In this episode, we want to begin a discussion about sour beer brewing in an effort to answer some of the questions we regularly receive about brewing and fermenting sour beers. Because these days, sour styles are very popular and show no signs of slowing down. Especially American style wild ales. But what’s interesting is that souring isn’t anything new. In fact, beers have been brewed with both wild yeast and bacteria for centuries. Since the first brewers started brewing actually, considering sanitation wasn’t a familiar concept for them.

 

But there is one thing we should point out as you start thinking about making your first sour beers: BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN YOU BEGIN USING BACTERIA AND WILD YEAST. Wild yeast and souring bacteria generally aren’t going to be harmful to your health, but they are harmful to your non-sour beers that you’ve put so much time, effort, and money into. We give you that caution because we don't want you to find out the hard way that your brewery is contaminated. Because we've heard the horror stories and there are already enough of them! So how do you fix the problem? Use a separate set of equipment if you are using plastic. A different bucket or plastic carboy, different auto-siphons and tubing, a different thief for samples, all of it. The same thing applies to serving and the rubber components of your kegs. All of plastic and rubber items tend to allow for the transfer of the bacteria and wild yeast to the next thing that they touch.

 

Now, the best place to get started with souring beer is learning before you begin practicing what you learn. And for that, you need resources like these:

  • Milk the Funk -- A forum and user group dedicated to souring beer and experimenting with souring bacteria.
  • The Mad Fermentationist -- The author of American Sour Beers, Michael Tonsmiere, continues the blog that was the origin of the book. A great set of experiments and discussions of what creates a sour beer.
  • The Brettanomyces Project -- A website based on Chad Yakobson's dissertation on the king of wild yeasts. This project was the origination of his famous and successful brewery, The Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project.
  • Embrace the Funk -- Another great blog about wild and sour beer fermentations.
  • American Sour Beers -- A great book that covers all sours, with a focus on American wild ales and homebrewing sours.
  • Brewing Classic Styles -- A great book for learning to brew all BJCP styles, with a section on Lambic, Gueze, Flanders Red, Oude Bruin, and more.
  • A good bacteria source -- Check out our current variety of wild yeast and bacteria isolates and blends from Wyeast, White Labs, and GigaYeast here.
  • Sampling! Go out and find a variety of sour styles from your nearest and craft beer store. Talk to their beer expert and have them pull a series that focuses on a specific characteristic or a variety of characteristics.

 

We hope you enjoy the show! Be sure to keep up those sanitation practices!

 

And yes, many bottles of sour beer were taken down in this one. :) The next day we were all a bit off.

 
Note from Greg: Yes, I talk too much when the sour beer flows...way too much.