Sour black? Black sour? ...Whatever it is, it's called Battery Acid - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

October 2, 2012

Sour black? Black sour? ...Whatever it is, it's called Battery Acid

So last fall/winter I became incredibly enamored with New Belgium's Clutch, which is a blend of their sour brown ale and an imperial stout. I was fortunate enough to taste it on the tour in the barrel room itself and then subsequently found it on tap on NYE at Meddlesome Moth, a local gastropub. It gave the me the great idea to try my own hand at a similar brew. My first step in the process was to conceptualize and design the two parts of the beer. The second step was to get to work on the sour portion. I'll talk about the overall concept later on as I get closer to blending the final product. Today I'll just talk about the sour portion.

While Clutch is a blend of sour brown and imperial stout, I wanted to make something a little lighter by blending a session-strength Belgian stout and a sour portion. Since I would lose some of the more powerful chocolate and roast elements found in an imperial stout, I wanted to make it up by adding some darker malt flavors to the sour beer, rather than just doing a basic oud bruin-style sour brown. Instead I wanted to load the sour portion up with dark crystal malts to produce some dark fruit and caramel flavors. Carafa III would add some smooth roast notes and chocolate wheat would add a little body and extra chocolate-y roast.

Since I was happy with the flavor profile of my lambic I thought it would make a good jumping off point for souring this beer, so I used dregs from a bottle of lambic from my lambic solera. Rather than produce the funky lambic flavors, I fermented the beer out with WLP575 and then racked to secondary and pitched the dregs. The pellicle development was surprisingly consistent with the development in the lambic solera.

Without further blabbering, here's the one gallon recipe for this sour beer:

OG: 1.059
Est. FG: 1.017 (obviously pre-souring)
SRM: 44.9
IBU: 8.7
Volume: 1 gallon

Grain bill:
1.25lb. German Pilsner 59.52%
0.25lb. Crystal 120 11.90%
0.25lb. Caramunich 11.90%
2oz. Carafa III 6.19%
1oz Chocolate wheat 3.33%

Mash: single infusion 60 minutes at 154F

90 minute boil

Boil additions:
0.10oz EKG 5%at 60 minutes
1.5oz Table sugar at 10 min (other 7.14% of extract)

Pitched WLP575 at 70F and fermented for three weeks
Pitched dregs of lambic solera (combination of Wyeast Lambic Blend and Lindeman's Gueuze dregs) and aged for 10 months

Although I plan on aging the beer for another 6-8 weeks  I decided to give it a taste just to make sure it was a palatable beer. It tastes incredible! The aroma is cherry, lactic acid, stone fruit, roast and chocolate. The flavor matches the aroma with hints of brett funk more like flanders red and less like lambic. The carafa III comes through surprisingly noticeably but it fits ok in the beer. It is definitely sour and the sourness is magnified by the slightly bitter roast character but it really works together. I am looking forward to more of this beer. The plan is to take half the gallon and blend with the stout and half the gallon will be bottled straight. I'm excited to enjoy both sides.

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