Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dry-Hopped Sour Farmhouse Ale - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Beer: Goatpants
Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Farmhouse Ale
Brewed: 1.06.14
Bottled On: 3.30.14
ABV: 4.4%

Appearance: pale straw yellow, ample head, lingering foam, good retention
Smell: apricot, unripe peach, lemon, lime, grapefruit, funk, dew, tart raspberry
Taste: tart apricot, sour peach, lemon, grapefruit, clean lactic sourness, succulent fruit finish
Mouthfeel: high carb, medium body, slight bite, clean puckering finish

I sometimes wonder how I manage to write a thousand words or so on every freaking beer I brew. Unless there was some kind of jarring mishap along the way, or I'm trying out a new technique, or testing out some totally novel series of ingredients, does every beer need (or deserve?) such elaboration?

No. I'm just really bad at keeping my shit succinct. I have a whole book to write in the next seven - eight months, and I'm not so much worried about cramming all that writing time into my chaotic schedule as keeping it short enough that my editor doesn't murder me.

When drinking Goatpants, a sour farmhouse ale / saison (where I took the rare path of flippancy with my naming schemes), I really don't feel like writing... anything. Maybe in part because I wonder if I should be keeping at least some tricks of my sleeve (nah?), but mostly because I wish I had infinity bottles of this beer (or preferably, cans of this beer), and the fact that I don't causes me to focus on how much I'm enjoying it while I'm drinking it. Maybe it's just that I really love sour farmhouse ales, but this and White Mana are in strong competition for my favorite batches so far. Some of my IPAs are making a strong push too, but I think the batches that I tend to age, savor, and share with as many people as possible, unsurprisingly make a more lasting impression in my memory. And it's no coincidence that my two favorite batches so far were basically shooting for the same target — Goatpants is my attempt to reverse engineer the microbial makeup of White Mana, which used Hill Farmstead saison dregs to achieve its pleasant lactic tartness. I wanted to see if I could build up a house culture to reach the same end.

Complex, long-aged sours are a wonderful thing — there's no beating the complexity of a lambic — but there's something to be said for the paired-down, refreshing pucker of a tart, lively simple sour. When any kind of sour is done right, the succulence triggers that salivation reflex in your mouth that inspires you to keep drinking, like you have to wash down the beer with more of itself. When the beer is light and juicy enough, this refreshing combination is hard to beat.

Essentially, that's what I'm aiming for here. The sourness is on par with a particularly tart Berliner Weisse, but drinks juicier and richer — which is probably a result of the large Citra dry-hop addition this sat on previous to packaging. The saison base gives it a very nice boost in complexity, too, especially for a sour that only aged for a couple months. Another reason I love this style — it doesn't have to have lambic-level complexity, just a distinct farmhouse quality and a pleasant backbone of acidity. Not necessarily easy to achieve, but easier, or at least much faster if you're working with the right microbes.

The right yeast and the right bugs are going to make an excellent beer, but modern brewers, for all their fascination with IPAs, don't yet seem to fully appreciate the relationship between hops and funk. And why do saisons have to be limited to Noble hops? Nothing wrong with those, and they can't be beat for a certain type of saison, but if a vibrant, alive, succulent sourness is your goal, fruity hops work even better than spicy herbal ones, in my humble opinion. I'm far from an expert, and I'm definitely not claiming to have discovered any part of this correlation myself, but seriously: the magical pairing of juicy dry-hops and succulent sourness is simply not exploited often enough. The result is just, like, so much more juice.

But like I said at the beginning, is there much point to me rambling on about my silly personal preferences and the flavor profiles of the beers I make, at length? The most important thing would be any tips I happen to discover along the way. So I was telling you all about how I think the dry-hops helped enhance the juicy vibrant character of this (at least while it's fresh), but probably more important than that subjective observation is the fact that I did not add any hops to the beer at all prior to that point. So yes, the entire boil and fermentation of this beer was strictly 0 IBU, no bitterness or alpha acids or vegetable matter to get in the way of the bacteria. Why? Because I wasn't really looking for bitterness here, so I figured — why not give it a try? I didn't need the boil hops for flavor, and theoretically, at least, they'd only get in the way of the lactobacillus' acidity development.

Was that truly the case, or did I just happen upon a few particularly awesome bacteria strains (and complimentary Brett strains)? We'll see. I saved the dregs, and hopefully those dregs perform as they did the first time. I liked this batch enough that, in fact, I just brewed it again twice this week, but this time I threw some old Citra leaf hops in the whirlpool. After sitting in my freezer for two years, poorly sealed, I don't think they'll contribute enough IBUs to really inhibit the bacteria, but... we'll see. Depending how they pan out, one of the re-brews will definitely be getting some fruit. As my friend pointed out, this beer is absolutely screaming for apricots.

