April 1, 2013

Wild Ale 2.0 -- Eight months

Some time in February I tasted this beer and it was identical to the flavor in January. Sort of empty, like a Coors. Sometimes wild/sour beers run out of fermentable sugars and starches and you can't get the beer more funky or more sour without refilling the tank. I suspected this might be a problem keeping this beer from getting funky. So to remedy the situation I boiled a combination of simple sugars and maltodextrine and added it to the fermentor. It's been about six weeks and there's basically no change in flavor. There's a slight fruity character that could easily be mistaken for a mediocre Belgian strain or even an English strain fermented a little warm. I made the decision to throw in the towel on expecting something exotic in this beer.

I guess the brett and at least some of the bacteria did not make it through the freeze. It's still technically wild because the yeast that did ferment out the beer was from a wild source. I don't love the strain(s) enough to keep it around but it does illustrate a technique to take a completely wild, mixed culture and freeze out most or all of the bacteria and some wild yeast, like brett. I have no idea how many strains of what is alive in that beer but since there's clearly a pellicle it's probable that there is more than just one yeast strain alive, although wild saccharomyces strains can form pellicles on their own.

So I still have this gallon of beer. I could dump it but it's not that bad of a beer. It's not that interesting so I don't really want to drink it as is. I decided it would be a perfect platform for trying out these Belma hops. I picked up a couple pounds after the 2012 harvest when they were being sold for $5-6 per pound but never used them. I've also never dry hopped before so I could salvage this semi-failed experiment into something more interesting. I added 0.20 ounces (equivalent of 1oz/5 gallons) and I'll let it go for ten days, mostly because I have a lot going on the next few weeks and I have some other brewing work to do before I get around to bottling this beer (I have a lot of yeast test batches to bottle and I'm trying to get my doppelbock brewed so it can age a little before the winter.)

These Belma hops are interesting for sure. I can agree with everybody else's reaction that they are very mild hops. The aroma lacks that bold hop character of either citrus and/or pine of American hops or the grassy and floral notes of European hops. There is some citrus, floral and grassy notes but the aromas I pick up most of all are strawberry and cantaloupe. The fruity notes are dominant but still gentle in comparison to some of the other fruity hops out there. I can see how that character could get lost in a beer, especially with the help of bolder hops. I'll report back with my findings on this beer in a few weeks.

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