Saturday, May 19, 2012

SheppyBrew and the Sour Mash

I have mentioned a couple of times on this blog that SheppyBrew Brewery wants to brew a sour beer (most recently in 2012 Q1 SheppyBrew Stats). Unfortunately, I'm not quite as confident as Scott, my buddy at SNB Brewing with his Sour Ale Project. I just don't feel ready to introduce souring bugs into my fermentation process yet.

So, my solution is to try a sour mash.

In case you didn't follow the link to the BYO article, here is a quick overview of how to do a sour mash:
  • A couple days before your main brew day take a portion of the grain bill and preform a mash on it.
  • Let this cool to 120 F or so and inoculate with some more barely. This will introduce souring bacteria.
  • Let this sour.
  • When you preform your main mash a couple days later, add in some of the sour mash while doing the main mash.
  • At the end, add in the rest of the sour mash.
  • Sparge as usual.
  • Boil and ferment as usual.
My summary is a pretty simplified version of the process. If you want more detail, you should go ahead and read the BYO article How to Make a Sour Mash. There are other articles out there on the inter-webs about the process, but I thought this BYO article did the best job of simplifying the process without leaving anything out.

The advantage of a sour mash over traditional add-your-bugs-to-the-fermentor techniques is that you don't have to worry about souring bacteria sticking around and ruining future beers. Boiling water kills those bugs.

The disadvantage (I think) is that you don't have as much control over how sour your beer will get. I might have to play with the process a couple times before it turns out right.

I have been planning on trying this out for some time. I've even had a recipe for awhile. You can look at it at Rationalité Poison d'Ereeeek on the SheppyBrew website.

Basically, it is a Flanders Red recipe that I got from Brewing Classic Styles. Obviously, using the sour mash instead of bugs is different. I am also planning on aging it on cherry puree, which is not in the book's recipe. I decided to add the cherries because part of what I like about La Folie (the sour beer I have had the most of) is its tart cherry notes. Since I am not quite sure how much souring will be in my beer, I am stacking the deck a bit with the cherries .... or at least that is my thinking.

I will be brewing this soon. When I started typing this blog post I was thinking I would do it this weekend, but I have obtained Rockies tickets for Sunday and I probably can't get a brew day in on the same day I go to church and a baseball game.

I most certainly will be blogging about brewing Rationalité Poison d'Ereeeek.


Today, the Brew Model and I kegged up the Laser Salt Sandy Blonde Ale that has been discussed quite a bit lately on this blog (see Brewing the Laser Salt, Laser Salt and the Beer Model Part 2, Laser Salt and The Beer Model).

We didn't take a gravity reading today, but I am pretty sure it was close enough to done when I took a sample a few days ago. I am just using that as our final gravity. The FG was 1.008, which means the ABV is exactly 5%. I think this is a perfect percent alcohol for this blonde ale.

We pressurized the keg to about 30psi and will just let it slowly carbonate at room temperature over the next couple of weeks. Our trip to the Great Sand Dunes is in early June. I am not sure if we will take a sample before we go down or if our sample is just going to be with everyone else.

Beautiful gold / blonde ale ready to keg.

The Beer Model kegging the beer

Decided to harvest the yeast
I decided to harvest the Nottingham yeast. It has been awhile since I've actually harvested some. 

Stay tuned to fine out how the beer turns out and how our camping buddies like the beer.


  1. Very interesting sour beer technique. I have also been intersted in trying a sour beer, but I hear that the vessel you ferment in should never be used for non sour beers again.

  2. Yes, Scott, and that is the main reason I decided to try the sour mash rather than introducing bugs into the fermentor. Since any souring micro-organisms will be killed in the boil, you don't have the same issue when using the sour mash technique.

    Let me know if you end up trying it.