March 15, 2011

The mysterious dark beer lacto infections

Damn lacto.

I brewed a milk stout (Left Hand clone) a month ago and it developed a minor lacto infection. At first I was concerned that maybe my lambic solera is bleeding lacto, pedio and brett into the house and it got in the air or seeped through the plastic of the bucket fermenter the milk stout was in. Then I realized that was highly unlikely to be the case since the milk stout has been on a different floor of the house and was thoroughly sanitized prior to filling. I have since tasted it and it is wonderful without any noticeable lacto qualities.

Then I made the mistake of pitching a smoked porter onto the cake from the milk stout. That definitely got a worse infection. Rather than the floating white chips it got a full on pellicle. It was kind of gray. Really weird looking. I bottled the smoked porter tonight and the taste I had of it didn't taste very sour. I guess we'll see how it goes in the bottle.

I've noticed from pellicle and infection threads on that there are often lacto infections in dark beers but less so on lighter beers. I'm not sure if part of the cause is that more lighter beers tend to be either higher in alcohol or higher in IBUs, both of which will inhibit lacto growth. My belief is that dark beers tend to have unfermentable sugars and/or some other quality that permits lacto to grow even though the IBUs are too high and the alcohol content should inhibit growth. I've yet to read anything in my research that suggests why lacto enjoys the dark beers. My only hope is that I have sufficiently sanitized my equipment to kill off the infections.

It's probably a good time to spray down my fermentation area with lysol just to be sure I haven't created a breeding ground for lacto infections.
March 14, 2011

Brewing of an Oud Bruin Part 6 -- 2 month update

I don't really want to write updates on the oud bruin and lambic just to write an update, since nothing interesting is going on with either this month. Although the pale ale portion of the oud bruin is sitting silently in seemingly post-fermentative slumber, I did purchase a stainless steel thief (can't we just call it a big turkey baster???) that fits in the mouth of the jug and allow me to sample a tiny taste of the sleeping beer. One thing I discovered during this attempt to sample the pale ale is that the thief really likes to suck up liquid very fast. At any rate, I took about an ounce. Here's a couple pictures of it:

My apologies for the typically crappy pictures.

One thing I noticed immediately is that the beer is slightly more turbid than you would expect a beer that has been sitting in a fermenter for two months. It has a very typical pale ale smell mixed with very noticeable lacto sourness and something funky in there, which is probably from the brett. It is a musty, pineapple-y smell. The aroma is very strong. I could smell it from half way across the kitchen.

Flavor wise it is very interesting. The first taste is a sweet-sour flavor, followed by some of the musty, pineapple for a second before it is overtaken by the soft lacto sourness with a finishing touch of a very acrid, vinegar-like bitterness. It's very dry tasting, almost like a white wine. What's interesting is that even though it is well hopped, there is very hop flavor or aroma. Also, although I didn't add a lot of oak, there is definitely no prominent oak character. It lacks the complexity normally associated with sours (even Petrus Oud Bruin) but I think some of that is the result of the grain bill for the pale ale being 95% pale malt. Once it gets mixed into the sweet brown ale I suspect the Belgian ale esters and specialty malts will add a lot of complexity to the flavor.

Although I was hoping for a little more brett character, I am really happy with where this is for being two months in. I guess I will see if introducing some oxygen during the sample removal process will affect the beer.

I am getting more and more excited about this beer. The more I think about it the more I want the next oud bruin to be a full brown ale sour mashed (to get lacto character) and then pitched with Hot Carl for more brett flavors.
March 3, 2011

Squid Juice: Piraat-style tripel

This semester is seriously beating me down so I haven't had the time to make a lot of posts -- or brew, unfortunately. Since I haven't had the opportunity to do anything really exciting recently I wanted to share another recipe that I actually brewed last summer.

This is a very tasty tripel in the Piraat-style of tripel. Most people think of tripels in the Chimay-style, which is very light, highly carbed and very dry. This is undoubtedly the most common style and the most commonly replicated form. However, tripel is actually a broader category and prior to the rise of pilsner and other light lagers in the post-WW2 world, were more akin to Scotch Ales. You can find tripels that are more in this category, such as Piraat. Piraat is a darker (similar to a pale ale) tripel that features the same dryness and high carbonation but with a richer, malty flavor from specialty malts. My tripel recipe was not designed to be a Piraat-style tripel. I actually designed it to be a lighter colored Belgian Dark Strong but accidentally ended up too light and very much a tripel. If you are looking for a Chimay-style tripel, look to a different recipe.

Squid Juice:
ABV: 10.11%
IBUs 26.9
OG: 1.098
FG: 1.021
SRM: 11.3
Batch size: 3 gallons

8lb Pilsner
6 oz Caravienne
2 oz Crystal 120L
1 oz Aromatic
1 oz Biscuit
1 oz Special B

Triple decoction at 122F, 149F, 158F

Boil time: 90 min

Boil additions:
90 min - .75oz Hallertau; .25oz Fuggles
20 min - .25oz Hallertau; 1oz Fuggles
10 min - 1.25lb table sugar

Ferment with WLP575 for two month primary. Ferment warm to promote esters (low-mid 70Fs).

You may find the hop schedule unusual. Well, I made the recipe to be economical with having to buy some Hallertau and then dipping into my seemingly eternal Fuggles stock. You could easily go all Hallertau or maybe Hallertau for flavor and Northern Brewer for bittering.