Sour Pale Ale

>> Sunday, November 15, 2020

I've been busy with a bunch of projects lately so I haven't been brewing much. Some projects were planned...we decided to buy a hot tub, so we've been busy getting ready for that...patio... electrical hookups, etc. Other things weren't so planned; my son-in-law had a stroke back on Labor Day. At first it was touch and go and we weren't sure he was even going to survive the night. Thankfully he did and his recovery has been going really well. We moved them into our house for a while so he can continue his recovery, so there have been lots of projects related to that effort. Next, I decided to build a new brewstand. More details will come on that later, but this is the inaugural brew on Brewstand 2.0. 

If you've spent much time perusing my blog, you've probably noticed I'm really interested in sour beers. I also love hop-forward beers, so the marriage of sour plus fruity and citrusy hops is something I love. The challenge is lactobacillus isn't very tolerant of hops; not just high IBUs, but hops in general. The primary issue is hop oils coat the outer membrane of lactobacillus, rendering them incapable of producing lactic acid. So, what's a sour hop head to do?

Option one is kettle souring, where all souring is done up front before the boil so that the hops don't suppress lactic acid production. No problem, I've used this method in the past and other than the fact it spreads your brew day across multiple days (e.g. mash, pasteurize, pitch lactobacillus, wait a few days until desired pH is reached, then continue with your boil), it works fairly well. 

Another option, and one that I consider cheating and inferior to kettle souring, is dosing your beer with food grade lactic acid in order to reach your desired acidity level. In my opinion, this results in a very one dimensional sour character that basically lacks complexity.

Enter a third option, newly discovered yeast (Lachancea) that are capable of fermenting malt-based sugars while also producing lactic acid during the fermentation process. This yeast is from Lallemand and goes by the brand name Philly Sour because it was discovered in a Philadelphia graveyard. I'm excited to try it out in the beer I'm brewing today which is essentially a hop focused pale ale base.

If you're interested in brewing with this yeast, I highly recommend checking out the info on Lallemand's website, especially the pitch rate calculator. While this yeast is capable of producing lactic acid, the amount produced seems to be highly influenced by pitch rate and environmental conditions. High glucose content in the wort tends to favor lactic acid production. Over or under pitching both negatively impact lactic acid production, so this is one time that you really have to pay attention to what you're doing and take good notes.

Here's the recipe I'm brewing today. As I've noted before, bitterness and sourness tend to clash, so I'm looking for lots of hop flavor and aroma, but minimal bitterness.

Target OG 1.060

6.0# Pure Idaho Pilsner
2.0# Mecca grade La Monta
0.5# Castle Chateau Munich Malt 
6oz Weyermann Cara Munich III
1g BrewTan B (mash)
0.75# Corn Sugar (Boil)
3.0g Mosaic Cryo (20 min)
14g BRU-1 (15 min)
3.0g Mosaic Cryo (5 min)
1.0g Loral Cryo (5 min)
14 g BRU-1 (5 min)
4.66g BCAA (5 min)
7g BRU-1 (0 min)
7g Amarillo Cryo (0 min)
1g Loral Cryo (0 min)
3.5g Mosaic Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
3.5g Amarillo Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
7g BRU-1 (Whirlpool 170F)
1g Loral Cryo (Whirlpool 170F)
57g BRU-1 (dry hop 8 days)
28g Citra Cryo (dry hop 8 days)
14g Mosaic Cryo (dry hop 8 days)
14.2g Philly Sour (based on 1.060 OG)
Wyeast Nutrient

Mash at 152F, 90 min boil. My plan was to start fermenting at 67F, then ramp up to 1F starting on day 3 for four days. I currently have my fruited farmhouse cold crashing to try to get the fruit to settle out, so my fermentation fridges are tied up. After re-reading my notes from the Philly Sour webinar, they indicated this yeast does better at the higher end of the temp range (67-77F) so I think I'm just going to let this go at room temp.

Water Profile
To 10 gallons RO water, add:
10.0g Gypsum
0.3g Epsom Salt
5.4g Calcium Chloride

Brewing Notes

No issues. I decided to try to include more details from my brew day, so assuming I don't forget, I'll start including pH readings and similar things in my notes.
  • ~1.5ml of phosphoric acid used to acidify mash.
  • pH read 5.15 about 5 minutes into mash.
  • pH read 5.24 about 45 minutes into mash.
  • First runnings gravity ~19.8 brix (1.080)
  • Pre-boil gravity 10 brix (1.039)
  • Post-boil gravity 15 brix (1.059)
  • Aerated at 0.5L/minute for one minute.
  • Yeast pitched at 60F; pitched dry directly into wort.
Update 11/16/2020
Tilt is showing a very slight gravity drop (1.058) and an occasional "glug" this morning. I've seen reports of fermentation taking up to 3 days to start showing signs of fermentation, so things seem to be headed in a positive direction.

Update 11/17/2020

Fermentation was quite a bit more active by end of day yesterday. I timed the "glugs" at about one every 2.5 seconds. Just checked it this morning and the gravity is down to 1.047. After watching the Lallemand webinar for this yeast and reading several posts about it on Reddit, I was expecting this yeast to be a very slow starter. It does seem to be a bit less vigorous compared to a lot of typical ale strains, but it's chugging along better than I was anticipating.

Update 11/17/2020 - Part 2
My buddy Devin asked what the pH was at, so I decided to pull a sample. It's currently sitting at 3.39. I tasted a small sample and it's noticeably sour but not super aggressive. I'm really interested in seeing what is like after fermentation is complete.

Update 11/21/2020
Fermentation is still moving along. Gravity is down to ~1.028 this morning, so the overall duration of fermentation is definitely longer than typical. Things seemed fairly standard the first 36 hours especially with the initial 10 point drop. Then the rate of the gravity drop seemed to slow, but not stall; kind of like the proverbial tortoise. Fermentation seems a bit more active this morning, but I suspect the 10-ish day fermentation period is going to be accurate.

Update 11/22/2020
Gravity was down to 1.014 today so I decided to start the dry hop a little early.

Update 12/7/2020
I kegged this beer tonight. Gravity finished at 1.009 and pH at 3.25. I tasted a sample and it's quite sour and there's tons of citrus and tropical fruit character. Flavor-wise, it reminds me of orange juice blended with pineapple juice.
Bitterness is pretty low, but I think it could be lower. The next time I brew it, I'll probably move everything back to 5 minute and later additions, but I'm going to hold off judgement until I get to try a carbed and cold sample.