Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bière(s) de Garde - (Le Trois Mandragores)

For whatever reason, I’ve never really had a shortage of patience in my life.  I have no problem lagering a Baltic porter for months on end or waiting for oak to impart its subtleties into a bourbon tripel.  However, when it comes to brewing a wild ale, it’s not the fermentation/maturation period that kills me but rather the decision to dedicate an entire brew day to something that won’t be ready for years.  How does one choose to spend 8 hours of their day for an acidic ale that won’t be ready for a few years when you could use the same amount of time to brew something that will be ready in weeks?  I’ve struggled and pushed back many a wild ales because of this, but my solution as of late has been to brew two beers in one day using the same base. 

While there are a number of base styles that could work for this strategy, for my latest batch, I chose to go with a brown bière de garde.  Being more malt driven and less hop-focused, I’ve always enjoyed the fruity character with the biscuit/bread backbone in the standard style.  For the diluted portion that I’ll sour, the high gravity should provide lots of food for the organisms to feed on and the low bitterness won’t clash with the subtle, sour flavors (I’m not concerned about the impact on hop-sensitive Lactobacillus as I’m planning on most of the acidity being generated by pedio). 

The idea of creating two beers out of one was simple enough, but unfortunately the brew-day was not without problems.  Since I only have a 10 gallon boil kettle, my plan was to finish with 7.5 gallons of highly concentrated wort (1.146 SG) which would then be split and diluted into two batches:  6 gallons of 1.075 gravity wort for the standard and 6 gallons of 1.065 for the sour portion.  In order to pull this off, I filled my mashtun with 34 lbs of grain and 9 ½ gallons of water…which brought the total volume in my tun up to about a half inch below the cutout where my recirculation hose re-enters.  With my mashtun maxed out, the grain bed compacted and my recirculation was compromised.  Before I realized what was happening, the pump had sucked all of the wort from underneath the grainbed and pumped it back on top…which resulted in the liquid level rising in the tun and a small amount draining out through the recirculation intake cutout.  It was a slow process to mix them in, but luckily the pound or so of rice hulls that I had on hand was able to loosen the grain bed enough to allow for the liquid to once again flow freely through.

In order to hit 6 gallons of 1.075 wort and 6 gallons of 1.065 wort, I needed to transfer over 3.08 and 2.67 gallons into their respective carboys.  As I was working on the 3.08 batch, even after a 2 hour resting period, an inordinate amount of break material was carried over.  Since this material shouldn’t count in the 3.08 gallons of wort that I needed, I decided to rack over an additional ¾ gallon or so.  From there, it was sort of guesswork.  Earlier in the day, I boiled 5 gallons of water, chilled it down, and transferred it over to a keg.  From this keg, I filled up each carboy to about the 6 gallon mark and somehow ended up with 1.088 in one and 1.071 in the other.  Needless to say, it was very frustrating to not hit my intended marks after a long day of brewing.   

The plan from the beginning was to start the fermentation for each with Wyeast 1338 European ale yeast at 59- 60 degrees (current ambient temp in my basement).  Thinking that the 1338 might not leave the standard version dry enough, after a few days, I’ll pitch in a packet of Wyeast 2565 Kolsch yeast to finish the job.  At the same time, I’ll stop the fermentation in the soon-to-be sour version by crashing it at 30 degrees.  Not only should there be plenty of residual sugar left over since attention should only be about 50% complete at this point, but the oxygen will be fully scrubbed out and the pH will have dropped.  Hopefully both of these conditions will provide for an environment that’s more hospitable for the bacteria and one that won’t be too conducive to brett reproduction.  Some brett growth will be fine, but I’d hate for it to rip through all of the residual sugar quickly, leaving nothing behind for the bacteria to acidify over time. 

Various Sour Starters
Using the 1.088 batch as the sour version, after dropping the 1338 yeast I’ll rack over 4.25 gallons into a new carboy, top off with 1.5 gallons of water, and pitch in my brett and bacteria.  This should have the same effect as if I were originally starting with 1.065 wort.  Using the remaining 1.088 wort, I’ll be able to rack over 1.5 gallons into another carboy, top off with 1.25 gallons of water, and basically have another sour beer with an OG of 1.048.   

In the end, even though the brew day itself was fraught with issues and frustration, I’ll walk away with about 5 gallons of finished Bière de Garde and 8.5 gallons of various wild ales.   

