Fellowship of the funk

Early in March I assembled the fellowship of funk and ventured forth to the dark summit of Mt. Doom and cast  “clean” and “safe” brewing practices into its fiery chasm.  I was lucky enough to secure a couple of vials of East Coast Yeast’s (http://eastcoastyeast.com/) BugFarm or for short, ECY01.  East Coast Yeast is a fairly small producer of yeast and generally Al, the owner/yeast wrangler, doesn’t have the time or facilities to keep up with the demand from homebrewers.  I’ve had success getting some ECY01 by joining and e-mail list and waiting to see when there is yeast available and then trying to be one of the first few people to respond with what they want.  ECY01 and some of the other sour/wild blends that Al puts out have the reputation of creating some of the most complex and delicious sour ales achievable on a homebrewing scale.

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The blend contains a handful of different species of Brettanomyces, lactobaccilus and pediococcus.  Brettanomyces is commonly referred to as wild yeast because it is often found naturally on the skins of fruit.  Brettanomyces aka brett can create a wide range of flavors some of the favorable and many of them not. In the wine world brett can be a real problem because of the off flavors it produces in wine and its ability to survive normal cleaning and sanitizing procedures.  Lactobaccilus and pediococcus are both two different strains of bacteria that produce lactic acid. Lacto and pedio are responsible for the majority of the sourness produced in sour ales.  Additionally lacto and pedio both can take a long time to really develop acidity and are some of the reasons that sour beers take much longer than normal beer to produce.

I was shooting for crafting a traditional lambic with hopes of aging a portion on some yet undetermined fruit and continue aging  another portion for use in blending with another sour beer in the future.  There are a lot of literature online and published on what your grain bill should be and how you should mash your grains to get the best wort for lambic production.  Through it all most people agree that you wan a simple grist composed of pilsner malt and wheat.  Also you want a fairly dextrinous (wort full of complex long chain sugars) so your brett and bacteria have things to work on after most of the simple sugars are used up in the first few weeks of fermentation.  I decided to keep things simple for my first attempt, my grain bill was:

  • 58% French Pilsner
  • 37% white wheat malt
  • 5% acid malt

I mashed high at 158 degrees Fahrenheit to help create a dextrinous and generally had a pretty uneventful brew day.  Traditionally aged hops are used as they still provide some preservative effects and flavor contribution to the beer but not so much so as to inhibit the beneficial bacteria.  I didn’t have any aged hops but I had some crystal hops that were hanging out in the back of my freezer that are very low alpha acid hops so I used two ounces of crystal hops in the beginning of the 90 minute boil for 14 theoretical IBUs.

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After the 90 min boil I cooled and transferred close to 7 gallons of wort to my fermenter.  If I was a more daring soul I would rig up some sort of coolship to transfer the hot wort to and let it cool overnight and expose it to the natural microflora of my back yard but maybe next time!

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Overall the day went really well and I hit my original gravity of 1.048.  My plan for this beer going forward is to pretty much leave it be for the next year or so and then I would like to transfer a portion to age on some yet to be determined fruit, bottle some straight and continue aging another portion for blending with another batch I hope to get going soon as I was able to procure 2 more vials of ECY01!

2014-03-02 14.25.26


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