Wednesday, October 1, 2014

No-Hop, No-Boil, Lime-Zest & Kiwi Gose - Recipe & Tasting Notes

Beer: Alagoas
Brewery: Bear Flavored
Style: Gose
Brewed: 8.05.14
Kegged On: 9.06.14
ABV: 4.2%

Appearance: golden yellow, slight haze, ample head, good retention
Smell: lime, citrus, lemon, lactic sour, mild funk
Taste: lime, lemon, upfront lactic sour, rounder soft fruits, tangy acidity, slight salty finish
Mouthfeel: high carb, light body, crisp, puckering lingering sour in finish

Perhaps being the Fermented Man has its advantages as far as my control of bacteria, or perhaps the lactobacillus strains I welcomed into my house last year have gotten a whole lot more comfortable since I began inviting so many of their peers to party. Whatever the reason, I took an even bigger gamble with this summer's "quick sour" beer, but in spite of the added difficulty, the result is far more delicious than any of last year's attempts. If I'm feeling really generous, I might even go ahead and call this one of my favorite batches of sour beer that I've made.

Why did I decide to do a sour, salty gose with kiwis and lime zest to be ready just in time for late September? Let's pretend it's not just because I don't have very good organizational skills to keep my brewing schedule on track and say it's a f*** you to July-released pumpkin beers via reverse seasonal creep. Sure.

There was actually a brief window in which I considered dumping this batch, funnily enough. Not because it tasted bad or anything, but because I thought my sheer, glaring negligence must have ruined it in some way. I had always wanted to do this as a gose with no hops added and no boil — just run straight off the sparge into a keg. I would then purge the keg of oxygen because kegs are really great for that kind of thing, and oxygen is bad for sour mashes and can lead to domination by bacteria that make your beer smell like puke. I've tested out various methods to avoid this with last year's Bearliner Weisse and a few other previous brews, but the basic strategy is pretty straightforward: avoid oxygen when doing something like a sour mash and using bacteria from raw grain. 

A keg is the perfect way to purge oxygen from headspace and keep it out. But you'll have to excuse my short-sightedness here: this summer was, quite frankly, a bit rough. I was a little fried, a lot stressed, distracted, and disoriented. And it didn't occur to me until I already had the not-boiled wort in the keg: what would happen if the bacteria started kicking off a lot of CO2?

My original plan beyond this point was not to rely on just the lactobacillus from the grains (whatever survived the mash, since I wasn't boiling anything at any point), but to pitch some of my house culture to ensure ample souring. As this was all happening in early August, I even thought about putting the keg of souring wort in my car for a day, which was the hottest location I could think of at the time. But okay: what if I put the keg in my car and it started fermenting furiously? Not all strains of lactobacillus produce much CO2 — there are homofermentative strains and heterofermentative strains, but it's hard to know which you have, especially when, like me, you planned to pitch a blend of house cultures. And while I could check on the keg fairly frequently to pull the pressure relief valve, I suddenly didn't feel very comfortable about those sporadic purgings of CO2 build-up being the only thing between me and a car bomb.

So I stalled, kind of got busy and distracted and unfocused, and the wort / beer sat in the keg in my apartment for a few days without any additional microbes pitched. Once or twice a day I would pull the pressure relief valve to vent any built-up gas that might be accumulating, should some spontaneous fermentation be occurring. After a day or two it was clear that there was no gas building up, and therefore likely not much fermentation happening. Should I pitch bacteria into the keg anyway and just keep on pulling the pin, hoping that would be enough? Or should I just transfer the whole thing into a bucket, even though that maybe defeats the point of my oxygen-avoidance plan in the first place? And should I be worried about some sort of unfriendly microbe taking up residence in the wort due to the multiple days it sat without fermentation to ward off hostiles? Cthulhu knows I've read plenty about botulism this year, and still haven't been able to determine exactly why it never seems to be a concern in unfermented wort. While debating the safety of this batch — and yes, even briefly considering dumping it — I reminded myself that many breweries buy wort and ship it in sealed containers. In Europe especially, a lot of this packaged wort is destined for lambic production, where the full onset of fermentation may not occur for a few days. There are definitely situations out there where it sounds like botulism should be a concern, and yet I've never heard of anyone dying of botulism from beer (have you?). My guess is that the pH of wort even before fermentation may already be too low or something. In either case, I had also added 14.5 grams of sea salt to this batch, it being a gose, and with that added buffer, I decided I'd once again embrace my destiny as a death-defying, botulism-dodging crazy-person badass and go for it.

