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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Souring Halvtreds

The Selected Line-up for the Experiment
Having missed another opportunity to get my hands on some East Coast Yeast, I decided it was time to go with plan 2 (really plan b but blogger will only let me do numbered lists) on souring Halvtreds.

Wait you mean to tell me you had backup plans? Hey, it's me.

So basically I went in knowing I had three options for souring the beer post primary/lager.
  1. A vial from East Coast Yeast.  I was eying (and still am) ECY01 BugFarm, ECY02 Flemish Ale, ECY04 BRETT Blend #1, ECY05 BRETT Blend #9 and especially ECY20 Bug Country.
  2. Harvest dregs from select sour beers into a starter wort. 
  3. Grab a vial of White Labs sour mix.
The Harvesting Station
The reason I went with the second option as my backup plan is that I wanted to create something a little bit more funky and in your face sour.  Everything I've read online suggested that to do this bottle dregs from similar level beers was your best option.

I selected three beers for my experiment in harvesting dregs: The first beer I selected was Batch 50 from the Bruery. It has a nice level of clean sourness to it and contains ECY04 BRETT Blend #1 as a bonus.  Next came Oude Tart, again from the Bruery, which is a Flanders Red Ale and one of the inspirations for Halvtreds. For the final beer I brought out her highness the Duchesse de Bourgogne.  The Duchesse as I call her is my favorite Flanders Red Ale and having it back to back with Oude Tart really showed off how young the Bruery is when it comes to it's sours.  Both are exceptional beers but the Duchesse has a level of sour complexity that is in another league when compared to Oude Tart.

After all the Dregs were Pitched
With the three beers selected it was time to find someone to help be drink them.  Fortunitly my brewbrother Daniel was available to stop by for several hours to help me enjoy them, I know, tough work. 

Just prior to Daniel coming over I put together a quick pint starter using a 1/4 cup of wheat DME and 16 oz of water.

Given that I wanted to preserve the yeast and keep it uncontaminated I devised a system for opening, pouring and then harvesting the yeast in a santiary way.  To start I whipped up a fresh 5 gallons of StarSan.  This allowed me to fully submerge (carefully to not disturb the yeast) to sanitize the bottle prior to opening.  To open the bottle I used my metal mickey opener which I kept in a bowl of StarSan.  Once opened I pour most of the contents into three glasses, I then cover the top with a paper towel soaked in StarSan and swirled the bottle to free the yeast.  I then poured the liquid into the beaker of starter wort via a sanitized funnel.

Aerating the Additional Wort
I ended up pouring a little bit more beer then I had planned on so I whipped up another pint starter to add to the flask.

After several days of no activity, swirling the flask when I walked by, I was worried I'd have to go with option 3 but fortunately after 5 days I started to notice positive pressure and bubble formation.  After letting it continue to ferment the starter with additional swirling activity started to slow after a few days.  I'm heading to Canada for a few days this week and before I leave I will cold crash the starter.  One I return I'll decant it and pitch it into the beer and set it aside to age for a few months before I add fruit to it.




Fully dunk the bottle to sanitized it
With sanitized gloves (and a sanitized
opener) open the bottle
Carefully pour the beer to not disturb
the yeast settled on the bottom
Cover the bottle with a sanitized power
towel and swirl the bottle to rouse the yeast
Pour into the flask using a sanitized funnel
Aerate the swirl/stir as you would a
normal yeast starter.


  1. It was a real chore helping you, but I muscled through it. Glad to see you got results. It was smelling groovy, leathery, funky a week later.

  2. Have you had luck with Duchesse? Tasted it? I know there is some trouble for most. I've been fortunate and have something that closely resembles her in half of a gallon jug from last October.

  3. I'm still souring it. The last time I checked it I was ok with the taste. Currently its in my cellar at about 55


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