Touch of Funk Dry Stout

Ok, one of my favorite beers to drink when I go out is Guinness.  It is fairly low in alcohol, has tons of flavor, very smooth, but with a nice dry finish, leaving you wanting more.  What can I say, Guinness defines the style, and for good reason.  One thing that Guinness does to help get a bit of a tang on the aftertaste is they “sour” about 3% of the mash.  I have not tried much sour mashing, but such a small amount sounded like a good place to start.

Touch of Funk Stout

Grain is covered in lactobacillus, one of the principle bacteria that make lactic acid, which gives foods a crisp, acidic bite.  Not as harsh as the better know acetic acid of vinegar, lactic acid is/was a very common flavor in beers.  Prior to modern brew equipment and sanitation, most beers would become sour very quickly.  Lactobacillus was one of those cuplrits, and sour mashing relies on that to get you an acidic tang to your beer in just a faction of the time that the more traditional processes, such as barrel or vat aging, could do.  Guinness, when it was originally made, was a Porter, a style of beer that was born in and around London, and provided much of the calories for the working class of the industrial revolution in the UK.  One of the hallmarks of the style was an acidic bite, which made a thicker/sweeter beer more drinkable and refreshing.  The original brewers of porter did this by aging their beer in huge tanks for up to a year, and then blending the “stale” or aged beer with younger beer that had not been aged as long.  Well, keeping huge quantities of beer around in vats for up to a year is not exactly a very economical thing, and over time, other techniques, such as putting acids in the beer, came about to save money.  This was frowned upon, for obvious reasons, but it appears that sour mashing was seized onto as a way to add a bit of a bite quickly and safely.

Sourmash:  This was separate of the main beer.  I crushed 0.5# of pale malt, put it in a 1 gallon insulated jug I have, and poured in 1.5 quarts of water at 152F.  I mixed this up, put the top on the jug, and let it sit next to my furnace for 3 days, where it stays about 90F.  I did this 1 day before brewing the main beer:

5.25Gallon batch, OG 1.052, FG 1.016, 4.7% alcohol by volume.

7.50 lb Pale Malt (2 row) (2.0 SRM) Grain 71.43 %
2.00 lb Barley, Flaked (1.7 SRM) Grain 19.05 %
1.00 lb Roasted Barley (300.0 SRM) Grain 9.52 %
2.25 oz Willamette [4.70 %] (60 min) Hops 37.4 IBU
0.50 tsp wyeast yeast nutrient (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1.00 tbsp PH 5.2 Stabilizer (Mash 60.0 min) Misc
1.00 items Whirlfloc Tablet (Boil 15.0 min) Misc
1 Pkgs Bedford British Ale (White Labs #WLP006) Yeast-Ale

This was mashed at 154F for 60 minutes via an infusion mash.  During the 2nd day of primary fermentation, I went back to my sour mash.  This was poured through a strainer, and the liquid was collected in a pot.  To say this smelled bad is an understatement.  With the urging of my wife, I boiled this wort for 15 minutes on my grill outside.  I then tasted the mash(yes, I admit a little insane)…and it was not bad.  It did have a bit of funk and tang, but did not taste bad.  Trusting fate, I dumped the boiled, cooled wort from the sourmash into the fermenting primary, and crossed my fingers.  After fermentation was complete, I moved this to a keg, and let it naturally carbonate in the keg with 3/8 of a cup of corn sugar.  I let it sit another 2 weeks, then put it on tap.

Tasting notes:  It black, with a faint red hue when held up to the light.  The head has a tan color to it.  The aroma is coffee/chocolate/roasted with a bit of fruitiness (cherry?) I think is from the yeast.  No hops.  The first thing you get on the taste is a clean malt, with roasted notes.  You get some sweetness from the malt in the middle, and at the end you get a nice roasted/coffee aftertaste.  The mouthfeel is pretty full and smooth.  I can’t tell how much the sour mash brought to the table, next time I should split the wort and do one batch with and one without, but it does have a nice drying sensation across the tongue at the end.

Critique:  I am pretty happy with this beer, and would do it again.  I think I would try to mash a bit lower to get better attenuation/dry the beer out a bit more, and I think I also would try one of my standard english ale yeasts, such as safale o4.  I had never tried the Bedford before (it is a limited release from White Labs), and while I dig the aroma, it actually did not dry out the beer quite as much as I had hoped.

2 Responses

  1. sweet! I did a 100% sour mash for 2 days, and it was SOUR. It mellowed over time, and turned out to be pretty nice. I’ve read methods of doing a partial the way that you did, but you can probably just dump the sour mash into your normal mash on brew day, then sparge and boil as normal. I would bump up the percentage that’s sour, but I wouldn’t leave it to sour as long. good thing that your wife had you boil it because the lacto would have kept feasting and multiplying. It could have been good, but it would probably take a lot longer. good stuff though! I think I’m going to try to make a belgian sour stout type thing, like a dark sour mashed dubble, but with a lower gravity.

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