Homebrew: What to do next, Sour Cherry Blonde

While I brew a ton of beer, I only know what I know and I’m not afraid to reach out when I’m stumped or uncertain of the next step.  I know a lot about brewing, but I’ve never brewed a sour beer before. Now I’m reaching out to those who know to give me some advise.  Here are the details, I brewed a Belgian Blonde back in April, after the primary was done, I split the batch in half. I used half for a friends wedding beer and the other half I put into a carboy with about a 1lb of local New Jersey Sour Cherries and spiked it with Brettanomyces Lambicus (Wyeast 5526).  Now the question is to bottle or further aging?

As you can see from the picture there is a nice thick film on top, the cherries have lost all their color, and the smell is that of a strong kriek (not that I would ever call this a kriek).  So My choices, as I see it, are to leave it alone, bottle it, or put it into my 10L bourbon barrel. Right now I’m inclined to add it to my barrel. yes, I know it will forever make my barrel sour.

My Question is, based on the pictures, is it ready to move?  Do you think I should add it to a barrel or bottle?  I just don’t know; flying by the seat of my pants as I usually do.  Would love to hear your thoughts.

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11 Responses to “Homebrew: What to do next, Sour Cherry Blonde”

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  2. Jason Says:

    I say the barrel…

    Good opportunity to inoculate the barrel with your bugs for future brews. Did you have anything it beforehand? Bourbon?

    Also, depending on how much residual sugar and hop levels (below 10 IBUs), you could throw in a culture of lactobacillus to get it really soured up…

    Cheers,

    J

  3. Simply Beer Says:

    Yes it was bourbon in there previously. I haven’t measured anything since I put in the Lambicus, so I don’t know the who the gravity is now. The original beer had 26 IBU’s. My concern with all the air space is a lot a Acetobacter in the beer.

  4. Chris (idrunkthat) Lehault Says:

    Have you tasted it? I’d make sure the SG is stable and then bottle. 6 – 8 months is usually fine for brett in the fermenter and you can give it another 6 months of bottle aging to really come together. Without the cherry stones (I think you said you depitted) I don’t think there is an advantage to keeping it in a fermenter

  5. Barlow Brewing Says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t bottle it yet. Lambic blends take a while to complete, and turn the corner from that “ropiness”, and if it has only been aging since April, it feels really early to mess with it.

    It doesn’t always happen, but often the pellicle will drop when the sour is done. Having that disconcerting but wonderful white film on top is good thing in that it is minimizing your exposure to air (and acetobacter). And it might be an indicator that beer is still young.

    I’d say let the beer age for another 4 months (if you have the patience that I often don’t) and then bottle or keg.

    The barrel is an interesting option, but I’m not sure you want to age anything in a barrel that is less than 60 gallons. Infecting the barrel, in a good way, is a cool idea, but I don’t know if you want future batches to be in that barrel long enough to fully get buggy. It would impart a lot of wood that might be overwhelming at that scale. Even using the barrel to inculcate the beer with bugs and then racking it to a carboy 2 weeks later to age is introducing another racking and more oxygen.

    I’d wait until the year mark, taste it and package as is. And/or add some more cherries.

  6. Simply Beer Says:

    thanks Chris, you’re right I did de-pit the cherries before adding them.

    Thanks again Jamey, I know I dm’d you about this a while back, I like your comments. You make a good point about the oak, while it has been used several times before it may just be to much for such a small batch. I keep flip flopping between barrel and leaving it alone. I think I can leave it alone for another 4 months then revisit this question. The white film on top, over the last week it has started to turn gray from white. is that normal? It also used to have a bunch a large domed bubbles which are gone. I assumed the bubbles were trapped pockets of co2 from some slight re-fermentation of the cherries.

    I know I’m probably not the only one with these questions, appreciate the great feed back and knowledge sharing! Keep it coming.

  7. Jason Says:

    I’m under the impression that “ropiness” is caused by Pedio, which you do not have in your culture. I could be wrong, but you might not ever get the ropes. I agree with Chris, wait till you have a very stable gravity reading, then bottle via keg. Then give it another couple of months to condition.

    I still like the barrel idea though. How big is it (for oxygen concerns)?

  8. Barlow Brewing Says:

    Good point, Jason.

    I often use pedio in my sours and I forget that it isn’t in the Brett L blend.

    Taste the beer and keg/bottle when it seems ready. I’d still think twice before touching the barrel. That’s a lot of surface area for the batch.

  9. Simply Beer Says:

    There is no pedio in this culture (http://www.wyeastlab.com/rw_yeaststrain_detail.cfm?ID=147)

    The oak barrel is 10L (~2.5 gal), same size as my batch. At this point it may be interesting just leave it in for a couple of days to inoculate the barrel. The oak flavor imparted by the barrel will decrease over time as it is used more and more. I also heard “washing” the barrel with very hot water will also start to reduce the “oakiness” of the barrel.

    I’m treading into unfamiliar territory, which is a hell of a lot of fun! Bugs and barrels! Since I really love these styles of beers, it’s best I start brewing them, right? :-)

  10. Jason Says:

    Same size as your batch? oohhh… Put that sucker in the barrel!!! Let it age into a thing of beauty. ;)

    As evaporation continues (angel’s share), add more freshly made wort for the bugs to feed on, grow, and multiply. Heck, I’d toss in the dregs from some great wild ale at the same time.

    However, I have also heard that when you first use an oak barrel, you do get lots of oak.

  11. michael reinhardt Says:

    I’m probably a bit late to this Peter but here is my advice. If you are okay with Bourbon and wood flavor in the beer? Apparently, that’s not the issue. I think maybe Jamey is right about the intensity of the oak. Why not simply chip it? As far as the washing/soaking the barrel it might remove some flavor but it may take a bit. I think what I’ve seen on washing is the use of soda ash.

    However, keep in mind that ABV should be taken into account at bottling and pick a strain accordingly. So, the matter of it being ready to move. Taste it. The scum will heal if it’s not ready and it won’t matter if it is.

    Also, bottling question. Normally, 6 months in bottle is what I’ve seen. Some advocate fresh bretts at that time as well. I’m excited about this because I think our labmics will come of age at about the same time. Mine was brewed in March I’ve brewed a couple more since then for Gueuze blends. I’ve tasted mine the bretts are nice. You have to consider how much brett character the strain you pick has as well because there are varying levels between them.

    Good luck, Peter. Maybe we can send each other samples when it comes time.


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