Odd Breed Wild Ales
Our next cyber bottle release will be Monday, November 5. We are releasing 3 beers: Past & Future, our flagship Saison; Gold Shoes, our farmhouse ale conditioned with organic spent peaches; Dry Hopped Artistic Bugs, our hoppy and sour golden strong ale.
Saison is my favorite type of beer to make, so it took me a lot of time to finalize the recipe for our flagship Saison. When I create a new recipe, it either takes me about 5 minutes or it takes me a few days. Sometimes the most complex recipes with the most ingredients will be easy for me to conceptualize and I’ll be satisfied with how it’s written on paper, while the simpler, lower alcohol beers will be the ones I obsess over for days. I obsessed over the recipe for Past & Future for months. In ten years of brewing professionally I haven’t thought about any other recipe nearly as much as Past & Future.
I’ve enjoyed drinking and brewing Saison for a long time. When I first started brewing Saison, I preferred to make Saisons that were relatively bitter, and exceedingly dry. I would use a yeast strain that supposedly originated from Brasserie Dupont in Belgium, and I would ferment at very warm temperatures (85-95 degrees) and bottle condition to create very high carbonation. Often times I added one or two Brettanomyces strains during fermentation or right at bottling, and I would also mash at low temperatures, which would help produce a beer with zero residual sugar. I like this approach to producing Saison, but it’s no longer my preferred approach.
I still make my Saisons with a relatively large quantity of hops (over one pound per BBL) but I prefer my Saisons to be more sour than bitter. According to Yvan de Baets, the famed Belgian beer historian and owner/brewmaster at Brasserie de la Senne, traditional Saison was either sour or very bitter. American breweries like Jolly Pumpkin and Anchorage make their beers with more bitterness than acidity, and I really enjoy their beers. I have considered making some Saisons that are more bitter than sour like the ones I used to make, but for our flagship Saison I wanted a mix of bitterness and acidity like that found in Past & Future.
While Past & Future is dry, it’s not bone-dry. I want this beer to have some residual sugar to balance the acidity and bitterness. Most American wild beers with a similar level of acidity are not nearly as hoppy or bitter as Past & Future. Our pediococcus bacteria in our mixed culture is very hop tolerant, and can produce a surprising amount of acidity in a beer that would be described as bitter if it were fermented with laboratory grown microbes.
We brew this beer with Weyermann Bohemian Floor Malted Pilsner along with three other types of grain that were often used at Belgian farmhouse breweries: raw wheat, rye, and oats. We add aged hops at the beginning of the boil and fresh Czech Saaz at the end of the boil for aroma. Funky, citrusy, nuanced, and complex are adjectives that could be used to describe this tart, mixed culture Saison.
Most of the time we use fruit in a beer, it’s worth using again. The first time we use fruit we get intense aromatics and lots of flavor, especially when we are using a lot of fruit. When we made Fresh Off the Farm with Peaches, we didn’t want to just throw out the used peaches.
Immediately after I finished transferring Fresh Off the Farm into the bottling tank, I transferred a farmhouse ale onto the spent peaches. After two months of conditioning on the spent peaches, our farmhouse ale picks up subtle stone fruit aromatics and flavors of peach. Rather than having peach notes that jump in front of the flavor of our mixed culture, this beer has fruit flavors that are integrated and balanced with the yeast.
This beer was fermented first with a Belgian yeast strain rather than our mixed culture, and as such, it does not have as much acidity as some of our other beers. Our mixed culture was added at the beginning of barrel aging, and provides soft acidity with a mellow Brettanomyces character.
Over the years I have done a lot of experimentation with wild, hoppy beers. I’ve made beers that are bitter, hoppy, and funky, as well as beers that are sour, hoppy, and funky. Because hops are typically used to contribute bitterness, the notion of making a sour beer with a lot of hops seems almost like an incompatible concept. The alpha acids in hops become isomerized when used in the brew kettle, contributing bitterness while inhibiting the metabolism of lactic acid bacteria.
Some brewers make hoppy sour beers using a process known as kettle souring, in which the un-hopped wort is first fermented with lactobacillus to produce acidity before boiling to kill the bacteria. During the boil, the beer is hopped aggressively like an IPA. This is a reliable method for producing a sour hoppy beer, but because there is no living bacteria (and these beers typically aren’t fermented with wild cultures) they lack complexity. With these beers I often feel that the bitterness is too high and clashes with the acidity. When a beer has both acidity and bitterness, the beer often seems more bitter than the number of IBUs would suggest.
I’ve experimented with blending beers that are hoppy, lightly bitter, and Brettanomyces forward with beers that are very sour, and I’ve also experimented with adding lots of late addition hops in the brew kettle and doing multiple dry-hop additions. Some methods have worked well and some haven’t, and sometimes one method works well for delivering hop aroma but not flavor. I’ve found that some methods work well for low alcohol beers but not stronger beers.
To create our version of a wild and sour Double IPA, we start with a base of Bohemian floor malted Pilsner, with lesser amounts of malted wheat, raw wheat, and flaked oats. We use only Motueka hops from New Zealand in the boil for soft notes of lemon and lime, and we bitter to about 20 IBU. We add enough hops in the boil to provide a little flavor and aroma, but not so much that the bacteria will be unable to make the beer sour. After nearly a year of barrel aging the hop aroma and flavor have faded and mingled with the yeast character to the point where hop flavor and yeast flavor are indistinguishable. The beer has firm acidity and while the beer is not hoppy, the flavors present are reminiscent of our favorite hop varietals that are famed for their flavors of citrus and tropical fruit.
To make this beer hoppy we dry-hopped it with a massive amount of whole leaf hops at a rate much higher than what is typically used for Double IPAs. We can dry hop Artistic Bugs at a very high rate and still get clean, bright hop notes without excessively grassy, resinous, or vegetal qualities simply because Artistic Bugs has a high alcohol content. Alcohol acts as a solvent, absorbing more of the essential oils in hops than would be possible with a lower alcohol beer.
For this beer we chose hop varietals that accentuate the flavors of tropical fruit and citrus displayed by our yeast and bacteria. Mosaic, Azacca, and Citra lend notes of mango, orange, pineapple, and lychee.
We are happy to say that Odd Breed will soon be available on draft at select locations throughout Florida. Progressive Distribution will be getting kegs of Past & Future and Gold Shoes. Moving forward, Progressive will be getting limited amounts of nearly all our beers in 20L kegs. Just like all the kegs in our taproom, our beers in distribution will all be naturally keg conditioned rather than force carbonated. Our beers on draft in the taproom are carbonated between 3 and 3.5 volumes of CO2. This high level of carbonation creates issues with a typical draft setup, causing the beer to foam excessively. At Odd Breed we have European faucets that are designed to pour beers with higher carbonation, and we also have individual CO2 regulators for each draft line, allowing us to dispense the beer properly. Because most bars don’t have draft equipment designed for highly carbonated beers, our draft beers in distribution intentionally have less carbonation than those found in our taproom or in bottles.
By Matt Manthe
October 23, 2018