April 24, 2012

Probiotic fun gets interesting

Now this probiotic action has gotten really interesting this week. In case the posts have disappeared, this project began here and continued here. Thanks to the results this week I've made some modifications to my plans.

So I checked on the base beer for this project, which I assumed was not going to get funky or sour. To my surprise, on Saturday I noticed a pellicle beginning to form. This morning it was thick and full of bubbles. So the probiotic blend must be some slow but persistent bacteria and yeast. So since I have good activity there I don't want to complicate it by adding the side sour wort. I want to let it ride and see where it goes and how much longer it takes to dry out.

Since I have the sour wort free I decided I'll make a simple blonde ale sometime soon and toss in the sour wort to the boil. Then I can compare the blond and brown ale and see which I like more to determine how, if at all, I'd want to reproduce that sour beer. The sour wort smells strongly of diacetyl but it's developing a bit of funk. I went ahead and capped the bottle I used as a fermentation vessel to keep out extra air. What's interesting is the bottom of the bottle has a thick white layer. It doesn't necessarily look like trub, it has an appearance more like the mother in vinegar. It is thick, white and somewhat disk-like. I'll want to keep whatever is in there and feed some more food when I decant out the soured wort.

Although it's not what I intended for this project it's definitely given me something interesting to work with.
April 16, 2012

Quick update on the probiotic...whatever it is

So I added another pill's worth of creatures on Friday and I've been trying to keep it constantly warm. Around Saturday afternoon it started getting more cloudy and it is getting a very tangy sour smell. It's very reminiscent of yogurt. It's not the usual rotten creamed corn smell I get from sour mashing from grain innoculation. I'm not completely sure how I feel about getting the aroma or flavor of yogurt in my beer. Right now I'm just happy I'm getting some activity out of whatever I have.

The plan is to let it ride for a few more days and keep hitting it with heat. Ideally, I would like it to get intensely tart but lacto is not usually known for being that sour. If it seems palatable then I'll pull off most of the liquid and give it a quick boil before blending it into the brown ale. I will most likely try to save the cake for future batches so if the beer ends up really tasty I'll be able to reproduce it.
April 12, 2012

Fun with probiotics and sour mashes

A handful of people on HomeBrewTalk.com have mentioned using various sources for lactobacillus with good results, including using acidophilus probiotic tablets (acidophilus is lactobacillus acidophilius) or the liquid part of unpasteurized yogurt, which also includes acidophilus. Internet sources say the acidophilus strain can survive up to 10% ABV and low pH so it's a good candidate for getting noticeable sourness. I wanted to give this a try and see if it produces any off flavors. My wife has some multi-strain probiotic pills that include lactobacillus strains brevis and acidoplihus along with a bunch of other lacto strains and yeast.

My goal was to produce something oud bruin-like without the time delay. I thought there was a chance the multitude of strains would produce enough complex flavors and survive long enough to get some good solid sourness. If it turned out ok I could use it to keep a less-sour beer in rotation. I could save the cake and try souring different kinds of beers to get a good mixture of tart beers. It could make for interesting blending experiments.

I brewed up a quick one gallon batch of brown ale and tossed in some WLP575 and the contents of one of the multi-probiotic tablets. I got good fermentation out of the WLP575 but then things seemed to calm down. No pellicle or funky krausen. I got some bubbling from the trub for several weeks. I gave it a taste. It tasted fine but no sourness whatsoever. I added the contents of another tablet and let it sit. Still more bubbling. No sourness. Experiment failed.

So I decided maybe I could get a sour mash going with this stuff and then blend it into the brown ale. So I first tried (boiled) water and straight table sugar to see if I could get fermentation going. I added the contents of a tablet. Nothing. Kept hitting it with heat. Nothing. A hint of an off flavor. I could see that there was some growth on the bottom of the container because small white masses would grow larger each day. But still no change in flavor or aroma. I added more sugar, thinking maybe I just didn't add enough. Nothing. I tasted it a couple of weeks later. It was very sweet so nothing happened. I tried adding some yogurt liquid from unpasteurized yogurt. Still nothing. Experiment failed.

I wasn't too surprised, it's usually very difficult to get good fermentation on straight sugar because bacteria and yeast need certain nutrients (this is why mead fermentations require nutrient additions to ferment out in a couple months rather than a year). So I made a small amount of wort with some pale malt and added boiled and cooled wort to the existing liquid. After a day, nothing. I keep trying to keep it warm to increase activity. So far, I still have nothing going on. This morning I added another tablet.

At this point I'm completely surprised I'm not getting any visible activity. My sour worts usually get strong, visible krausen after a day or two but I've got nothing. No weird smells. I know the strains selected for probiotic pills tend to survive in warmer climates than I'm giving it and to break down complex sugars but I've never read that lactobacillus won't break down simpler sugars. I'll probably give what's in there a couple more days to get busy. If it doesn't work, I'll toss some grains in and let more aggressive strains dry it out. Then I'll boil it clean and try blending.
April 11, 2012

More general updates

I feel like I haven't made a real beer-related post in a long time. I guess I haven't. I finished my paper to the tune of 51 pages. I'm currently in the process of heavily editing it. I just recently received another writing assignment so that will carry me pretty much into studying for my lone final. So I probably won't have a chance to get much more written here for the next month or so.

I decided I needed to take a half-break today so I tended to some brewing. I bottled up a dubbel brewed in early March. I used a combination of some homemade candy syrups. I'm not sure I'm in love with the flavor but I don't give up on beers until they are bottled, carbonated and had at least a couple months to improve. Even then I'm loathe to dump a beer unless I really hate it. I went ahead and used the cake from the dubbel to ferment a Belgian blonde following a clone recipe for Russian River's Belgian blonde (Redemption). It's a great example of the style so we'll see how the clone matches up.

Most of my hops are doing well. The new hops (Mt. Hood, Nugget, Cascade) are doing excellent. The sterling from last year isn't doing so great. It started growing some shoots but I think I either overwatered it or it's pulling back nutrients to grow out roots after being replanted. This weekend I hope I am far enough along on my school work to build my hop garden. I meant to do it like two months ago but this semester has just gotten away from me. So that will give me a good opportunity to write something useful on this blog.

I also have a small sour mash project going on. I'll try to put together my thoughts on that project Thursday or Friday this week. I didn't want to roll it into all this nonsense so it will get separate space later this week.
April 2, 2012

Still backed up by this stupid paper

Yeah, I'm still working on this ridiculous paper for school. It's reached thirty pages for the second time (so in total I've written about 80 pages and trashed 50 of them) and I'm not close to being done with a full draft. It's really getting me behind in a lot of things I had hoped to do this semester.

My hops are growing nicely but I need to get the garden built so they can start climbing. I won't be able to get that done for  at least a couple weeks. I also need to bottle this dubbel and brew another Belgian on the cake. I also have a lot of beer reviews I'd like to add to my other blog.

In short, much more to do than I have time, but I have not abandoned my blogs to the wasteland of the interwebs.