Written by Brandon Jones for embracethefunk.com
Awesome words spoken by Jean Van Roy of Cantillon that every brewer of sour beers should know.
What happens when a beer gets sick? To quote Dr. Evil “It got weird didn’t it?” That is what happens when a beer goes sick…. It gets weird. The awesome sour beer you last tasted is suddenly ropey, buttery, slick, and oily. It can happen in the fermenter, the bottle, or it can happen during both. Yes the beer can get sick twice.
What can cause the sickness? Pediococcus can give off the buttery/diacetyl/ropiness. Technically a Polysaccharide will form as a layer in the beer.
Due to my dumb luck I haven’t been ready to drink one of my sour beers when it has gone into the sick phase, until recently. All of my batches had gotten sick in the carboy and that was it. This happened on the second carboy of Berliner Weisse that I bottled up. A carboy that had sat around 4 months longer than the first one. The beer was wonderful as it went into the bottling bucket and every bit as good as the first bottled carboy. But a few weeks later, it got weird real weird. It got sick in the bottles.
Luckily I didn’t panic and start dumping bottles of beer. My good friend Brett came to the rescue. Brettanomyces is one of the best friends a sour brewer can have. Not only does Brett give us the awesome flavor we love, but it can metabolize polysaccharides. 2 months later I’m happy to report the beer is well again and better than before. The beer I thought was “wonderful as it went into the bottling bucket” is now even better. What perfect timing as we head into the dog days of summer!
It’s a good time to remind that the beer will always make the schedule. Especially when it comes to sour brewing which will test your patience. In most cases brewing a sour beer is a slow paced process that will reward ten fold in the end.