Friday, February 19, 2016

How to Kettle Sour

So, ever since Kev's bachelor party in Asheville, I've been digging on sour beers. Finding them is still kind of hard, even in a place like Davis, which has some great local beer resources. And they're always stupid expensive. Turns out, brewing sour beer is just complicated microbiology with the goal of getting drunk. So, that got me back into brewing beer, after not having done it since grad school. And it's immensely satisfying to turn $20-60 worth of ingredients into the equivalent of $500 worth of a trendy, unique beer.

There's a fair bit of elitism out there on the internet in terms of the "best" ways to make sour beer. There are dozens of ways to go about it, but the traditional method is to prepare wort with a very small amount of hops, and then ferment for 6 months, if not years with a blend of microbes, commonly coming from the dregs of another bottle of unfiltered and unpasteurized sour beer.

But, fuck all that. You can make a really good sour beer in three weeks. Here's how I'm doing it:

What you need, in decreasing order of difficulty:
- a way to incubate wort at 90-120F. (I use a mini-fridge with a small space heater inside hooked up to a temperature controller)
- a way to measure pH between 3 and 5, maybe. (You can spend a chunk of money on a pH meter, or you can spend $5 on some pH paper, or just use your tastebuds. As an organic chemist who's had to maintain and calibrate plenty of pH meters over the years, fuck that. pH paper works fine.)
- 88% lactic acid
- some Dried Malt Extract
- Something you can ferment 2L of wort in. (I have some 1/2 gal mason jars with screw caps I can put an airlock on)
- about a liter of carbonated water
- uncrushed grain (this is the source of your souring bugs. Grain is crawling with lactobacillus, the same bacteria used to make yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee, etc and it's happily and symbiotically living inside your gut right now. I believe now that sourcing lacto from grain gives you a healthy, wild population with more complexity than you're likely to get from probiotics or prepared cultures.)

(A) Make a wild lactobacillus starter.
- Prepare 1/2 gal cheapo wort with DME, boil for a few minutes to sanitize.
- Pour into bottle/jar until 3/4ths full. Let cool to about 100F.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of 88% lactic acid to reduce pH under 4.5. An acidic environment helps lactobacillus start off healthy, and hurts gross bugs.
- Add 1 cup uncrushed grain, then top off with carbonated water to get rid of most headspace. This gets rid of most of the oxygen, which doesn't bother lacto, but will prevent other gross bugs from taking hold easily.
- Incubate at 90-110F for about three days.
- Taste it! It probably won't kill you. I've not made a bad starter this way, but I would imagine if it tastes the usual bad way, it's going to be vomity, or fecal. My good starters taste kind of like tomato soup. You can check the pH, and it will probably be 3 or under, meaning pretty acidic.

(B) Make your wort, but don't add hops.
- Mash like you normally would.
- Bring it to a brief boil after mashing. (no hops!)
- Cool to around 110.
- Pour in your lacto starter (through a strainer to get rid of the grain).
- Add carbonated water from an unopened bottle to purge some oxygen
- Cover with plastic wrap to keep oxygen out
- Let it sit in your 90-110F incubator until pH drops to about 3.3

(C) Boil and ferment like normal
- Boil to kill the lacto off, and prevent the wort from getting too acidic
- Add your boil hops. You probably want to keep this under 10 IBU, as bitter and sour is not generally a tasty combination
- I like to ferment with a nice, clean, fast American yeast, like US-05.

Random thoughts:
- If you want interesting flavors, try adding 5-10 lbs of fresh fruit for a week or two after gravity is stable for a few days.
- You can sour pretty much any base beer, though I'm told roasty malts make a bad combination.
- Lacto doesn't floculate much at all, so this beer is probably going to be pretty cloudy. A cold crash helps a little bit. Gelatin didn't do a whole lot when I tried. Tastes fine though, so fuck it.
- This won't make a funky beer. Funk ("barnyard" or "horseblanket" flavor and taste) comes from a long, starved Brettanomyces incubation. I don't like these kinds of beers as much, though. YMMV
- Some people will say that kettle souring doesn't make for an interesting, complex beer. Meh. Have fun waiting a year for your complex beer that might or might not have barely detectable depth, and might well go rancid. I don't have room or patience for that.

Friday, November 6, 2015

So, I hear this is going to become a beer blog...