Bière(s) de Garde (Le Trois Mandragores)

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal):  7.5
Total Grain (Lbs):  34 ¼
Anticipated OG:  1.147 (pre-dilution)
After Dilution:   Standard Version (Seigneur de Mandragore) – 1.075
                        Sour 1 (Plissement de Mandragore) – 1.065
                        Sour 2 (Boules bleues de Mandragore) – 1.048
Anticipated SRM:   26 (pre-dilution), 12.6, 11, and 8 after dilution.
Anticipated IBUs:  52 (pre-dilution), 25, 22, and 16 after dilution.
Wort Boil Time:  210 minutes
Anticipated ABV:  7.2%, 8.6%, and 6.3%

30.5% - 11 ½ lbs Vienna Malt
26.5% - 10 lbs Maris Otter
23.8% - 9 lbs Munich Malt (10L)
7.9% - 3 lbs Light DME
4.0 % - 1 ½ lbs Aromatic Malt
2.0 % - ¾ lbs Biscuit Malt
1.3% - ½ lb Carafa Special II (420L)
1.3% - ½ lb CaraMunich 60
1.3% - ½ lb CaraVienne
1.3% - ½ lb table sugar

60 grams Northern Brewer (Pellets, 9.8% AA) @ 60 minutes
20 grams Saaz (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ 30 minutes
20 grams Hallertauer (Pellets, 4.1% AA) @ 15 minutes

Seigneur de Mandragore (Standard version) – Wyeast 1338 European Ale (2 packs into 3500ml starter.  Decanted, and pitched about half).  3 days later, added a swelled pack of Wyeast 2565 Kolsch.
Sour base (pre-split and dilution – 1.088 gravity) – Added 2nd half of Wyeast 1338 European Ale starter.

Water Profile and Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle Water
Mash Additions: 0.4 gram/gallon Calcium Chloride, 1.0 gram/gallon Baking Soda (based on 9.5 gallon mash) – pH came to 5.41
Sparge Additions: Adjusted pH down to 5.3 using phosphoric acid (@150°) – 0.8ml per 7.5 gallons.
Boil Additions: 0.3 grams/gallon Calcium Chloride, 0.8 grams/gallon Epsom Salt, and 0.75 grams/gallon Salt (all based on 7.5 gallons final volume) 

Mash Schedule
Doughed in @ 161° and mash settled at 150°.
90 minutes @ 150° (due to stuck mash/recirculation issues)
30 minutes @ 168°
2 hour sparge @ 170° - Started boil as soon as there was about a gallon in the kettle.

1/8/2012 – Added 2 packs of Wyeast 1338 European ale to 3500ml of wort and placed on stir plate for 48 hours.  Placed in fridge to drop yeast.

1/14/2012 – Brewed solo.
Collecting Hot Chiller Waste Water For Mash

Boiled 6 gallons of water and chilled to 70 degrees.  Used hot, waste chiller water in mashtun.  Racked chilled water into a sanitized keg.

Doughed in @ 161° and mash settled @ 150°.  Due to volume and weight, the mash stuck and I lost about a cup or two of wort out of the recirculation return cut-out.  Cut recirculation, removed about 10 cups of liquid into a bowl to make some temporary room, and then slowly mixed in 1 – 1.5 lbs of rice hulls.  After they were mixed in, I restarted the recirculation and added back the previously removed wort.

Slow sparge (2 hrs).  Started flame when there was about a gallon in the kettle and boiled all the way through 9 gallons. Added a few NB pellets a little before first sign of boil.  After an hour, gravity wasn't high enough, so I collected an extra gallon of sparge (final runnings after last gallon had SG of 1.051) and added it to the boil.  Added in 3 lbs of light DME and a 1/2 lb of table sugar.

After 2 hours of boiling during the sparge, I boiled for another 1 ½ hrs to reach 7 ½ gallon volume.  Hop additions added as mentioned above, boil mineral additions @ 40 minutes, recirculation @ 20 minutes, yeast nutrient @ 10 minutes, and whirlflock @ 5 minutes.

Chilled to 64° and let settle for 2 hours.  Ended with 7 ½ gallons of 1.146 wort. 

Racked into 6 ½ and 6 gallon carboys.  Due to excessive break/hop material in first carboy, I added more than I initially intended.  Used the water that I previously boiled that morning to dilute each and ended up with a little over 6 gallons of 1.088 wort and 5.75 gallons of 1.071 wort.  Aerated both for 60 seconds with pure oxygen and then pitched in the decanted 1338 yeast starter.  Moved both carboys down to basement with ambient temp of 59°.

