Wild Fermentation




It took me a bit longer than I had hoped to get this project (beer) going, but I finally got it brewed, and will be anxiously awaiting the results. But, before I get too ahead of myself, lets take a step back.

As in most cases, this idea sprung up after a conversation with one of the many interesting and imaginative customers we have come by the homebrew shop. This particular individual makes his own Sauerkraut and sells it at local farmer’s markets. Well, as it turns out, the same lactic acid producing bacteria (Lactobacillus) responsible for souring sauerkraut, is also used in the production of certain sour beers, particularly those of German tradition, like Gose and Berliner Weisse. Naturally, I encouraged him to bring any left over juice he might end up with after packaging his Sauerkraut, and he was nice enough to do so. I was given two jars of leftovers to play with. One jar of juice from some Red Cabbage/Ginger Sauerkraut and another jar with Caraway.

Seeing as I am a bit of purist when it comes to brewing, especially when it comes to these styles with rich historical backgrounds, I wanted to keep my Berline-Style Weisse (it’s not technically a Berliner Weisse unless its brewed in Berlin) as close to what is considered traditional as possible. The most memorable Berliner Weisse I have tasted was the 1809 Berliner Weisse, designed by Dr. Fritz Briem of Doemens Institute, so naturally I took my inspiration from this beer. 50% Pils malt, 50% Wheat malt. Mash hopped with aged hops, with a single decoction. The biggest difference in my version of the beer, is that I actually boiled the wort for 1-2 mins, while tradition calls for “no-boil.”

I guess that’s not the biggest difference … I am adding leftover juice from sauerkraut for fuck’s sake


Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 6.00 gal   
Estimated OG: 1.032 SG
Estimated Color: 2.3 SRM
Estimated IBU: 0.9 IBUs
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72.00 %
Boil Time: 1 Minutes

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
3 lbs 8.0 oz          Pilsen Malt 2-Row (Briess) (1.0 SRM)     Grain         1        50.0 %        
3 lbs 8.0 oz          White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        50.0 %        
1.00 oz               Revolution [3.60 %] - Mash 10.0 min      Hop           3        0.9 IBUs      
1.0 pkg               Lactobacillus Bacteria                   Yeast         4        -             

Mash Schedule: Decoction Mash, Single
Total Grain Weight: 7 lbs
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 16.00 qt of water at 102.2 F           100.0 F       20 min        
Saccharification  Decoct 8.12 qt of mash and boil it         150.0 F       45 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 2 steps (0.45gal, 3.41gal) of 168.0 F water

Sept 20, 2014:

Late night brew. Things went pretty smooth in that I hit my temps and volumes. Sparge 
runoff got a little sticky, and I didn't use any Rice hulls for filtering, as I usually photo (9)
don't use rice hulls. 
Six gallons total - OG-1.031 
Collected into two 3 gallon fermenters. Did not aerate as Lactobacillus is a facultative 
anaerob, and I am certain there is some Acetobacter in the mix, so I want to limit its 
progression as much as possible.
Sept 21, 2014: 
Less than 24 hours after adding Sauerkraut dregs to each carboy, visable fermentation 
taking place. The Red Cabbage/Ginger portion took off a little quicker, but the Caraway 
was not far behind.


The Gozerian

One thing about this blistering hot summer that I am grateful for is my new found love/appreciation for German, wheat-based, sour beers. I’m looking at you Berliner Weisse and Gose. I feel like these styles of sour beers are more approachable for novice sour beer drinkers, but also have a rich history that gets my goat pretty good.

I will soon have a post regarding Berliner Weisse, but for right now, that is none of your business, for today….

Gose (Goes-uh), a style of sour, wheat-based, top-fermented ale from Germany. The sour character of Gose was very similar to that of Berliner Weisse, a tart lactic sourness from lactic acid producing bacteria. The thing(s) that set Gose apart from Berliner Weisse are the additions of coriander and salt. Originally, the salty notes in the beer were likely a symptom of the brewing water used. Now, usually when I tell folks that it has a salty note to it, I can see their minds going straight to a salt lick or something. Rest assured, the saltiness is much more subdued, and plays nicely with a bit of coriander, and the lactic acidity.

