Tart of Darkness Experiment

>> Sunday, December 22, 2013

As I indicated in a previous post, my brew club recently did a Tart of Darkness clone barrel project. That brew will spend the next 6-12 months in the barrel where bacteria and brett are working away on turning it into a nice sour stout.

Today I'm kicking off an experiment to see if I can do a speedy version of the same beer using the technique that I used for my Berliner Weisse back in April. The BW ended up being one of my favorite brews I've ever made and it finished much faster than most sours so I'm hoping this turns out as well.

The basic process is pitch a lacto starter and give it a seven day head start on the yeast. After seven days I'll pitch Roeselare. I'm hoping to have a decent sour in a couple months. That said, since Roeselare contains pedio, there is a chance this beer could get sick/ropey. If that happens, it'll take a bit longer for this beer to be ready...could be six months or more. Brewing is all about experimenting, so this will be fun even if it doesn't go exactly like I'm hoping it will.

I'm using the same recipe from our brew club except I'll be using aged hops so my IBUs will be close to zero. Another difference, I'm not going to toast the flaked oats like I did for the group brew. Also, I'm not mashing with the flaked oats; instead they'll go in the mash tun at the beginning of the sparge (after mashout). The reason for this is I'm trying to ensure I get some complex starches into the beer for the brett to work on. Lastly, I'm mashing at 155F instead of 158F.

8# 6.9oz Rarh Pale Malt
14 oz Briess Crystal 60L
14 oz Flaked Oats (steep in BK)
6.7 oz Briess Roasted Barley
5.1 oz Briess Chocolate Malt
28.3g Aged debittered hops (60 min)
1 package Wyeast 5335 Lactobacillus in 1L starter
1 package Wyeast 3763 Roeselare after 7 days
1/2t Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Oak cubes in secondary

Mash at 155F for 60 min. 90 min boil. Ferment at 68F

Update 12/27/2013
The brew session went well back on 12/22; no issues, hit the target gravity, pitched at 66F and warmed to 68F overnight. That said, I might have an issue with this beer. The picture of my Berliner Weisse from April shows a nice krausen within 24 hours of pitching. After five days, I still haven't seen any sign of a krausen in the ToD Experiment. This has me a little worried. It's too early to panic, but I think I'll pull a sample before pitching the Roeselare to check the gravity and see how it's progressing. I tasted the starter wort before pitching and it had the same light lemony tartness as the BW starter. The aroma was a little bit different on this one...kind of musty but not smelling like dirty feet or anything like that.

Update 12/30/2013
So some sad news today, I checked on this brew and there were tiny spots of mold starting to grow on top. It never showed any signs of krausen from pitching the lacto. It was definitely mold and not a pellicle. I suspect I got a bad/mishandled lacto culture with limited viability. So essentially the lacto cell count was lower than expected which allowed the mold to take hold and start growing. There was a slight gravity change but there is no detectable sour aroma and only a very, very subtle tartness in the flavor. It was so subtle that I probably wouldn't have noticed it if I wasn't looking for it. I've never had mold before. I decided to go ahead and rack from under the the mold rafts and pitch the Roeselare to see what happens. Best case scenario, I'm probably looking at 6-12 months for it to finish; worst case, this will be a dumper.

Update 12/31/2013
Better news today, as usual the Roeselare has taken off like crazy. I added a blowoff this morning to hopefully avoid making a mess. I've heard people comment that Roeselare is a slow starter. I've only experienced that once and I think that was because it was an older sample (6+ months). Every other time I've used it, it has been very active within 24 hours of pitching. It usually calms down after a few days then gets fairly active again after a couple weeks then slows down again for the long haul.

Update 1/12/2014
This one is still slowly chugging along. There are no signs of mold now. The aroma out of the airlock is hints of sourness and malt. I'm looking forward to doing a side by side comparison to the group brew some day.

Update 1/7/2015
I pulled a sample today. This one turned out well with some nice chocolate notes to accompany the mild tartness. It's definitely not as complex as the club version that went into the barrel, but it's pretty good. I think I may add some bourbon soaked oak cubes to try to give it a bit more complexity.

Update 6/2/2015
I added bourbon soaked oak cubes a while back but this beer is still lacking a lot of complexity compared to the group version. Sourness level is fairly low as well. Not a bad beer but knowing how good the group version turned out, this one pales in comparison.