If you remember from a couple of weeks ago, Ben Mills, brewer at Fossil Cove Brewing in Fayetteville, Arkansas, stepped out of his comfort zone to try brewing a 100% sour mash beer — the first of its kind in the area. The wort coming off the sour mash after three days was a bit odd, but the final results are proving very tasty.
The recipe is based on a two-gallon batch of sour beer that I brewed for an episode of Basic Brewing Video. Ben raised the volume to two barrels on his professional system.
Other than the increased volume, the recipe and process remained very similar. One difference arose when it was time to boil. When Ben collected the wort from the mash tun, it had acquired a vegetal dimethyl sulfate (DMS) character. Ben lengthened my fifteen-minute boil to a full hour to get rid of the potential off flavors. The strategy seems to have worked.
“We tasted it through the primary,” Ben says. “My hope was that the yeast would pick up any residual DMS, and it looks like they did.”
Fermentation went well. Two weeks after pitching the yeast, the beer was carbonated and ready to serve. “I’m very happy,” Ben says. “I think the rye gives it a nice strong backbone. It’s almost like a grainy lemonade. It’s got a lemon aroma and reminds me of lemonade without sugar in it.”
The beer has been very popular with customers. For some, the sour character of the beer is a bit much, but Andy Sparks, owner of The Home Brewery homebrew shop, provided some German woodruff and raspberry syrups that are traditionally used in Berliner Weisse.
“It’s very refreshing — a little more sour than I expected, but delicious,” Andy says as he sips a sour ale, tinted green by a bit of the woodruff.
In addition to the syrups, Ben has served the sour through a Randall filled with fresh raspberries.
At an alcohol by volume of only 3.7%, the beer is very sessionable. Patrons should be able to try a couple of variations — with and without syrup — and not feel impaired.
Ben is planning to do another sour next summer, experimenting a bit with the process. He may choose to sour in the boil kettle next time. This sour mash brew has given him a level of experience to build upon.
“We’ve had a very awesome response. Lots of support,” he says.
Northwest Arkansas has a growing sour beer fan base now, thanks to Ben.