No sign of yeast activity @ 24 hours.  36 hours in, krausen starting.

1/17/2012 – Swelled packet of Wyeast Kolsch yeast and added to 1.071 batch.  Although fermentation was extremely active, I moved the 1.088 batch to the fridge to crash the yeast and halt fermentation.

1/22/2012 – Boiled and kegged more water for dilution.

1/25/2011 – Pulled 1.088 batch out of the fridge.

5 lbs of Blueberries
Plissement de Mandragore (Sour bière 1) – Racked 4.25 gallons into a Co2-flushed 6-gallon carboy and topped off with 1.5 gallons of previously sterilized water.  Pitched in a quart starter of Cantillon dregs, a pint of Wyeast pedio starter (3 months old), and about a half cup of East Coast Yeast Brett Blend #9 starter.  Also added ¾ ounce of American heavy toast oak cubes that had been boiled for about 20 minutes to remove a lot of their flavor. 

Boules bleues de Mandragore (Sour bière 2) – To 5 lbs of vacuum sealed fresh/frozen blueberries (bought at farmers market at the end of the summer), I flushed the carboy and berries with Co2 and racked 1 ½ gallons of the 1.088 batch.  Because of all the blueberries, I was only able to top off with ¾ gallons of sterile water.  I then pitched in a pint starter from the dregs of RR Supplication, Temptation and De Dolle Oerbier Reserva 2010 (2 weeks old), a pint of Wyeast and White Labs Brett Lambicus/Pedio starter (Saved from B2Barrel Project), and a cup of the pedio starter.  I also added ½ oz. of the same boiled American heavy toast cubes.

After racking the 1.088 batch into their respective carboys, I measured the gravity of the remaining, original beer.  Unfortunately it appears that I crashed it a little sooner than I was hoping for as the gravity was only down to 1.068.  In retrospect I should have taken a gravity reading before crash cooling it, but at the time I was fearful of over-attenuation (based on my goals of having lots of residual sugars for the brett and bacteria to work on).  So, with the higher-than-expected gravity, after dilution, the brett and bacteria in Plissement de Mandragore will have a 1.050 beer to finish out while the microorganisms in Boules bleues de Mandragore will have to ferment out a 1.045 batch (excluding the sugars that the berries add).

3/8/12 - Seigneur de Mandragore (Standard version) - Although the airlock is still bubbling very very slowly, I checked the gravity and it was only down to 1.027...way too high for nearly 2 months of fermentation.

3/11/12 - Seigneur de Mandragore (Standard version) - Racked off the yeast cake and split the beer into two carboys.  To each, I added a mix of 5 packets of rehydrated Nottinham yeast as well as 2 cups of freshly washed, thick yeast slurry from my imperial red ale.  Yeast wast given a 2-hour reactivation period first in 2 cups of highly oxygenated starter wort before adding.  Moved carboys up to my 70° office.

3/25/12 - Seigneur de Mandragore (Standard version) - All signs of fermentation stopped (was quite active for the first 4-5 days after adding additional yeast).  Checked gravity and it was down to 1.0155, so I moved the carboys down to the fridge to crash cool and drop any suspended yeast.

4/1/12 - Seigneur de Mandragore (Standard version) - Kegged and returned to fridge for extended lagering period.



  1. Very cool project. And I agree with you on the split batch of "normal" beer and sour beer. I have really come to believe that the type of wort is not nearly as important in sour beers as is the type of bugs and how/when they are added.

    I'm curious about your dregs you used. Did you taste any of the individual starters? And what did you think?

    1. Oh yeah, I definitely tasted each of them to make sure that none of the bugs were kicking off much ethyl acetate, but the thing is that these starters were young and really won't give a solid example of how the beer will turn out. I mainly was just checking to make sure there wasn't anything bad in the flavor to begin with.

      That said, the Cantillon dreg starter (about 3 weeks old) had a pretty mild lactic sourness and no acetic esters. The pedio starter was already insanely sour with a ton of lactic acid, but it also was heavy on the diacetyl. By it self, this would be a problem but with the addition of the brett, it should clean up over time. The ECY brett #9 slurry leaned more towards the fruity side, but I believe that was just because it was pretty young. As it mixes with the other bugs and develops over time, I've heard that the blend turns into a solid funk storm of leather and goat. Hopefully that funk will nicely balance out the acids produced by the pedio.


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