Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The 2nd Barrel: Pediococcus and Brettanomyces Lambicus

Back in May, I made the long drive over to Prosser, WA to pick up a freshly emptied white wine barrel from Maison Bleu Winery.  When I arrived though, the barrels were in such great shape and at such an affordable price that, considering the effort I went to in order to locate such a barrel, it only made sense that I come home with two.  At the time I didn’t have a plan for the second barrel (B2), but knowing that I had a number of homebrewing buddies eager to delve deeper into the world of sour beers, coming up with a plan would be a piece of cake…or so I thought.

For the first barrel project, Amalgamation Autonomous, each brewer worked within a group-defined set of guidelines to come up with their own recipe that, when combined with the other batches, would hopefully create a unique beer that would possess all the complexities that we intended to achieve.  Everyone’s beer was slightly different than the others, but on fill day, one of the batches stood out a bit for already being quite sour with an underlying lemony Brett funkiness.  Because this batch showed promise, was unique in that it was pre-soured with only Pediococcus and then fermented with only Brettanomyces Lambicus, it seemed like a solid candidate to base our B2 beer off of.

144 lbs of Grain
With a world of options to consider, we all seemed to like the idea of the Pedio/Brett beer for its simplicity, repeatability, and uniqueness.  Even though everyone agreed to the concept of Amalgamation Autonomous when we were designing it, down the road there was some concern about it being too much of a hodgepodge “throw everything into a bucket and hope for the best” type of beer.  With B2, we wanted to eliminate that worry by designing the beer from the finished product backwards using only one grain bill.  In doing so, we still wanted to incorporate a significant portion of unmalted wheat so that there would be plenty of long chain dextrins for the bugs to work on over time, but we also wanted the brew day(s) to be relatively simple by only using a single infusion mash.  In addition to the wheat, we wanted to differ the base beer from B1 by starting with a higher gravity and a bit darker color...which we partially accomplished by the addition of CaraMunich 40 and Special B.

Darker color than B1
As for the souring organisms, we liked the idea of only using Pedio and Brett.  According to most material I’ve read on brewing lambics and other wild ales, Pediococcus seems to be the bacterium that’s responsible for the majority of the lactic acid production and yet when you talk to other homebrewers/brewers, it’s rarely mentioned as an element that people focus on.  So, in order to highlight this critical critter of acid ales, we thought it would be fun to use it as the sole souring element in our beer.  Pedio does produce a ton of diacetyl though and without any other wild element in the beer, it would be rather one-dimensional.  To rid the beer of the diacetyl and provide the funky complex background, we decided to ferment the beer out with both Wyeast and White Labs’ strains of Brettanomyces Lambicus.

Ideally we would have liked to have pre-soured as much of the wort as possible with pedio before pitching in the Brett, but due to some logistical constraints, we had to come up with an alternative method.  After much debate and planning, we came up with a schedule that hopefully will still yield the same results yet is a little less risky.   Below is a condensed version of our brewing plans, but if you would like to see the full thing, you can view the entire document by clicking here.

20 gallons of Brett Lambicus beer waiting for the barrel
·         Brew 10 gallons of wort, chill to 90 degrees and transfer into C02 flushed corny kegs.  Inoculate with 1 liter of pedio and hold at 85 degrees until the first barrel fill day.

·         Brew 20 gallons of wort and split into two, 10 gallon batches.  Pitch Wyeast Brett Lambicus into one and White Labs Brett Lambicus into the other.  Ferment at about 80 degrees.

·         Barrel fill day.  Brew 30 gallons of wort and transfer directly into the barrel.  To this, add the 20 gallons of Brett fermented beer while reserving a little bit of the Brett yeast cake.  Transfer the pedio beer onto the leftover Brett yeast in the now empty carboys.

·         After primary fermentation has resided both inside the barrel and inside the carboys, rack the pedio/Brett fermented beers into the barrel and seal.

1 liter commercial pack of Pedio
One of the reasons for pre-souring the beer with pedio was not only just to lower the initial pH, but also to increase the overall amount of pedio in the beer.  It’s an anaerobic organism that typically doesn’t compete well with other microorganisms and really doesn’t get to work in a lambic until after the all of the oxygen has been consumed in the beer and the other organisms have completed the majority of their cycles (4-12 months).  Because of this, we wanted to give it as much of a head start as possible by introducing it as the sole organism in an oxygen free wort with the best possible nutrients for reproduction.  From talking with a few microbiologists, it sounds like bacteriological peptone is the perfect nutrient for propagating bacteria, but since none of them were able to provide me with any and the online suppliers only sell to labs/companies, we had to go with option number 2.  Apparently bacteria also love freshly dead yeast (provided their nutrients are accessible), so at the time of inoculating the wort with the Pediococcus, we also added about a half cup thick yeast slurry that was pressure cooked to burst the cell walls.  It certainly didn’t smell great and I’m slightly worried about how it’ll affect the end beer, but since Brett is great at cleaning up autolyzed yeast over time, hopefully it will go to town on the pressure cooked yeast as well.

Barrel #2

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 70
Total Grain (Lbs): 144
Anticipated OG: 1.055
Anticipated SRM: 10.0
Anticipated IBU: Less than 10
Wort Boil Time (mins): 60
Anticipated ABV: 7.25%


48.6% - 70 lbs Pale Malt
24.3% - 35 lbs Flaked Wheat
16.7% - 24 lbs Vienna Malt
8.3% - 12 lbs CaraMunich
2.1% - 3 lbs Special B


Varied.  Any variety added between 60 and 30 minutes contributing 10 IBUs or less.


White Labs 653 Brettanomyces Lambicus 
Wyeast 5526 Brettanomyces Lambicus
Wyeast 5733 Pediococcus

Mash Schedule

60 minutes @ 154°
15 minutes @ 168°
Sparge with 170° water


9/17/2011 – Nick brewed 10 gallons of wort, cooled to 75° and inoculated both carboys with Wyeast Brett Lambicus.  The yeast had been going on a stir plate for the past week and a half with 1 liter of 1.035 wort.

10/1/2011 – I brewed 10 gallons of wort and once it was cooled to 85°, I racked it into two C02 flushed corny kegs.  I then added the 1 liter commercial pack of Pediococcus that a local brewery ordered for us from Wyeast.  This all then went into my fermentation chamber where it was held @ 85° until the first barrel fill day.

10/2/2011 - Bob brewed up 10 gallons of wort, cooled to 75° and then inoculated both carboys with White Labs’ Brettanomyces Lambicus. 

10/9/2011 – Paul, Ben, and Brendan all brewed up 30 gallons of the wort, chilled to 70° and then racked directly into the barrel.  The yeast was roused in each of the four Brettanomyces carboys and all but about a cup from each was racked into the barrel. 

To make room for fermentation, about a third of each pedio corny keg was transferred into a third corny keg so that all three of them were filled to about 2/3rds the way full.  The 4 or so cups of Brettanomyces yeast slurry was then divided equally between the three kegs and they were allowed to ferment at 75°.

10/26/2011 – Activity from primary fermentation had slowed dramatically in both the barrel and the kegs, so we stirred up the kegs and transferred the remaining 10 gallons into the barrel.  We ended up with only about a quart of extra beer that didn’t fit in the barrel!

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