[Editor's note: Speaking of which, while I have your attention — please consider pre-ordering my book, which will allow me to tackle even more crazy experiments, and allow you to read about them. In addition, if you'd like to drink some of my crazy experiments, such as this gose and many other sours, I'll be hosting a book reading preview party / fermentation sampling event next May. I will go out of my way to ensure epicness. Sign up for it now via my IndieGogo dealy. Okay, thanks, cheers, back to the brewing!]

The exact fermentation of this gose would be hard to replicate for anyone lacking the means to break into my apartment and steal some of the jars I keep sitting around, as much of my souring cultures are not available commercially, and, I'm guessing, have mutated quite a bit as I've maintained them and let them adapt to their new bear-focused environment. However, with this batch, I did introduce Lactobacillus brevis, newly available from Wyeast, to the cocktail. But in general, I've found that I'm getting a much cleaner, rounder, fuller lactic sourness from letting the lacto do its thing over time, rather than trying to pump it up for a frenzied, brief sour mash period.

As this entry is already getting long, I won't get into how brewers have this weirdly intense fear of letting lactobacillus survive in their beers... even brewers who are otherwise happy to embrace Brettanomyces. We'll save that one for another day. But as you may have noticed, this beer was never boiled or in any way pasteurized (other than from the temperature of the mash itself), and so the bacteria remained very much alive throughout and to the present. I don't find any danger of lactobacillus making the beer "too sour" or something; but then again, I like my Berliners and gose to have a very full tangy sourness. (For comparison, if you've had Westbrook Gose, I would say the sour character in this batch of Alagoas is very comparable). Nor does letting lactobacillus live require extended aging periods, in my experience. I always add Brettanomyces to my quick sours, and even so, they're done after about a month. Speaking of which: why add Brett when there's already so much going on here? The main danger of having an aggressive sourness in a beer like this is that Saccharomyces could stall out due to the pH level falling too low before it can fully attenuate. Brett is much more pH tolerant, and will help the beer finish out dry; at least, that's the idea. This finished out at 1.008, which might be on the high side for the style, but has the benefit of providing some body and balance that a drier version might otherwise lack.

Finally, what says "October" better than kiwis and lime zest? I had 2 lbs of kiwis sitting in my freezer for months that I was just waiting to use for something, and while I knew they wouldn't add much character (especially at that very low ratio — typically I'd add fruit at 1 lb per gal. or more) I figured I'd toss them in anyway. I added 2.8 grams of lime zest (and also squeezed out the juice from the limes into the beer as well), targeting about 200 ICUs based on Shaun Hill's scale. The plan was to add more, almost double that, but when I tried the beer a few days after that first addition of zest, the lime aroma was beautiful and the flavor perfectly subtle, supporting of the sourness, it was already exactly what I was looking for. Not wanting this to be an aggressively lime-forward beer, I decided to keep it at that lower dosage and went ahead and kegged the beer.

The result is the most crushable beer I have ever made, and a base I'm looking forward to trying with many other variations of fruit and zest.

BRB time for a keg-stand.

5.0 Gal., All Grain
Double infusion mash at 122 F / 148 degrees F
Fermented at room temp, 72 F
OG: 1.040
FG: 1.008
ABV: 4.2%

43% [#3] Pilsner malt
43% [#3] white wheat malt
14% [#1] special roast

Hop Schedule-

House Lactobacillus cultures
House Brettanomyces cultures
London Ale III

14.5 g sea salt
2 lbs. kiwi fruit
2.8 g lime zest
juice from 3 limes


  1. When was the London Ale Yeast added? Didn't quite pick that up from the article.

    1. Hey Aaron, sorry for missing this and not responding sooner. I somehow neglected to add the exact date to my notes, but I would have waited two or three days before pitching yeast to this, after giving the bacteria a head start.

  2. This may sound like a noobie question, but isn't DMS a concern when using the no boil method?

    1. Not a noobie question at all, it's one that's discussed a great deal! It does seem like it would be a concern, but I have never had an issue with it. I've heard a few explanations, most likely that DMS won't form unless the wort is raised above a certain temperature in the first place (can't remember exactly what that temp was, I want to say 180 F or around there), while the bacteria and Brett may help to clean up a lot of the compounds like DMS.

  3. How much of the yeast cultures did you add?

  4. So how does one go about calculating mash and sparge water when doing a no boil? I assume you would mash with the standard amount 1.5qt/lb and then just decrease the amount of water used for sparging? Great site btw.


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