November 29, 2015

Spontaneous Fermentation Part 17--Twenty-One Months

A couple weeks ago I tasted this beer again only to find myself accepting that this beer has gone as far as it's going to get with the zoo drifting around inside it. Even the addition of playmates added over the summer had no perceivable effects on the beer. It tastes almost exactly like apple juice. I'm convinced I could have served it as apple juice and nobody would be the wiser. No grain flavor. Just apple flavor and sweetness. So I am accepting my fate that I failed to produce a worthwhile spontaneous fermentation. I added some dregs from a Jolly Pumpkin bottle and predictably it has already gotten busy and a pellicle formed in a matter of days, even taking over the floating masses of yeast. Maybe in a few months I'll have something I can salvage. Maybe a good base for fruit beers.

So what went wrong here?

The coolship innoculation was clearly the problem. I can eliminate all other factors with this beer. The grains, hops and water profile have all been used in both clean and sour beers. The mash profile was the same turbid mash schedule I use for my lambic solera. It was fermented in a better bottle, like my other sour beers, in the same space as my other sour beers.

The only variable is the microorganisms in the beer. Much discussion has been had around the intertubes about coolships over the past year, particularly about the mechanics of trapping the right volume of organisms and the right mixture. This project is a good example of why mere exposure to the outdoors is not enough to ensure a functional mixture exists in the beer. The night I brewed this beer was in the 20F range with an aggressive wind. I spread out the wort in several vessels to maximize surface contact but that allowed the beer to cool to quickly. It was freezing in less than an hour. If I caught much in the way of LAB it must have been outcompeted early on. I should have waited for a less windy day to brew and definitely should have kept the wort together in the kettle to ensure a slower cooling.

Well, maybe next time.

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