Home brewers love to experiment. We’re always working to find the perfect combination of grain or the best blend of hops. We endlessly improve old recipes and continue to brew new styles. Don’t even get me started on yeast strains! The problem is there are never enough brew days to satisfy these impulses. But there are some good ways to work around those time constraints. Today's Home Brew post explains a great time-saving method—splitting your brew.
A year ago I started my first sour experiment. I did this as an afterthought. I took two gallons of American wheat ale that had been fermented with Wyeast 1056 and divided them into two separate 1-gallon carboys. I simply added the dregs from some commercial sour beers into each carboy and left them alone. Ten months later, I took samples and was shocked by the transformation of the beer, especially in flavor! It smelled and tasted soft and subtly funky with some white wine notes. I started to think about this beer often. I thought about the changes and the differences between this and the original base beer. With this in mind I started to plan my next brew day.
I wanted to make a Munich Helles for the spring and thought since it’s a simple grain bill and low on IBUs (lactobacillus does not work well with hops) this would be a good beer to split and begin another sour project.
First, I created a new 10-gallon recipe so I could split the batch in half. I pitched a giant yeast starter of Wyeast 2124 (Bohemian Lager) into half of the batch, and the other 5 gallons got Safale US-05. I used US-05, a neutral yeast, because the initial yeast characteristics would be completely unnoticeable once Brettanomyces and lacto (and fruit) join in on the fun. Another way you can split a sour batch is to boil your wort without hops for 30 minutes and then drain out your portion to be soured. Boil the remaining wort in the boil kettle for another 60 minutes with normal hop additions. Many brewers who use this method for sours will add hops in the recipe as a dry hop addition.
After three weeks, I split US-05 batch into two vessels. One portion went into a two-gallon bucket with WLP677 (Lacto Delbrueckii) and dregs from Russian River Sanctification and Prairie Artisan Ales ‘Merica. The other 3 gallons went into a carboy with 5 pounds of peaches, WLP645 (Brett Claussenii), WLP677 and bottle dregs from Russian River Temptation and Jolly Pumpkin Bam Biere. It’s always a good idea to split your sour batches whenever possible. That way you can blend them to your tastes. If one batch ends up too sour or maybe not sour enough, you can always hold onto those beers to blend with future batches.
After you add your sour and funk agents, it’s important to wait and not rush the beer. Brett and lacto take a lot of time to do their work. With that being said it’s also important to check your sours periodically. I look at least every two weeks to make sure there is no green and fuzzy mold on the peaches or pellicle. I smell the beer once every couple months to see how it’s developing, and lastly, I will taste. I tend to not take many taste samples because I do not want to invite too much oxygen in the beer. If you have a pellicle and break it to thieve a sample, your beer is exposed to oxygen. Oxygen causes brett to create acetic acid (vinegar). Pediococcus and lacto don’t really get along with oxygen either. For that reason, I have yet to take a sample to taste.
THE SOUR WAIT
August 8th will be six months from the time of inoculation and the fruit addition. I plan to rack the fruited version off of the peaches and add another 5 pounds of fresh peaches to age for another six months. Joanna and I are heading to Michigan later this summer so we can grab some peak-of-the-season peaches for this beer. Both sour variations will be 12 months old when bottled, at minimum. American Sour guru Vinnie Cilurzo from Russian River says, “The beer will tell you when it is ready, not the other way around. A beer is ready when it tastes ready.” So only time, the “bugs” and beer will tell.
THE HELLES PAYOFF
In the meantime, the Helles portion has lagered and since been bottled. It came out fantastic! It’s not dry so it has a bit of sweetness to compliment the malt forward recipe and the centennial hops add just a bit of spice and citrus that compliment the beer perfectly. I will be brewing this one again for next spring and summer!
MUNICH HELLES/SOUR SPLIT HOMEBREW RECIPE
If you have been thinking of starting a sour project, this may be the perfect recipe for you to try. It is included here for your brewing pleasure.
10 Gallons (to be split in half)
10 lbs. - Pilsner (Weyermann)
7 lbs. - Vienna (Breiss)
1 lb. - Light Munich (Weyermann)
6 oz. - Melanoidin (Weyermann)
Centennial - 1oz – 60 minutes
Centennial - .25oz– 5 minutes
Mash @ 150 F for 75 minutes
Chicago tap water with 1 tsp. lactic acid and 1 tsp. calcium chloride to bring mash Ph down to 5.3 (goal is 5.2)
75 minute boil
Chill to 50 F quickly! Since lagers are so clean they easily show the slightest off flavor - chill quickly so that you do not create any dimethyl sulfide (DMS) that cannot be boiled off. Once chilled split the batches. Two fermenters will receive 5 gallons each.
HELLES – pitched a 2L starter built up from two packs of Wyeast 2124 – Bohemian Lager and to meet the correct number of cells I pitched an extra package of 2124.
Primary fermentation was 30 days at 50 F and raised to 68 F for the final two days for diacetyl rest.
After 30 days I racked into a secondary fermenter (stainless) and began the lager phase at 38 F. I planned to lager this beer for three months but after taking a few samples throughout the first month it had been lagering, I decided it was ready to bottle after only 30 days.
FG – 1.010
ABV - 5.25%
SOUR – Hydrated one packet of Safale US-05 with 300ml of boiled and cooled water. Add the dry yeast when the water is at 85 F. Pitch entire solution into fermenter with wort and let temp free rise from 55 F to 68 F.
Primary fermentation was three weeks at 68 F. After those 21 days the 5 gallons is split into two batches.
A. Two gallons were racked into a bucket with 20 ml of WLP 677 – Lactobacillus Delbrueckii and the dregs from Russian River Sanctification and Prairie Artisan Ales ‘Merica.
B. Three gallons were racked into a glass carboy with 5 pounds of frozen peaches that had been brought to room temp. Pitched a vial of WLP 645 – Brettanomyces Claussenii and the remaining ¾ of the WLP 677. The dregs from Russian River’s Temptation and Jolly Pumpkin’s Bam Biere were added as well.
Sour “A” should age for 12 months prior to bottling or blending. Add fruit after 6-9 months if desired.
Allow Sour “B” age for six months and rack to 5 pounds of farm fresh peaches and age for six additional months. Should be ready to bottle or blend after 12 months.
FG and ABV – TBD