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Very Important

I have "Swipe" for my phone which allows me to type by just dragging my fingers over letters to spell out words. Sometimes you miss a letter and just keep going, hoping your phone will still guess correctly as to what you were trying to spell. I was trying to spell "tomorrow" and I think I missed an "o" but kept going and, instead of tomorrow, my phone suggested "toy torture". This had me curious as to why "toy torture" was in my phone's dictionary. Why is my phone suggesting I torture toys? I have no idea, but who am I to ignore the will of an inanimate object?


Monday, February 3, 2014

Game night!

Kev talked to me last week about starting a BFB online game night. And we'll record a stream and post it later. As it will be a game neither of us has played, hilarity shall ensue. So, I'm calling him out. Let's do this!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Rumors - Debunked!

My backyard. Proof that everything I write isn't
complete bullshit!
Living in North Carolina, I don't get to see a lot of snow. However, yesterday I found myself snowed in, unable to traverse the roads around my home.

I also discovered that, with the lack of consistent snow in winters, people around here have some strange myths about the fluffy white stuff. Having grown up in New York, I have plenty of experience to feel qualified to debunk some of these strange beliefs, so I have consolidated some of them in this post for me to address all in one place. Here we go!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Never Do Favors For Friends.....

Editors note: To start off a, hopefully, long running series, Phishbone has been given the first episode of "Cop Rock" to review. For future reviews, we do take requests.

Recently, I was asked by Kev"thegreat" to review the first episode of an old "Cop show" called Cop Rock. I must say my sarcasm through quotations is pretty dead on in that last statement. This show, by Steven Bochco (LA Law, Hill Street, Doogie Howser, NYPD Blue), is a severe "botch-up". Not only is the entire precinct full of inept cops who seemingly have had no training whatsoever, but the characters also feel compelled to SING!

 If this show was sold more as a comedy, I could get behind this, but unfortunately, the show is way too serious for itself, making it a tragedy of all tragedies. I believe there may have been some sort of useable concept here, but the musical side of it simply falls flat. First off, when I hear it is Cop "Rock", I think "Cool! Who we got? Def leppard? Rolling Stones? I'll even take Aerosmith? But, alas, the answer is.....Randy Newman? Randy friggin Newman....You do not have a friend in me. It was the best gesture of all when Seth Macfarlane killed him in a Family Guy episode.

 Even with no help from Randy Newman, the actors that were tabbed in this episode to sing were more tone deaf than a rock (maybe that's where the title came from). The only one positive thing that I share about this episode is that my 5 month old son seemed to be caught up in the entire episode. I have never seen him completely watch anything. Usually his attention is all over, or at least he naps or plays, but for this show, he stared at it with interest. Maybe Newman had some sort of special sound or note being played all the time that just happens to atttract 5 month olds, or maybe it was the "brown note" that I think of it, for my son, it was!

 So there you have it. If I had to rate this it would be 1 out of 5 thumbs up (trust me, I only save zeros anything with a Lohan, Hilton, or Lil Jon), and 1 full diaper from my kiddo. Fish out.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wednesday Discussion

This blog isn't going to work without a semi-active community of posters and commentators. I don't mind making a majority of the posts, but we at least need some people contributing in the comments. So, in an attempt to make this happen, we will be having a semi-weekly post to try and foster some discussion in the comment section. Please contribute! This is a safe place! This week's discussion:

What do you want to see from this blog? Strictly entertainment? We have 3 guys who are deeply involved in various scientific industries writing here. Would it be interesting to hear about some of that? Any ideas for regular themed posts?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Things to do on a Sunday

As everyone knows, Sundays are a day of rest, thus no blog post from me. If you did something productive yesterday, let me help you out by telling you what you should have been doing. Here is my guide for how to spend a restful Sunday:

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A background change

We now have bacon as a background. In all honesty, it kind of makes me slightly ill to look at. It may be because I just ate dinner and am very full, or maybe it's the greasiness of the bacon in the image. Anyways, if anyone has any suggestions for another background, let's hear it. Let's get the comments section of this blog kicking!

Note: This counts as a post. That's 3 straight days. I'm winning by a lot.

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Little About Myself: Part2

I left off on my life's story with me creating a giant hole in the Earth while mining for gold. Unfortunately, any gold I would have been able to salvage was vaporized in the blast. Once I was released from the hospital, my creditors caught up with me and bought me before a court for my outstanding bills related to my mining venture. I had no money or source of income at the time so the judge gave me a choice, either go to prison or join the military. Seeing as I am too pretty for prison, I joined the French military. Little did I know that Europe was about to be engulfed in a great period of seemingly endless conflict.