When I started running ideas in my head for brewing a Gose, I wanted something that was both sour (with that slight saltiness), but also with hints of some sharper fruits. I finally landed Brettanomyces Brux Trois as a co-fermenter, as I hear this strain of brett can give some unique fruit character to a beer, and it also does well as a primary fermenter (foreshadowing…oooooh!).

My plan for this beer is a little bit of an old-school style of souring a low alcohol wheat based beer. I would brew a total of 7 gals, split it up into two 3-gallon fermenters, and one 1-gallon fermenter. In one 3-gallon caboy, Lactobacillus brevis. In the other, Brett Brux Trois. Finally, with the extra gallon of wort I am pitching a vial of Brett calussenii I have had lying around. My plan is to let each of the microbes do their thing for 1-2 months before blending all three together in secondary to age for a long ass time.

One additional note: I am, for the first time ever, performing a decoction mash because “authentic shit.”


Also, the coriander was taken from my garden. The salt was not.


Recipe Specifications

Batch Size (fermenter): 7.00 gal  
Estimated OG: 1.027 SG
Estimated Color: 1.9 SRM
Estimated IBU: 4.3 IBUs

Amt                   Name                                     Type          #        %/IBU         
4 lbs 12.8 oz         Pilsen Malt 2-Row (Briess) (1.0 SRM)     Grain         1        60.0 %        
3 lbs 3.2 oz          White Wheat Malt (2.4 SRM)               Grain         2        40.0 %        
1.00 oz               Crystal [4.20 %] - Boil 10.0 min         Hop           3        4.3 IBUs      
0.50 oz               Coriander Seed (Boil 5.0 mins)           Spice         4        -             
0.75 oz               Salt (Boil 5.0 mins)                     Water Agent   5        -             
1.0 pkg               Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois (White  Yeast         6        -             
1.0 pkg               Lactobacillus Brevis [50.28 ml]          Yeast         7        -             
1.0 pkg               Brettanomyces Claussenii (White Labs #WL Yeast         8        -             

Mash Schedule: Decoction Mash, Single
Total Grain Weight: 8 lbs
Name              Description                                Step Temperat Step Time     
Protein Rest      Add 13.00 qt of water at 126.7 F           122.0 F       35 min        
Saccharification  Decoct 3.44 qt of mash and boil it         142.0 F       15 min        
Mash Step         Add 2.00 qt of water at 207.8 F            150.0 F       45 min        

Sparge: Batch sparge with 3 steps (Drain mash tun , 3.41gal, 3.14gal) of 168.0 F water
Split batch three ways. 

3 Gals get Lacto Brevis
3 Gals get Brett Trois
1 Gals get Brett Claussenii

Aug 14, 2014:

Brew day! For being my first decoction, things went okay. With that being said, I did undershoot my second rest temp, and had to compensate with a couple quarts of boiling water. Michael Dawson of Brewing TV would be very disappointed with me.
Boiled for only 15 minutes, and cooled wort to ~90F. Pitched a 1L Starter of Lacto brevis into one fermenter.  1 Vial of Brett Brux Trois into the second fermenter, and a vial of Brett Claussenii into the thrid.

O.G. – 1.030



Aug 15,  2014:

All three were very active the next morning, approx 18 hours after brew day. Even the two fermenters with Brett, which did not utilize starters. Ambient temperature is approx 80F.



Sept 13, 2014:

Blended the Lactobacillus brevis and Brettanomyces trois portions together into a 5 gallon carboy. Guess I overestimated my volumes a bit, as there was no room to add the Brett claussenii portion. I will have to think of something I can do with one gallon of claussenii beer. Maybe I’ll dry hop it and bottle as is.

Barrel San Miguel

Since I started working at my local home-brew shop, I have found myself, one more than one occasion, rummaging through used home-brew equipment and unwanted “tools of the trade.” Often times, its old carboys, cases of bottles, even used beer kits from 15 years ago. Whether it’s a husband, whose wife said “no more” to the brewing, or items sold to the shop that had a much more elaborate plan that never came fruition. Sometimes you get lucky, as I did with a used 15.5 gal wine barrel. The shop had no plans to use it because of leak in one side that was deemed “unfixable.” I was told if I could get the barrel to hold liquid without leaking, I could use as I wished (for brewing purposes). Of course, this made me as giddy as that time I took Salma Hayek on a date… in my dreams that is.

