Sour IPA Attempt #3

>> Sunday, February 26, 2017

Today I'm doing a re-brew of sorts based on the Super Juice Solution recipe I got from Jason Yester of Trinity Brewing fame. Here's the link to the original post. This version will deviate slightly from Trinity's recipe, so it's not intended to be an exact clone, but it should be in the ballpark.

To recap, I tried brewing a sour IPA based on Trinity's Red Swingline a while back. The beer turned out pretty good but was definitely not very sour. Jason Yester stumbled across my blog post and emailed me offering some assistance along with the recipe for Super Juice Solution. I brewed that beer and while the results were better than the Swingline attempt, it still was not on par with Trinity's beers. I suspect the method I used to keep the wort warm during the kettle souring phase may have actually gotten too warm and cooked the lacto reducing the cell count to a level that it had a really hard time souring the wort. This time I'm doing a few things differently, details are below:

  • I acquired a 1/4 barrel sanke keg last year and I'll be using it for kettle souring. There are a few benefits with this vessel including it's more or less airtight, it's easy to sanitize, and with a volume of 7.75 gallons it has minimal headspace with 7 gallons of wort. Keep in mind, too much O2 exposure with lacto can result in less than desirable flavors and aromas. The spear has been removed and the open neck will be sealed using a #11 drilled stopper.
  • The first time I tried to brew this beer I didn't have a pH meter. Without a pH meter, it's definitely challenging to accurately gauge the sourness of un-fermented wort. The sugars in the wort can completely mask the acidity. If you've ever had a Berliner Weiss served with Woodruff or raspberry syrup, you know what I'm talking about.
  • I'm using a GoodBelly SuperShot for the souring rather than WLP677 Lactobacillus delbrueckii. I've never used this product before, but there are lots of positive comments about this product in various brewing forums. This product contains a whole bunch of L. planetarium 299V cells, 50 billion per the packaging. According to some of the documentation I’ve read, this strain is capable of both homofermentation and heterofermentation. I have some biology and chemistry education in my past, but I admit I’m no expert.  If I understand correctly, this strain tends to be homofermentative in anaerobic environments, and heterofermentative in aerobic environments.  Homofermentation produces lactic acid only, while heterofermentation produces lactic acid, ethanol, and under some conditions acetic acid. Some acetic acid can add complexity, but I’m really after lactic acid production here.
  • I'm using Co-Brew brett blend for primary. I really liked the character I got from this blend in my recent brett IPA experiment. The CO-Brew Blend tends to ferment fairly quickly, so the fermentation period should be closer to a typical ale.
  • I'm changing up the hop varieties a bit compared to the original. I have some Citra and Simcoe that I need to use up, so this is probably the biggest deviation from the original recipe.
  • Grain proportions and amounts are slightly different than the original recipe, but not a huge change.
  • I’m keeping the IBUs fairly low in this beer. The reason is too much bitterness can really clash with sourness. Also, sourness coupled with bitterness is usually something humans instinctually avoid because those characteristics can be associated with poison. Finally, it will mean I won’t have to wait three months for some of the hop bitterness to drop out before enjoying this beer. 

Preparation – Normally when using Wyeast or White Labs cultures, I would create a lacto starter about a week before brew day. Per the comments I’ve read, most people are allowing the SuperShot to come to room temp then pitching directly from the container. At 50 billon, the cell count should be high enough that a starter isn’t needed, so that means there really isn’t much preparation involved.

Mash Day - Mash as indicated in the recipe below and collect about 6.75 - 7 gallons of wort. Either bring to a boil and hold for about 5 minutes or raise temps to 170F and hold for 10 minutes before chilling to room temp. This will ensure the wort is pasteurized and no other little critters have hitch-hiked into the wort. Transfer to 1/4 barrel keg, purge headspace with CO2, pitch culture, then seal with a #11 drilled stopper and an airlock and wait until the pH drops to 3.2 - 3.4.

