Sour beers are a labor of love. They require a separate set of plastic cold side equipment (fermenting bucket if you’re using them, bottling bucket, auto-siphon, tubing, and bottling wand) as well as our most important resource, time. Many mixed fermentation sour beers (those fermented with Saccharomyces, Brettanomyces, lactobacillus, and Pediococcus) can take years to ferment and sour. This investment in time and equipment will be rewarded though as these beers can be some of the most complex that you will ever experience.
In an effort to create an ever-evolving house strain of my sour beers, I have started a couple of soleras. For the unfamiliar, a solera is a technique where you brew a quantity of wort, ferment and age it, then draw off a third to a half of it to bottle or keg, then replace that portion with fresh wort. It’s a sort of ever evolving batch of beer as you can continuously add new strains or bottle dregs that you like. The portion of beer that you pull from the solera can then be dry hopped, oaked, fruited (whatever you can think of).
I have started a Golden Sour solera and a Flander’s Red solera. I am experimenting with different cultures so I first brewed 5 gallons of wort for each culture. For the Golden Sours, I am trying out the House Sour Mix from the Yeast Bay and Bug Farm from East Coast Yeast. For the Flanders Reds, I’m using a single mix from the Bootleg Biologist that is comprised of a mix of all the bottle dregs from the beers that were drank at the Milk the Funk Facebook group meet up at the National Homebrewers Conference in 2016 in one carboy and my own mix of my favorite yeasts, bacteria, and dregs in the other carboy. This gives me two completely different sours for each type (2 Golden Sours, and two Flanders Reds). Once these have fermented and soured, I will taste them and use my favorite of each to inoculate larger batches that will become my final solera for each style. I may even end up blending the two!
Like our club barrel Russian Imperial Stout project, I think this would be an interesting technique to try on a larger scale. I know we do have members of our club who brew sour beers already so if you are interested, perhaps we could start our own larger club solera?
Danny C. Diaz