Sour mash wild beer
Bottle conditioned, in 500 ml bottles, crown capped.
Release date 28 July 2014.
First brewed on: 22.6.2014 Bottled: July 2014
This was a major achievement in my journey into the sour. I had been intrigued by sour beers for some time and keen to brew them. I began with mixed fermentations of Berliner Weisse but wasn't achieving full acidity in a reasonable time, so I decided to try sour worting. It worked like a dream.
The method I employed was rather zen-like in that the souring organisms that do all the work were cultured from the environment. Lactobacillus delbruckii is a bacterium that lives on the husks of barley. They have survived the malting process and all they needed was for me to create the right environment for them to flourish and they would turn glucose into the sweetish lactic acid that is so mouth-watering in a beer. Firstly I mashed in, in the usual way, with 100% extra pale Maris Otter malted barley. Then I gathered the runnings into the fermenter, careful to under-let it slowly, so as not to introduce any oxygen in the transfer. As the level rose in the fermenter the air was pushed out the top and I filled the vessel as high as I could to reduce the surface area of the wort. I cooled the wort to 52C with the cooling coil in the fermenter and then I took 3kg of uncrushed malt and suspended it in a mesh bag in the wort. I popped the lid on and wrapped the fermenter up in duvets to keep it warm and left it to fester. Each day I checked the temperature and tasted the developing acidity and I watched as a powdery white crust (pellicle) grew on the surface. On one occasion I raised the temperature again by running hot water from the brew kettle through the cooling coil, to keep it hot enough to discourage other organisms to take up residence and spoil the flavour. On the fourth day I judged it was just right and transferred the wort to the kettle to finish the beer in the conventional manner. I added a few wild hops (from Binham Priory) for their preservative value, boiled for about 50 minutes and then cooled the wort as I transferred it back to the fermenter. This had been cleaned and sterilised in the meantime. On this occasion of course I was keen to introduce oxygen for the benefit of the yeast cells as they begin the grow up and multiply, so the transfer drops a trickle of beer into the fermenter. I pitched a nice clean German (Kolsch) yeast in order to allow the flavours of the malt and the by-products of the lactic fermentation to shine out.
Two kilderkins were left alone; one other was dry hopped with Mosaic and another with Belma. Some went in cask to Peterborough Beer Festival and some to The Plasterers Arms, Norwich.
The result is rather spectacular. A great fresh fruity aroma; fruity, grapefruit flavours and a zingy lactic acidity immediately grab your attention. It has been interesting to take this beer for tasting on market stalls and watch people's faces light up when they taste this beer. It is however a Marmite beer - you love it or hate it but about two-thirds of the people who try it are blown away by the very different style and mouth-watering acidity.
Encouraged by the popularity of this beer I shall brew it again and I think the Mosaic hop worked most successfully, so I might either late hop or dry hop with plenty of it for spring 2015. That's a promise.
Brewed again 4.2.2015
The success of the first brew encouraged me to make more Freshes Creek in plenty of time to mature for the 2015 summer market. Of the two dry-hopped versions brewed in 2014 the Mosaic was by far the better. In fact the un-dry-hopped was excellent, allowing the late hopping with Mosaic in the boil to shine. For this 2015 version I have dry-hopped with 1 kg Mosaic into the fermenter (from day 6) contained in a mesh bag (which was hard to sink as it was so buoyant!). The sour worting with raw uncrushed malt suspended in the wort took 93 hours and while I tried to maintain a temperature of 40-44 C the wort did at times sink to 30 C. However, I believe the lack of oxygen and generally high temperatures have inhibited competing organisms from entering the wort and the work to sour the wort with lactic acid has been done pretty-well exclusively by Lactobacillus delbrückii and no acetic acid producing organisms have intervened. This edition is packaged in 375ml Champagne bottles so I can develop a high carbonation (and they look lovely).
Brewed again 29.9.2016
It was high time to have some more sour beer on the stocks, so this time I piled on the Mosaic hopping by putting a kilogram of pellets into the secondary fermentation. This was a messy business and I really don't enjoy dry-hopping but it does spruce-up the flavour. As I brewed at the end of the summer season the beer has had plenty of time to mature over the winter and it really is a wonderful drink - either on its own or with food (like seafood, salads and other fresh-tasting fayre). This brew was not gluten free.
What the Customers Say
Campaign for Really Good Beer
"This sour mash wild beer is every bit as good as it sounds. For some time now it's been de rigueur to brew sour beers and Saisons and some have done it far better than others, but with this beer Poppyland have managed to find a depth of flavour and texture that blows most others out of the water. This glowing peach coloured beer smells big and fruity, packed with mango and nectarine and a little honey on the side. As you take a sip you find the beer feels thick and mouth coating, chewy with toffee and bruised apple cores, it has a delicious tarte tatin pastry softness that offsets the super fresh zingy sourness that leaves a dry bitter lemon rind and metallic basil finish that's gently infused with a gala melon juiciness." Simon Williams
"Bought some Freshes Creek from you last week, can only say it was tremendous." J.W. via Facebook
What the customers say (batch brewed 22.6.2014)
"Seriously good! Mosaic working well with the sourness, some background sweetness taking the edge off. Good champagne like fizz." David Harrison-Ward, Untappd
"One of 72 bottles. Really interesting beer. Mosaic works great with the sourness" Peter L. on Untappd
"Full bodied with tart lactic-sourness, dry sandalwood spice middle, overlaid by light yet distinct Mosaic tropical fruits." Yvan S on Untappd
"Excellent alternative to a full bodied white wine to go along with a rich plate of pasta alla marinara." Yvan S on Untappd
"Brilliant beer! I only wish I had picked up more bottles when I visited the brewery." Dave Harrison-Ward on Untappd
"Yeah, & a pity the batches are so small - just 72 bottles of this Mosaic version. Very clean flavoured sour." Yvan S on Untappd
Martin Warren, The Poppyland Brewer