Now that the 2015 NHC Seminar List has been published I feel better about announcing this in a more official capacity: I have been selected to speak at the 2015 National Homebrewers Conference to give a talk titled Berliner and Beyond: Sour Mashing and its Applications. To commemorate this auspicious moment (and to focus myself for the conference) I am hereby dedicating 2015 as Year of the Sour Mash. It is my hope to not only inspire and inform my fellow homebrewers about the techniques and applications of sour mashing, but challenge myself to elevate the state of the art through experimentation and education.
Why sour mashing? Sour mashing is a fun, fast, and easy way to begin experimenting with sour beers, a topic more and more folks are getting interested in. I want to equip homebrewers of all skill levels to be able to successfully perform a sour mash and work it into a variety of their beers. A review of the conference seminars of past few years show that there have been no presentations dedicated to sour mashing and I want to be the one to change that.
Year of the Sour Mash Outline
Interest in sour beers has never been higher, but to many the idea of making a sour beer seems like an impossible dream. The time, equipment, and expertise required ensures that many homebrewers view sour beer as the final frontier; a pastime for the brewing elite. But what if there was a fast, easy method to get active making sours? Sour mashing is an intermediate-level technique for any beer that would benefit from a crisp, tart, or funky edge. My series will discuss the tips and techniques to perform a successful sour mash and how any homebrewer–even extract brewers–can apply those techniques to a variety of styles.
Homebrewers don’t need to be afraid of sour mashing: it is fun and easy to be successful at if you follow a few techniques and is useful for more than just making Berliner Weisse or Gose. Sour mashing is actually just creating an optimal environment for Lactobacillus and sub-optimal environment for things like Clostridium, Acetobacter, and mold. I will be providing an illustrated guide to the sour mash process including equipment, starters, alternate/hybrid techniques, and ways to cheat. Finally, I will discuss how to apply sour mashing to a number of different styles including Berliner, classic sours, and a few styles folks might have never considered (e.g. tart saison, crisp summer ale/lagers, dry Irish stouts, etc).
My goal for this series is to cover many of the topics that will be going into my presentation on sour mashing as well as to document the experiments I perform. The articles will consist of a series of Techniques as well as some Recipe Reviews as I implement the techniques and experiments. Notably I will be covering:
- Intro to Sour Mashing
- Making a Lactobacillus Starter
- Survey of Lactobacillus Sources
- Sour Mash Equipment
- Know Your Enemies
- Ways to Cheat
- Styles for Sour Mashing
- Experiment: Percentage Sour Mash vs Sour Mashing to target pH
- Experiment: DME Starter vs Apple Juice Starter
- Experiment: Probiotic Starter
Please note that this list may be expanded and
retroactively edited revised as I work my way through, so be sure to check back often. I look forward to exploring The Year of the Sour Mash with you all and I hope we can learn a thing or two and have a great time doing it!
In the mean time, please check out the presentation on sour mashing I gave to my club recently that started me down this path.
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- Sour Beer Blog: Fast Souring with Lactobacillus – Good comprehensive guide for techniques and the science behind fast souring using lactobacillus.
- Milk the Funk Wiki: Lactobacillus – The current data on lactobacillus strains from the leading funkmasters.