Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sangiovese Flanders Red

Nearly a year and a half ago, I brewed up a fairly standard Flanders Red.  Having never brewed one before, I started with Jamil’s recipe and modified the grain percentages based on my preference for a few of the malts.  Since it’s fairly common for homebrewed beers to lack the desired, intense level of acidity when they undergo a primary fermentation with a basic saccharomyces strain of yeast, I pitched in the Roeselare mix right from day 1 hoping that without having to compete against a primary strain of yeast, the bacteria can replicate faster and in the end, yield a more highly acidic ale. 

Since the Flanders Red style is really the only one where it’s acceptable to have moderately high levels of acetic acid present, it’s common for homebrewers to try to replicate this by using a wooden oak dowel in the neck of the carboy.  In theory, the contact surface-to-volume ratio is supposed to be similar to that of the Foudres that Rodenbach uses and the permeable oak is said to allow a similar transfusion of oxygen into the beer.  This all seems somewhat gimmicky to me and although I’ve tried a few that employed this technique, I’ve never been impressed enough with the results to go through the trouble of using it myself.  Instead, I plan on cheating a bit.  While the main batch of beer has been fermenting and maturing in a standard carboy with bung and airlock, I kept about a quart in a separate vessel covered only with tinfoil.  With the excessive levels of oxygen present, the acetobacter should be having a field day and basically turning the small amount into malt vinegar.  When the time is right, I’ll be able to blend this back into the main batch until I reach my desired level of acetic acid. 

After 15 months of aging, the beer was developing nicely but still lacked both the lactic punch and complexity that I was hoping for.  I probably could have let it continue on its own, but I decided that I’d experiment with this batch and age it on some fresh Sangiovese grapes from Walla Walla, Washington.  While domestic versions of this grape tend to lean more towards the fruity side than those of Tuscany, the Washington state Sangiovese grapes are known for their spicy, tart cherry flavors with supporting background notes of tobacco, all of which seem like highly complementary flavors to a Flanders Red.  Additionally, although the grapes themselves have high levels of acidity, adding the sugar-laden fruit to a batch of beer with a high level of bacteria and wild yeast should help to amplify the overall acidity of the batch in a relatively short order.

Recipe Specifics
Batch Size (Gal): 6
Total Grain (Lbs): 14
Actual OG: 1.059
Final Gravity: 1.006
Anticipated SRM: 13
Anticipated IBUs: 15
Wort Boil Time (Mins): 90

Grain Bill
43.0% - 6.0 lbs Vienna Malt
21.5% - 3.0 lbs Munich Malt
21.5% - 3.0 lbs Pilsner Malt
4.5% - 10 oz. CaraMunich 40
3.6% - ½ lb Special B
3.6% - ½ lb Wheat Malt
2.2% - 5 oz. Aromatic Malt

33 grams Liberty (pellets, 3.0% AA) @ 90 minutes

Wyeast 3763 Roeselare Blend
Cantillon dregs starter & East Coast Yeast brett blend #9 (Added at 15 months along with grapes)

Water Profile and Additions
Charcoal filtered Seattle Water
Mash Additions: 0.25 g/g Chalk, 0.6 g/g Calcium Chloride, 0.25 g/g Epsom Salt, 0.5 g/g Baking Soda, and 0.2 g/g Salt
HLT Additions: 1.2 g/g Calcium Chloride, 0.25 g/g Epsom Salt, 0.5 g/g Baking Soda, and 0.2 g/g Salt

Mash Schedule
60 minutes @ 155°
15 minute mash out rest @ 168°
Sparged with 170° water


11/6/2010 – Brewed with Blake.

Apparently I didn’t have my water adjustment methodology down back then based on all the additions I made…both to the mash and sparge tanks.

Collected 7 gallons of 1.051 wort and topped off to 7.5 gallons.  Boiled 90 minutes and then chilled down to 65 degrees.  Ended with 6 gallons of 1.059 wort.

Did not oxygenate and pitched in straight Roselare pack.  Fermented at 66 degrees.

12/5/2011 - Racked off yeast cake and into secondary (keg w/ airlock) along with ½ oz of French Med + oak stave.  Placed down in my basement where depending on the season, temp shifts between 58 and 70.

11/5/2011 -  De-stemmed 10lbs of fresh Sangiovese grapes.  Vacuum sealed and placed in Freezer.

1/25/2012 -   Defrosted grapes and mashed into carboy.  Flushed with CO2 and then racked over Flanders Red.  Added about 1 cup and a half of a starter made from the dregs of various Cantillon beers as well as a bit of the East Coast Yeast blend #9.  Left down in basement with current temp of 59°.


  1. Sounds like a great beer you have going there. And I agree that red wine grapes have a lot of similar flavor components as a Flanders Red, so that should help with adding complexity. I'll be interested in your final results.
    A couple questions:
    How did you go about getting the grapes?
    How did you acetic acid starter work?

    1. For sure, it'll be interesting to see how it develops. As for the grapes, a buddy of mine and I went in on a 25lb. box of grapes that we ordered through Mountain Homebrew and Wine over in Kirkland, WA. We didn't know exactly when they'd come in, but once the growers determined they were at their peek, we got the call.
      I haven't actually sampled the acedic acid starter yet, so I'll have to update you on that once it comes time to package this beer. Hopefully this theory will prove true and work out well.


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