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awake: citrus sour blonde ale

November 7, 2012

*updated 2/16/13

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This should be a pretty fun one.  I actually brewed this nearly three months ago, but have held off on posting here as the full idea was still solidifying.

I’ve made a few forays into the sour beer world, with mixed results.  A golden blonde sour secondarily fermented with Jolly Pumpkin dregs turned out excellent.  A Berliner Weisse (White Labs Blend) started out a bit lame, but finished quite sour and with a funk that has been compared to stinky french wine (I like that comparison).  A raspberry sour started out as intensely sour (and promising), but now that it is bottled is kind of bland and uninteresting.

I was ready to try another, but didn’t know what direction to go in.  After my friend Alex shared a bottle of Russian River Sanctification, I found my inspiration.  I saved and propogated the dregs from that bottle (Brett B, Brett C, Brett L, Lacto, Pedio), winding up with what I estimate was 2-300 billion cells.

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I then brewed a fairly simple Wheat Blonde Ale that this would go into.  As my only empty fermenter was a 3 gallon carboy, I went with a half batch (2.5 gal).  This wound up being convenient for two reasons: I was able to brew this indoors, on the stove and I made the decision to burst it with citrus after primary fermentation.  Having a lower volume allows me to add a huge portion of citrus, without having to break the bank on produce or rip my fingers open on a microplane (although I have a few battle scars).

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Brewed, chilled and pitched the Sanctification ‘bugs’ at 75F and left to ferment for ~10 weeks.  The fermentation started fairly slow, but after about a week really kicked in.  A big, gooey krausen formed which covered the walls of the glass and obstructed my view inside of the carboy:

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After 10 weeks, the krausen had dropped out, the beer had a nice sour aroma and I was almost to my estimated terminal gravity.  I racked back into my brew kettle (sanitized), cleaned out the carboy (saving a slurry) and racked the beer back into the secondary.

Earlier in the day, I had picked up three each: tangerine and minneola/tangelo.  With Katie’s help, I zested each of these into a sanitized bowl, which gave me ~12 grams of zest:

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Finally, we peeled and juiced all six fruits and added the zest and juice to the fermenter.  The juicing was done by pulsing the fruit flesh in a food processer (just gently), then using my muddler to wring the juice out through a double strainer, into a sanitized glass.  I wound up with 12.2 oz of juice:

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I plan on giving this a few weeks to let the juice ferment down a bit.  I’ll then add an ounce or so of french oak cubes for a few weeks before bottling.  Very excited to see how this one turns out.

Citrus Sour Blonde Ale
17 – Sour/Wild Ale
Brewed: 8/15/12

Size: 2.5 gal
Efficiency: 70% (measured)
Attenuation: 90.0% (estimated)
Original Gravity: 1.056 (measured)
Terminal Gravity: 1.006 (estimated)

Color: 5.24
Alcohol: 6.57%
IBU: 6.7
ICU: 1265 (yeah, I went a little nuts)

Ingredients:

  • 3.5 lb Pilsen Malt
  • 2.0 lb Red Wheat Malt
  • 0.25 lb Caramel 20°L
  • 0.2 oz Hersbrucker (4.5% AA) – boiled 60 minutes
  • 1.0 – Russian River Sanctification Starter
  • 12 g Tangerine, Tangelo zest (3 fruits each) – added to secondary
  • 12.2 oz (by weight) Tangerine, Tangelo juice (3 fruits each) – added to secondary

Schedule:

  • Mash @ 156
  • Mash out @ 175
  • Batch sparged

Listening:

  • Arcade Fire – Funeral

Notes:

  • Brewed on a Wednesday night, by myself.
  • Fermentation took several days to really get going (not surprised)
  • 10/15 – gravity to 1.012.  Fairly classic “Brett” aroma, but quite sweet; a little sour
  • 11/1 – gravity 1.008.  Smelling more sour, still fairly sweet
  • 11/4 – racked to secondary, added zest and juice.  Fruits were briefly dunked in starsan before zesting.  Aroma is intensely citrusy with light lactic sourness and minimal Brett.
  • 11/22 – gravity 1.010.  Aroma has mellowed from the intense to a candy-like citrus sweetness with lactic and citric acid.  No brett character detectable.  I attribute the rise to the addition of sugary citrus juice.  In addition – over the past few weeks, a gnarly pellicle has developed:
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  • Checking gravity monthly
  • 2/15/13.  Gravity has held steady at 1.006 for two months.  Given the attenuative nature of brett, I think this is it.  There was still a pellicle, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t safe to bottle.  Wound up with right around 3 gallons.  Racked to bottling bucket, through a metal strainer – careful not to agitate/oxygenate much.
  • Added 2.6 oz of corn sugar and a packet of rehydrated champagne yeast.  Bottled, capped and placed in a cool, dark area to carbonate and age.
  • First bottle opening.  Pours a cloudy pale gold with a finger or so of airy white head.  Quickly dissipates to a thin lacing.  Aroma is extremely fruity and complex.  Smells of sweet biscuit, candy-like sweet citrus, sour candy tartness and a hint of funk.  Taste is.. yeah, woah.  Surprisingly, deliciously biscuity.  Loads of citrus and a bit of tartness at the finish.  Overall – I couldn’t be happier with this.  While the citrus certainly dominates, its surprisingly well balanced yet nuanced and extremely nice.  Brett is certainly a microorganism of many talents.  While I’ve got some nice tartness and a bit of funk, it did an outstanding job of highlighting the biscuit/bread notes of the malt.  Those notes are really unexpected, but make the beer what it is.  Otherwise, I’m afraid it would be a bit of a one trick pony.  Excellent.  Hope I can recreate it.
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