Flanders Red

>> Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm a huge fan of sour beers. The funny thing about sour beers is people seem to either love them or hate them...there really isn't a whole lot of middle ground with them. One bad thing about living in Utah is the selection of commercial sours is pretty limited. The first sour I ever had was a Lindemans Framboise lambic at The Bayou in Salt Lake City. Admittedly, when I tried it years ago, I was still a bit of a beer noob but it was unlike any beer I'd ever tasted. It's still my number one recommendation for people that claim they don't like beer. Next came Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, which I think I prefer over the Framboise because it isn't quite as sweet. Next came a Monk's Café Flemish Sour Ale on a GABF trip followed by Temptation, Supplication and Beautification from Russian River Brewing. Long story short, I love the sours.

I'd been planning on brewing a sour for a long time, but never got around to it. The tough thing about sours is it takes a long time to develop the complex wine-like flavors they're known for. With most homebrews, you're able to enjoy the fruits of your labors within 3-5 weeks of brewing them. For brews like a Flanders Red, you're probably looking at about a year before it's ready to bottle. The longer you put off brewing a sour, the longer it will be before you get to enjoy them. So I bit the bullet and bought a Better Bottle that I'm dedicating for sour beers and I brewed my Flanders Red back on 10/29/2011. As the name implies, this style of beer originates in the Flanders region of Belgium. For more info on this style, click here. Here's the recipe as I made it:

5.25 # Dingemans Pilsner Malt
5.25 # Briess Vienna Malt
1.00 # Briess Light Munich Malt
0.5 # Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
0.5 # Dingemans Aromatic Malt
0.5 # Weyermann CaraMunich II
0.5 # Dingemans Special B
0.8 oz Aged hops** (60 minutes)
1.0 oz Oak cubes (French Medium Roast) soaked in a couple ounces of Cabernet Sauvignon
Wyeast 3763 Roesalare Blend (no starter)

Mashed at 154F for 90 minutes. 90 minute boil.

** The aged hops are my homegrown hops from the 2009 harvest. This was when my hops were in their temporary locations, so it's a mix of varieties resulting from intertwined bines. For sour beers you don't really want any hop flavor or aroma; that's where aging comes in. I aged these hops by placing them in brown paper bags above my kegerator. The changing temperatures over the years has completely stripped them of any hop aroma.

Brewing Notes: The brew day was uneventful with no issues. Time will tell how well this thing turns out.

Fermentation Notes: Given the long duration for fermentation/aging, I'm fermenting this one in my basement utility room. Fermentation was very active the following morning and pushed up through the airlock. I ended up removing the bung for a couple days until fermentation had subsided.

11/18/2011 - Fermentation picked up and pushed through the airlock again but subsided within a day.

11/24/2011 - I opened a Temptation from Russian River for T-giving and pitched the dregs. Things are definitely smelling funky in there.

12/4/2011 - Added oak cubes soaked in Cabernet Sauvignon.

12/31/2011 - The airlock is showing a little bit of positive pressure, so it seems to still be chugging along slowly. I haven't tasted it yet and I don't see any point in taking a sample for probably another month. There's a lot of krausen residue in the fermenter that's obscuring my view. I can see a what looks like krausen on top when I remove the bung and peek through the opening. I'm not sure if this is a pellicle or not. I wasn't planning on racking to secondary but I may end up doing so just so I can see what's going on inside.

2/11/2012 - Added dregs from a Russian River Supplication

3/30/2012 - I couldn't wait any longer so pulled my first sample. As I pulled the sample, I was a little nervous, crossing my fingers that this beer is headed in the right direction. I smelled it and it definitely has a funky sour aroma. Taste-wise, there's a really nice tartness developing. I was a little surprised that it had such a great sour flavor already. I think it's mostly lacto at this point because I'm not picking up any vinegar-like flavors or aromas associated with acetobacter. It's very drinkable right now but I'm going to continue to let it age. I'll probably pull a sample on a monthly basis from now on so that I can see how it changes as it ages.

5/4/2012 - Pulled another sample and it's got a nice sharp sourness with some great complexity from the brett and bugs. Again, I'm surprised it tastes this good already. I'm still not detecting any acetic acid character. Acetic acid production is accelerated in the presence of oxygen and suppressed when oxygen levels are low. Plastic buckets tend to have relatively high oxygen permeability compared to other fermentation vessels. I'm aging this in a Better Bottle and the manufacturer claims very low oxygen permeability even though it's made out of "plastic" and so far it seems to be working great.

9/22/2012 - I don't mean to brag, but this is an amazing sour. This one is turning out pretty much exactly how I hoped it would. It definitely has sharp sourness similar to some of the beers from Russian River Brewing Company. I think this one is going to be ready to bottle next month. Don't get me wrong, I'd drink it right now, but I'm going to try to be patient for another four weeks.

10/9/2012 - With the one year mark quickly approaching, I'm about ready to bottle this brew. I'll be checking the gravity again soon and if it's stable, it'll be in the bottle soon. It's going to need to be re-yeasted in order to carb successfully, so the plan is to use 1.5 grams of Enoferm RP15 Rockpile wine yeast per five gallons of beer. The reason I'm using a wine yeast is they tend to be more tolerant of the acids found in sour beers. About half the batch will be capped and the other half will be corked.

10/31/2012 - I ordered the Rockpile yeast for re-yeasting from More Wine and it should be here today. Looking forward to getting this in the bottle this weekend.

11/3/2012 - This went in the bottle today. I used 84 grams of sucrose and a somewhat heaping 1/4 teaspoon of Enoferm RP15 Rockpile wine yeast. I try to avoid measuring by volume but this is about what I usually use for priming homemade soda and that's worked out well. I re-hydrated the wine yeast in boiled water that had been cooled to 72F. I corked and caged 20 Belgian bottles. The rest went into a 12 or 22 oz bottles and were capped. I had a little bit leftover that I sampled. It's very nicely tart, so much so that I don't expect anyone that isn't "into" sour beers to like it much. The level of sourness is very similar to how I remember Russian River's Supplication. I've got a holiday beer tasting coming up in just over a month and I'm hoping it will be carbonated by then. However, I've never re-yeasted a beer and I've never used wine yeast so I'm going to cross my fingers and hope for the best.

1/11/2013 - I'm really happy with the way this beer turned out. The carbonation level was a little lower than I wanted, but other than that I had no complaints. I think the amount of yeast was appropriate, but it needed a bit more priming sugar. I took some to the Holiday Beer Tasting mentioned above. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it (there were several "wow's")...or at least nobody wanted to hurt my feelings. Like most good beers it gets better and better as it warms up a bit. When it's fresh out of the fridge it's mostly sour/tart but as it warms up the complexities start coming out.