Wild yeast on tangerine skin, still on the tree
Wild yeast on tangerine skin, still on the tree

There seems to be a common misconception that if a beer is fermented with wild organisms that it will be sour. This is actually not the case at all. Perhaps it's time for a brief discussion about what makes an organism "wild", and what makes  beer sour. Which are actually two different things.

First let's tackle "sour", and sour beers - which is incidentally a new marketing term for a style of beer that is also new. The super tart, tooth enamel stripping, pucker power beers currently in vogue were considered to be egregiously flawed up until this 21st century. A beer is soured by certain classes of bacteria that create acids (and very little alcohol) as a byproduct of fermentation. Examples of these bacteria would be lactobacillus (think yogurt), acetobacter (think vinegar), Pediococcus (think sauerkraut) and the like. They are often cultured in labs from banks that have been selectively isolated for a number of generations. Unless you are drinking a spontaneously fermented beer from Belgium or Flanders, or a true Berliner Weisse from Germany, you are most likely not drinking a wild beer - even if it's labeled as such.

Cultivating wild yeast.
Cultivating wild yeast.

Now let's tackle "wild". First we'll have to understand that most beers brewed in the United States with "wild" or "wild yeast blend" on the label or in the marketing materials are not truly wild. They are fermented with organisms that are propagated from carefully controlled banks of yeasts and bacteria that have very likely not seen any environment other than a lab for many generations. This isn't a bad thing, but it isn't "wild" by any means. A true wild yeast or bacteria would be a bug that is (i.e. the bugs in true Lambics), or has been surviving in the wild by virtue of its own tooth and nail - perhaps on the skin of a fruit - within the last few years. A true wild beer might be fermented with a yeast, or yeast and bacteria blend, that has been isolated and propagated by a lab. But it should be an organism that has been harvested from the wild very recently. Click on this link for a perfect example.

So, here's a few bullet points to ponder:

  • Most sour beers - other than true Lambics, Flanders Reds and Oud Bruins, and true German Berliner Wiesse - are not wild.
  • A true wild yeast fermented beer will probably not be sour - maybe a little funky or slightly tart - but they are not sour.
  • For a beer to be sour (wild yeast or not), it must be "infected" with bacteria that create acids as the by product of fermentation - and most of these bacteria are now propagated from laboratory banks. They are not wild.
WLP5179 Beancurdturtle Sacc Yeast, one barrel pitch.
WLP5179 Beancurdturtle Sacc Yeast, one barrel pitch.

So now that the cloud of misconceptions about wild and sour are all cleared up, let me say - we make a beer that is wild to the core, but not even a tiny bit sour. This beer is Wild in the Sacc.  The yeast used to ferment the beer is a wild Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain harvested from the skin of a tangerine in the Beancurdturtle Brewing pilot brewery yard in 2015. The yeast is professionally isolated and propagated so I can be sure it is clean, not infected, and healthy. The base beer is very clean and light so you can discern the subtle contributions from the esters of the wild yeast - flavors and aromas that are slightly fruity with citrus characters, peachy chardonnay aromas, and hints of an earthy “farmhouse” funk.

Wild in the Sacc is a special Pale Ale that will be most appreciated by beer drinkers with sensitive palates. Probably not the beer drinkers who favor beers with characters like yogurt water, vinegar, and Jolly Rancher candies. But I shouldn't be such a sourpuss as I have sour-head friends who also have sensitive and discerning palates. I hope you get to try it because it is unique, refreshing, and subtly complex. If you do try it, just remember - it's not sour, it's wild.

Cheers!
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=BCT=

Another buyout of a California Craft Brewery by Anheuser-Busch InBev announced today.

Here's my recommendation, when you're choosing a beer at your bottle shop, or deciding where to go for a fresh craft pour. Choose a beer from a local brewery that makes good beer. A brewery where, when you shake the owner's hand you can be confident it held a sack of grain or a broom recently. Maybe even one where the beer architect, brewer, and cleaner-upper are all the same guy or gal.

There's plenty of great beer made by small breweries. Bypass the mega-booze retailers and visit a small bottle shop or go pick up a growler at a tasting room. Get closer to the source where the investor puts their own ingenuity, heart, and horsepower - instead of some extra cash - into the beer you're about to enjoy.

Cheers!
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=BCT=

When you make a beer, you want everything to go right. When you make the first commercial release for your brand, you want it to be a great beer. Thankfully, beer is a resilient thing – everything doesn’t have to go right for the end product to be a great beer. You could say it’s either ballsy or stupid to brew a first (U.S. domestic) release beer on a system you’ve never used before. But I’ve brewed seven commercial releases at breweries in Europe over the past two years on systems that I’d never brewed on before – and they all came close to (a couple better than) their target. So I went for it – a Double White IPA.

There was a challenge with the system, known as a “stuck mash”. That means you can’t push liquid through your grain, so your brew day goes from four hours to more like eight or more. A stuck mash is one of the most dreaded things a brewer has to deal with. Well, it was dealt with. And the fermentation went great. Dry hops went in, and a couple days later the beer was moved to the cold room to clarify.

Or, rather, the semi-cold room – there’s some unexpected AC issues. Ok, so most of the stuff should still settle to the bottom of the fermenter, and we can pull the yeast and hops off the bottom and package some reasonably clean beer. Another couple days in the semi-cold room in the kegs and the beer should pour fairly clear after a couple murky first pints – it’s a White Ale after all. We sally forth with optimism and cheer.

On packaging day we start drawing the yeast off the bottom so we can package clean beer, and it stops flowing. You know you read these horror stories about surgeons leaving things in a patient. Well, we had the brewer’s equivalent. Someone left a bit of equipment in the fermenter. It’s sanitary; it won’t screw up the beer – but it does mean the beer will be cloudier than I’d like for a few days, and there may be some hop matter in the glass. At least unless I gave it a week to chill and clear. But I don’t have a week – people (thankfully friendly people) are coming on Saturday August 1st at 2:00pm for a pour.

So, I tell myself, “Don’t worry Daniel. It’s still a great beer.” And it is a great beer – it’ll do for damn sure! Even with a couple flakes of hop matter, and a little haze from suspended yeast. Heck, if you’re a “real beer drinker”, that’s a free salad and a vitamin B supplement.

Cheers!
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=BCT=

A sample pour of BCT Brewing Project Double White IPA off the fermenter. It'll do for damn sure!
A sample pour of BCT Brewing Project Double White IPA off the fermenter. It'll do for damn sure!