5.25 Gal., All Grain
Brewed 1.06.2014
Mashed at 150 degrees for 60 minutes
Fermented at room temp, 72 F
OG: 1.038
FG: 1.004
ABV: 4.4%

78% 2-row malt
11% white wheat malt
11% rye malt

Hop Schedule-
4 oz Citra dry hop for 8 days

White Labs Saison II
Mangrove Jack Belgian Saison
Brett L
Brett Custersianus
Brett Trois
4 Lactobacillus strains*

*Only 2 of the lactobacillus strains I used are commercially available from White Labs and Wyeast. Culture or select strains that will create a nice strong blanket of lactic acid. A blend of strains seems to work much better than a few isolated strains.


  1. yummm I share your love for sour farmhouse. When you brew this style do you pitch everything at once or do any staggering?

    1. In most case I pitch everything at once, as was the case here. I wanted the bacteria and Brett to go to work right away.

  2. I'd like to try something like this. Did you have it in the primary up until the last 8 days?

    1. Yeah, I believe so. Normally I would actually just leave it in the primary the whole time until packaging, but in this case I needed to juggle some carboys around and it made it easier to get the dry-hops in there while saving some of the yeast cake.

  3. Where did you get the extra lacto strains from? This looks like something I might want to try in the near future.

    1. One of them was cultured from The Bruery's Hottenroth. The other one I think was from crushed grains. I would also check out Lacto Brevis, which Wyeast just released. I'm still just playing around with it myself, but it looks to achieve the kind of quick tart sourness that the Wyeast and White Lab versions don't always reach.

  4. How long did this ferment for?

    1. Hey Ryan, this was brewed on 1.06.14 and bottled on 3.30.14. It probably didn't even need that long to age, I think it was likely done after 6 - 8 weeks of fermenting.


    1. I pitched a starter of my house lacto strains, correct. The Sacch is still going to consume the majority of the fermentables, but this gives the lacto a chance to do its thing too. By pitching a decent starter of it early, like I did here, you're going to get a bigger impact of tangy lactic sourness, and fairly quickly. It's not as complex as the sourness in a lambic, but the "aged sour" strategy is to make the lacto work slowly over time.

  6. Awesome blog and this recipe looks great. Wondering if you'd be willing to elaborate a bit on your dry-hopping process for this beer. I'd like to do something similar, but my initial concern is exposing the beer to oxygen during the dry hop addition process (don't want acetic acid). Any info on how you went about this would be appreciated. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Nate! Acetic acid shouldn't be a problem if you have a good culture to begin with... acetobacter can't produce acetic acid if it isn't present in the first place. Brett can sometimes produce acetic in the presence of oxygen, but with the vast majority of Brett strains, that's not really going to be a concern you have to worry about. So as long as you aren't introducing acetobacter, you should be fine.

      So with this batch and others like it, my dry-hopping process was pretty standard. Dump the dry hops in and give it five days. If you can, flushing the vessels with CO2 would help too, but the main thing is just keeping aceto out and keeping a good souring culture.

    2. Thanks for the reply Derek. Solid advice. I'm planning to do a similar brew soon with a saison strain and dregs from a couple bottles (Jolly Pumpkin & Wicked Weed), so I'll probably just go for the dry hop and hope for the best. Seems like the cats at those breweries know their stuff so it'll likely be all good. Mainly was asking because the decision to dry hop will determine whether or not I move the beer to a carboy after the main sach fermentation. I don't like dealing with dry hops in a carboy, so I'll probably just keep this one in the bucket for the whole time for easy access. Maybe hit it with a little CO2 as you mentioned. Anyway, I digress - thanks for your thoughts and keep up the good work. Cheers.

      p.s. Another quick question I almost forgot - on these farmhouse ales that are only aging a few months, have you found it necessary to re-yeast at bottling? I'm inclined to think it wouldn't be necessary, but I don't bottle condition very often and haven't done a brew like this before. Thanks.

    3. No problem. I suppose it's possible some commercial sours would include acetobacter, depending on the style, so you could just be careful with that. If you're adding dregs from a similar style of beer you should be good. The dry hop timeline isn't all that long, either, so it doesn't give acetobacter that much time to grow either.

      Nope, I haven't re-yeasted those. Though you could, probably, for more consistent carbonation. There's still plenty in suspension but I always find the carb levels to be a little lower with those beers, probably because all the microbes present don't produce the same levels of CO2 that just Sacch would. In any case, I've always just aimed for around 2.6 - 2.8 vols without re-yeasting.


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