Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Sour Beer on Concord Grapes

A more picture heavy post this time around, there's just so much more of a story to tell when it comes to sour beers. This beer started as a sour red ale, and I wanted to ferment it with just Wyeast Roeselare blend because I wanted to get an idea of the flavor that roeselare has. It was lack-luster, and definitely not sour enough. That's what most people say about it, but I guess I just wanted to have that experience for myself. I like the fruity flavors that come through from the yeast blend, and I figured I could rack it onto some fruit and let it rip to see if anything better comes from it.

Concord grapes are a seasonal thing around this region, they're often grown in British Columbia, and find their way to Alberta in the fall season. They have a slip-skin and a tart taste to them. For those that don't know, concord grapes are actually the grape that inspired the flavor for grape flavored candies, Welch's grape juice, and grape jellies. 

I had read the posts on The Mad Fermentationist blog about aging a beer on wine grapes, and took some inspiration from him. I used 10# of grapes for a 5 gallon batch because apparently the grapes can be pretty mild in flavor. I wasn't sure what to think about the tannins in the wine skins, but I decided to age the beer on the whole mass of grapes hoping that the tannins would help give body to the thinness that's usually left in a sour beer. 

Originally, this beer was a simple sour red with some munich and a heavy hand of caramel malt. I had put in a lot of caramel malt to give the bugs some long chain sugars to munch on for the long fermentation process. I also mashed high so leave more long chain sugars. It finished hardly tart, with some fruity flavors and a very thin body; last time I sampled it while it was on the grapes it had an amazing sweetarts flavor to it, but still not enough sour. I was hoping that the simple sugars in the grapes would give the bacteria something to use to make more acids, and I was hoping that the malic acid in the grapes would help but it still wasn't sour enough.

It was pretty close, and I hesitated to do so, but I added some 88% lactic acid just to boost the sourness a bit, while hopefully not adding too much which can apparently give the beer an artificial flavor. I added a bit at a time until it tasted better, and bottled it in regular 12oz bottles and a few bombers. As you can see in the above picture, I used a nylon mesh bag to siphon the beer away from the grape guts.

After bottling, it took about a month for a baseline carbonation to build in this beer. It always takes a lot of willpower to hold off on opening that first bottle of the batch! As impatient as I am, I'm going to try to leave this beer for a while longer, as I know my last sour wasn't very sour until it was in the bottle for a few months.

A very simple recipe - these beers are all about the bugs!

Sour Red - Concord Grape

10# 2 - row
0.5# Crystal 40
0.5# Crystal 60

2 oz 2 year old Cascades - 60 mins.

Wyeast Roeselare Blend - 12 months

Racked onto 10# concord grapes - 3 months aging and bottled.

Appearance: Looks like grape juice, a dark pink-purple beer with nice clarity from the bacteria eating the proteins. Very thin soda-like head that disappears within seconds.

Aroma: Fruity brett, strawberry candy smell, minor funkiness.

Flavor: SweeTarts, grape candy (Concord grapes), more sour than I remembered! The sourness is very much back of mouth, but the acetic character I was worried about seems to be gone. The acidity is bright and refreshing, but not bracingly sour. Some oak comes out as it warms and makes the wine character more apparent.

Mouthfeel: Thin, not quite carbonated enough but there's still some prickly carbonation - very soda like. There is a bit of a puckering from the acidity, but also a trace of tannins from the grape skins that gives it some presence.

Overall: I'm pretty happy with the way this turned out, I'd like to see even more acidity develop in the next few months in the bottle, but it isn't necessarily lacking in acidity. The fruitiness with a trace of funk is great, like a funked grape soda right now. The grapes aren't overtly grape-like though, they come out in candy flavors and like nondescript berry. 

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