Style: Farmhouse Ale
Bottled On: 3.30.14
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
Mashed at 150 degrees for 60 minutes
Fermented at room temp, 72 F
78% 2-row malt
11% white wheat malt
11% rye malt
4 oz Citra dry hop for 8 days
White Labs Saison II
Mangrove Jack Belgian Saison
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.