Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Old Ale Charity Brew Session

A couple weeks back, a friend of mine inquired about supplying some homebrew for their non-profit's (Hope Through Health) charity event. The event is called "Cask for a Cause"(details) and will be held at Local Habit at 5:30 on Thursday, May 23rd.

I asked her what type of beer she would like me to brew for the event and the first response was an IPA. I immediately responded that its not really my style plus, there would be about 5 world class examples on tap at the same time. I knew that the deadline was approaching, so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to brew a beer in time so I offered the keg of my 2011 Oud Bruin. I actually hadn't tasted it in a while (since before I moved), so I took a sample of it that night. The beer had a great tart cherry nose and quite a bit of sourness (even a bit acetic since it was sloshed around during moving). It was good, but I knew it would need to be blended. I initially thought it would be too sour for the general public and secondly it was kinda dry and thin for my liking. That lead me to want to brew a blending beer.

I thought the Old Ale style would be a great beer to blend as they have some of the dark fruit flavors. Plus I like to make them on the sweeter side, which would give a nice sweet-sour balance for the masses. In addition, I can make a lower gravity Old Ale in about 2 weeks and it can still have some nice complexity to add to the blend.

2013 Old Ale (for Blending or Sour Base Beer) 

Batch Size: 9.000 gal       O.G.: 1.058 , 1.072               FG: 1.020
IBU: ~25, ~30                  SRM: ~18                         ABV: 5%, 6.7%

Name                            Amount Color
Maris Otter                 19.000 lb       3 L
Rolled Oats                   1.000 lb        1 L
Crystal Extra Dark     10.000 oz     155 L
Special B                     10.000 oz     160 L
Chocolate Rye               6.000 oz       3 L
Total grain: 21.625 lb

Name                  Alpha      Amount      Use      Time                  IBU
Super Styrian     9.5%        1.75 oz       Boil     90.000 min      29.5

Safale S-04 (1 packet each carboy- rehydrated in warm water - Per BKYeast)

Brewing Process 
Mash at 154 grain at 1.25 ratio
Slow sparge for maximum caramelization
Boil 90 minutes for more caramelization
Run off 4 gals to carboy and top up with 1 gal boiled water - 1.058
Run off 5 gal to carboy - 1.072

Both batches were fermented in glass carboys at 65 degrees - raised to 68 on Day 7.

To figure out the final blend I took the beers (Old Ale, Oud Bruin and my Imperial Stout). I helped guide the tasting and it was unanimous that everyone like the sour beer at its current state. Then I suggested a splash of the Imperial Stout because it worked so well for my Oud Bruin in the 1st Rd of NHC. All agreed that the Imperial Stout really improved the beer. So much for the Old Ale I brewed, but it makes a great base beer for a sour beer and I have some East Coast Yeast Bug Country on its way. And I'm thinking the other half will get some oak and black treacle (and stay clean).
If anyone has this Thursday free, please come try some free sour beer and support a good cause. I'll be there all night, but not sure how long the beer will last.


  1. Is Black Treacle more for mouthfeel or taste? I hear its only about 50-60% fermentable.

    1. Yes.

      I agree its not completely fermentable so that will help building some body which I really like in this style. I'm planning to age this until next winter and want something pretty chewy. I also really like the taste - very raisin forward with some nice burnt/caramel sugar flavor.

      The oak I add will also increase the mouthfeel of this beer.

      I like having these types of beers on hand because they really make great beer for blending. Most sour beers turn out pretty thin and with no head retention after the long aging process. So with only about 10-15% of one of these beers you can really help the body and presentation in the glass.

  2. At what point in the brewing process do you put the black treacle? Boil? Primary? Secondary?

    I have my first sour going, which is a Flanders, if you don't count the Berliner. It is about 1.5mos old. So still pretty young. Are you talking adding some unfermented wort to the Flanders? Really stoked to get my sour collection going.

    1. I add it in secondary. I don't usually do a secondary, but for clean beers I do like to get them off the trub and the majority of the yeast. There are 2 reasons I do this in secondary:
      1. It kicks off another fermentation which helps purge the head space
      2. I think you keep more flavor from having less rigorous fermentation

      It looks like you have a nice pipeline going there, which is important as it lets you have more patience to let each beer develop. Remember a beer is ready when it tastes like you want it to, don't worry about schedules.

      I have added unfermented wort to sour beers as they age, but it depends on if they need it. I like to take my first taste at 6 months for mixed fermentations (bacteria + yeast) and then at 3 month intervals (if I remember). At those points you can add whatever you think it needs to get closer to the final flavor you have in mind. If you are going to add wort, I suggest you keep these frozen or can them. You can also add fruit or sugars (maltodextrin, candi sugar). Knowing what to add just comes with experience - so enjoy the ride and good luck.

  3. Jeff, With all the blending your doing and the old beers you keep pulling out, how are you storing all these beers? I see a 2 litter bottle in one of the pictures. Personally I have a lot of carboys, but they are all fermenting. Having a good amount of blending beers around seems like a great idea.

    1. Sours are mostly stored in carboys (glass or better bottle), but I'm actually moving toward kegs (and barrels). I have ruined a few good beers by letting the airlock go dry, so there are no worries with a purged and lightly pressured keg (then occasionally released). Only my sours are bulk aged because of the on going fermentation. The 2 liter bottle was used to quickly carb the Oud Bruin that had been recently racked.

      The clean beers I use for blending are in bottles. And to be honest some of the best blending beers aren't that great on their own because they are usually unbalanced. Like my Imperial Stout is a dark fruit bomb and super thick - I enjoy it in 2 oz servings but it is better used to boost other beers.


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