Boil Day - Once the pH has dropped to 3.2 - 3.4 (it will probably take at least 48 hours at room temp), boil following the hop schedule in the recipe below. Chill and transfer to fermenter. Since we've killed the lacto culture during the boil, we can aerate as normal before pitching the CO-Brew brett blend.

6.0# Avangard Pilsner Malt
1.0# 9oz Best Malz Chit Malt
13oz Avangard Vienna Malt
13oz Weyermann Acidulated Malt
6oz Crisp C77
6oz Rice Hulls
1 – GoodBelly Lemon Ginger SuperShot
Appropriate sized starter of CO-Brew Brett Blend
3ml Hopshot (60 min)
6g Corriander (15 min)
33g each of Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe (10 min)
30g each of Amarillo, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe (Dry hop)
20g Willamette (Dry hop)
10g EK Goldings (Dry hop)

Mash at 145.4 for 35 minutes. Collect 6.75-7 gallons and boil for 5 minutes. Chill to room temp or not warmer than 114F. Check the pH and if it’s greater than 4.5, adjust as necessary with Lactic Acid then pitch lactobacillus. Once pH reaches 3.2 - 3.4, proceed with 90 minute boil following hop schedule above. I also did a hop stand with the 10 minute hop addition after chilling to sub-isomerization temperatures. With my whirlpool setup, it doesn’t take more than a couple minutes to drop the temp. Start fermentation at 66F, then ramp up to 72F over the course of a week. Dry hop after primary fermentation subsides.

Water Profile
I decided to try Tasty’s profile that I’ve used before on my IPAs. I really like the hop character I get with this profile, so I’m crossing my fingers that it works well with a sour.
To 10 gallons of RO or Distilled Water, add:

16g Gypsum (CASO4)
7g Epsom Salt (MgSO4)
2g Canning Salt (NaCl)
1g Calcium Chloride (CaCl2)

Brewing Notes
No issues other than I got started later than I'd planned. Since I'm splitting the brew day for the kettle souring part, I still finished with plenty of daylight left.  I actually used two GoodBelly shots; probably not necessary, but since this is my third attempt at a sour IPA, I figured I'd pitch a little extra.
1/4 barrel was cleaned and sanitized

First runnings into boil kettle
After 10 minutes at 170F, wort was chilled to 80F
Update 2/28/2017
I'm not declaring success yet, but things seem to be headed in the right direction. 48 hours in (at room temp) and the pH has dropped to 3.63 and is noticeably more sour than the samples I tasted from attempts #1 and #2. I'm thinking I'll probably be boiling tomorrow or Thursday.

Update 3/1/2017
pH is down to 3.52 tonight.

Update 3/4/2027
pH is down to 3.49 and appears to be stable. This seems consistent with most of the reports on Milk the Funk. One interesting note, even at room temp it more or less finished souring in four days (the fourth day pH was 3.50). Other observations, I saw zero airlock activity during the souring process. I also didn't detect any acetic character in the samples. I'm proceeding with the boil today.

Update 3/5/2017
I checked this morning and I'm not seeing any signs of active fermentation yet. This brett blend took a little while to get going in my MicroBurst IPA a while back. The lower pH from the kettle souring may also be contributing to a increased lag time. Bottom line, I'm not to concerned yet.

Update 3/6/2017
I started seeing hints of fermentation last night,and more this morning. When I got home from work there was an inch or so of krausen. The aroma coming off the airlock is really nice.

Update 3/12/2017
Pulled a sample today and I'm really digging this beer. I can't wait for what's to come after a large dry hop addition. Gravity is down to 8.1 (1.018) today, which correlates to about 4.9%. Trinity's SJS is around 4.1% and I upped my grain bill a tad, so this is right about where I wanted to be.

Update 4/16/2017
I racked this beer to secondary on top of the dry hops today.

Update 4/30/2017
This beer was kegged yesterday and is currently conditioning.

Update 5/7/2017
I'm really liking this beer, so I'm calling it a success. I think hop bitterness could be just a tad lower, but the sourness is right about where I want it.