Sour Saison Experiment

>> Sunday, June 15, 2014

I feel like I've been brewing a lot of sour beers lately, not a bad thing at all. I was at my LHBS a couple nights ago and they had a pack of Fast Souring Lacto GB110, a new offering from Gigayeast. My first thought was to brew up more Berliner Weisse, but I already have 10 gallons from our recent Big Brew Day event so I figured I'd try something different. I love saisons and thought it'd be interesting to do a sour version of the style. This recipe is a little more complicated than most recipes because it involves two boils.

The basic process is mash, sparge, split batch in half (one for souring, one for non-souring), boil separately with respective hop and spice additions, and ferment separately. One half will be fermented with the lacto and the other half gets WLP568 Saison Blend. My goal is to get souring from the lacto fermentation, and some nice Belgian yeast character from the yeast blend. When fermentation is done, they'll be blended together. Hopefully I end up with a really good complex sour beer and not a mediocre beer resulting from an unnecessarily complex process.

Here's the recipe:

16.0# Dingemans Belgian Pilsner
2.0# Weyerman Pale Wheat Malt
28g US Goldings (90 mins non-sour half)
28g Aged Hops (60 min sour half)
WLP568 Belian Saison Blend (non-sour half)
GB110 Fast souring lacto (for sour half)

The remaining ingredients are split in half with half going into each boil:
14g US Goldings (15 min)
20g Ginger root, grated (12 min)
2.0# Candi syrup, Simplicity
Zest from one orange (5 min)
8g Coriander, ground (5 min)
8g Grains of Paradise, ground (5 min)
20 Black peppercorns, ground (5 min)
14g Simcoe (2 min)
14g Amarillo (2 min)
1t Yeast nutrient

Mash at 150F. Collect 13gallons then split in half. 90min boil. Ferment at room temp allowing both to free-rise as much as they want.

Brewing notes:
No issues to speak of other than two boils make for a long brew day. We took a break between the two boils to listen to the NHC Awards ceremony to see if my Peppermint Chocolate Stout medaled (it didn't). The non-sour portion took off. The sour half is going a little slower.

Update 6/16/2014
The lacto seems to be taking off now. It took about 48 hours but it's now developing a bit of a krausen. On the other hand, the WLP568 took off like a rocket with a one inch krausen forming within the first couple hours.

Update 6/24/2014
Sour half is still chugging away. I'm going to try to pull a sample this weekend and see where it's at. 

The clean half seemed like fermentation had slowed so I swapped the blowoff hose for the airlock. Well it wasn't done and it blew the airlock out within 24 hours. Fermentation is still really active and doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

Update 7/2/2014
Both halves are still chugging along. The lacto half has a thin krausen but is still showing an occasional burp in the airlock. The saison yeast blend krausen has finally dropped a bit, but like the lacto it doesn't seem to be quite done yet. These might be ready for sampling in the next week or so. 

Update 7/7/2014
The unsoured half seems to be done, but the sour half is still chugging away. The krausen isn't as high as it was at its peak, but it's still there and the airlock is showing activity about once per 8-9 seconds. I'll let this ride for a few more days and see where it's at.

Update 7/9/2014
I got impatient and pulled a small sample of each half. Unsoured half has some nice yeast character that compliment the spice additions. The sour half is a little disappointing in that it is barely sour. My plan was to blend the two and end up with mid-level tartness in this beer; something noticeable but not mouth puckering. Based on my experience with Wyeast lacto in my Berliner Weiss, this should have been more than enough time to have significantly lowered the pH, but if I were to blend right now I don't think anyone would even know it was a sour beer. I tried measuring the pH with my 2.8 - 4.4 pH test strips and they don't even register. I decided to go ahead and pitch some of the Wyeast lacto + Jolly Pumpkin blend I saved from my most recent Berliner brew. In hoping this will help increase the tartness level.

Update 8/7/2014
I pulled a sample of each fermenter last night. The non-sour half is really nice with classic spicy saison character. The sour half is very similar but with some mild but noticeable tartness. It's about the level of tartness I was hoping to get by blending the two, so I don't think I'll be able to blend them after all or it'll just get lost. I think I might let the sour half go a little longer to see what happens with the JP dregs, but I'll probably keg the non-sour half this weekend.

Update 9/20/2014
Just got my scoresheets for the 2014 Grace Lutheran Bier Brauen (GLBB). I also entered this one in the Beehive Brew-off (BBO). Both entries were from the non-soured half. 

At BBO this beer scored a 36 with the only negative comments being that the carbonation was low. I had to hurry and get this in the bottle for BBO, so I tried to force carb it in about 24 hours and I knew it was a bit under carb'd. For GLBB I had a bit more time to up the carbonation and it ended up scoring a 44. Sadly, it did not medal, but I'll take a 44 any day. It had some great comments from the judges and I really dig this beer, so this recipe is a keeper. I can't wait for the sour portion to get a little age on it.

Update 10/7/2014
I pulled a sample from the sour half. I'm happy to say it has some really nice tartness. It's not as sour as my Berliners but it's not too far off. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the most sour, my fruit lambics are a 10, 2014 Berliners are about a 7, and this sour saison is a solid 6. I decided to go ahead and rack this beer to a keg to force carb. I'll probably go ahead and bottle from the keg after it's carb'd.