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07/02/08 07:14 PM  
New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red

I am a new sour beer brewery and had a couple questions so I thought I would come to where the experts live...

1. I am going to basically follow Jamil's recipe and method for brewing a Flanders Red, ferment with a neutral ale yeast then rack to glass carboy with the Roeselare blend. From your experience is it better to go with an airlock or the wooden chair leg/dowel?

2. I wanted to trow some oak cubes in the carboy with the Roeselare. The homebrew shop did not have medium toast, I got medium plus toast. It seems there is more of a difference than I thought there would be. Will the medium plus work? Or should I look for the medium or just skip it?

Thanks a lot for your help.

07/03/08 09:55 AM  
Re: New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red
The medium plus is fine. Since you will be aging for a significant amount of time in the secondary, any heavy oak flavors will age out and dissipate. I always boil my chips for a few minutes before adding in order to leech out some of the "green" oaky flavors and tannins - the longer the boil the more flavor is pulled out of the chips. If you're still worried about it being too oaky you can always boil them for 10-20 minutes extract a lot of the flavors.

In terms of the airlock/dowel thing - I've always used a bung/airlock but am finding now that perhaps that is not allowing enough 02 in over time. I think a little 02 over time is key in a red to get some of that acetic flavor. We did a swap of FReds not too long ago and IMO the most stylistically accurate version was fermented in plastic for a year! Who would of thought.... I'm aging a high grav FRed (1090) right now in plastic. With all of that said I've been happy with all of my beers in a standard glass carboy with an airlock but I think they would have been a little better perhaps with something that allowed for more micro aeration over time.

07/03/08 10:51 AM  
Re: New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red
To this point I have to say I don't get the chair leg / dowel idea. A good and old friend who does woodworking did me a big favor about a year ago, he cut up some oak scraps from furniture making into little cubes for me. Seems like lots of work! He sent them to me knowing that I like the oak beans and knowing how expensive they are. It was a great gesture and effort, but they did not work out well. I added them to my ambient ale, when it started to warm a distinct taste of furniture moved to the forfront. It lead to a conclusion that there is a big difference between using oak harvested from a used barrel and using furniture grade (if there is such a thing) oak. From this experience I can say I would never trust a piece of wood in my beer that came from Home Depot.
07/03/08 11:27 AM  
Re: New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red
Agreed... a chair leg? I don't want my beer to taste like an antique shop! I'm sure the quality of oak in furniture or at home depot is not the same as old growth french oak, and I wouldn't be surprised if the curing process is different as well. If the furniture IS made of really good quality oak it certainly wont be worth it to cut a leg off and stick it in your beer!

If the oak is simply a seal, like the airlock, and not coming into contact with the beer, I think it could possibly be beneficial for permeability of 02, but I'm not really sure since I never tried it. I will say my "al's bug blend beer" has the nagrliest pellicle I've ever gotten on one of my beers after who knows how many days being exposed to 02 via an evaporated airlock. I'm really excited to try it...

Mike T
07/03/08 11:56 AM  
Re: New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red
Steve – How did you treat the wood? For my chair legs I toasted them in the oven to give them some color, then boiled them to reduce that “fresh” oak flavor.

I have gotten decent results out of my trials with them, but I have also been getting fine results without them which is much less of a hassle. I really don’t think it lets in enough O2 to impact the bugs significantly. These days I age in better bottles with oak cubes, there is debate over how much if any oxygen permeates through the BB, but the results are good so I see no reason to change.

This current round of Flanders Red I have a friend aging his in a bucket, we plan to blend in a year, should give a good balance. I am looking to take the big step-up to a group wine barrel soon as well.

07/03/08 12:34 PM  
Re: New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red
Thanks for the input.

I was originally considering a Better Bottle but I was worried about too much oxygenation. I am going to be putting this in a closet that will be a little warm this summer and combined I did not want to overdo the vinegar character.

I like the acetic character in the Flanders, but my wife hates it. So, I will probably go with the glass and airlock so she can enjoy some after seeing this mess sitting around for a year.

07/03/08 01:03 PM  
Re: New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red
Scott's roselare red that sat for a year in the bucket, the one we tasted in the swap, had a perfect acetic quality. Not as much as a rodenbach GC, but noticeable. In fact, even though the beer had a great balanced acetic quality, it really wasn't sour overall, that was the only problem. Not enough lactic... otherwise I thought it was perfect. I have not notcied any acetic qualities in my beers in glass with an airlock, except for a couple that I intentionally introduced some 02 to. It's a good plan to just stick with glass/airlock if your wife doesn't like vinegar, just make sure to check on it every once and awhile and make sure the water in the lock hasn't evaporated, otherwise you might end up with salad dressing.
07/03/08 10:19 PM  
Re: New Sour Brewer, Brewing a Flanders Red
Mike, I did not treat them, I added them as is. I don't use oak beans all that often, ones made from old kegs seem worth the extra 5 bucks to me.

The wood cylinder sounds to me like a sort of trendy thing. I could see someone new to this type of brewing seeing as some sort of "secret ingredient". I want to go on record as saying I don't believe such a practice is at all necessary. A brewer experienced with wild brewing might have fun playing with such a thing, but I think newbies should concentrate on yeast management.

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