Excellent.

I got more busy and couldn't make a beer to use it in so it sat in the kitchen for a while. It developed a thin pellicle and developed some ropiness. I tried to take a picture of the ropes but I couldn't ever get them mobile and take a picture fast enough. They looked like small pieces of floss. At first I thought some bug had gotten into it but no, it was just ropy.

Last night I used some leftover grains to make a one gallon batch of Hot Carl. Unlike last time where I bottled after a couple months, I plan on letting this beer ride out until it tastes good, so I expect it will go a year or more in the fermenter. The recipe isn't very interesting. I used 60% pilsner, 40% wheat to get to a 4.25% ABV beer and 25 IBUs of EKG hops. Mashed a little high. Basically it's the generic recipe for a wheat-based sour beer.

I pitched the slurry from the starter last night. The picture to the right is about fourteen hours after fermentation began. You can see the start of krausen, but what's really interesting is that it is snow white, rather than the off white color of normal yeast. I'll try to snap some more pictures during the day as it changes and keep an eye on it as it changes. I have a few long running projects on this blog, most notably the lambic solera, but the wild ale should be a nice addition and show how it develops over time. If the beer works out into something tasty I'll probably use the trub to start a five or six gallon solera of this beer as well.

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