San MiguelNote: If you are a home brewer and someone offers you a used wine barrel (any barrel in general), take it. Even if you don’t know what to do with it yet.

This little guy has been a project in the making for a few months now. I actually got it to seal up after a long, long…. long soak in a tote filled with water. This will not even be my first time filling it with beer. Approx three months ago I added some wort, and few different varieties of souring bugs (wild yeast, bacteria, etc…) . After watching, tasting, watching and tasting, I decided I was displeased with the direction this particular beer was going. So, after much thought, I emptied it in preparation for round two. I cleaned it out again, and it is currently sitting full of a citric acid/ potassium metabisulfite solution to kill off a majority of the previous microbes, and prevent anything new from gaining a foothold.

I have dubbed this barrel San Miguel, for two reasons: It is the name of a tiny little town, which was the setting for one of the greatest westerns ever filmed. In addition, I plan to add many different characters to this barrel, which will change the setting, change the character, and add to the complexity of the aging beer. Much like is the case for any town or city. As it grows, adds residents, it becomes more complex and is often changing.

I will adopt a Solera technique for San Miguel, where after aging the current beer for long periods of time, I will bottle a portion of the beer, and then replace the bottled portion with fresh wort/beer into the barrel. Each time I add a new batch into the barrel I will add a new microbe to the mix, which should change the shape and character of the remaining cast.

Much of the inspiration for my project was provided (unbeknownst to him) by The Mad Fermentationist, whose many many posts on the matter have given me an idea on where to go with this.

I am really looking forward to seeing where this goes, and as is true with most all experiments, the unknown of what to expect is rather exciting.

The first batch that I will add to the barrel is currently in the works (as of approx one hour ago). It will be known henceforth as Ramon Rojo (if you know the movie you’ll get it).


April 27, 2014: The Fill

The Barrel was filled today. The 33% portion with Brett had been sitting for almost two months, and the 66% neutral portion has had a few weeks to do its thing. The time came to blend it all together in the barrel. In preparation for the fill, starting approx one week ago, I emptied the barrel of its citric acid/potassium metabisulfite solution. I rinsed with hot water, filled it up again and added Star San. This process was repeated every two days for the week leading up to fill day.

P1020443After rinsing the barrel out one final time, I racked as much of the ~18 gallons worth of wort into the barrel, using just a regular auto-siphon and nylon tubing (all sanitized of course). A pellicle had formed on the top of the Brett portion, which I neglected to take a picture of during the whole process.

The fill was pretty straightforward, and apart from a little spillage at the end, no major catastrophes to speak off.

Actually, I was left with three extra gallons of wort once the barrel was pretty much filled to the brim. This left over portion will be very useful in about a month. As the beer settles in, in its new home, some of it will be lost to absorption from the wood, and some more to evaporation ( I live in a very dry climate), so in approx one months time I am going to need to top the barrel up with some more beer/wort, and that extra three gallons will be perfect.



One slight miscalculation in the overall process, was the order in which I added the beer to the barrel. I started with the two buckets of neutral beer, and saved the Brett portion for last. In hindsight, I probably should have added the Brett beer first, and then topped-up with the remainder. Now, I have only a portion of the Brett beer in the barrel, while the other three gallons stays in its primary until I need to add more to the barrel. My major concern over this is not having enough Brettanomyces in the barrel to really do anything. I know there is some, but just how much, I do not know. My plan was to add all of the Brett beer, slurry and all. There are two possible outcomes from this; not enough Brett, no Brett character, that ol’ chestnut. On the other hand, under-pitching the Brett, may actually lend to a bit more character, as it may stress the yeast out. Which outcome triumphs has yet to be seen. However, this is going to be a long, drawn out, process, and I am going to be adding the remained of the Brett in approx one month, so I am not too worried about it, as there is no rush in any of this.