So much cleaning, so much sanitizing, so much stressing about whether I would ever be able to brew a clean beer again, and then the inevitable happens... another infected batch. I had stripped apart my conical, soaked it in PBW and hot water for over a day, and then left it in bleach for nearly a week. After brewing up 8 gallons of Blonde Ale to split between the conical and my Better Bottle (that had housed the infection as well) as a test to see if I had rid myself of it, I let them both ferment for a week. I pulled samples of both of them to taste, smell, and check the gravity. What I found from that conical was so much different than the Better Bottle. Dull, lifeless, dirty fruit, watery, and 3 points lower, diagnosis: INFECTED! With that, I resigned my efforts to salvage the fermenter, after all I had done, it was to no avail, and thus, a new fermenter for brewing up sours was born. And with all my renewed passions towards sours, it happened at just the right time. I was already planning on souring half the batch anyways, this just made it easier.
I pulled a gallon of the beer from the ball valve that went straight into a glass jug that had housed my Brett starter before it went into the leftover wort from this brew session, and had yet to be cleaned. Given a few months, the Brett should build up a nice pellicle and funk it up quite a bit. In the conical, I added a 1/4 cup of a starter I had built up from the dregs of Russian River's Consecration last summer, as well as a 1/4 cup of the Lambic I brewed last September using yeast I cultured from blackberries growing wild in my neighbor's backyard. I tossed in about 8 cubes of French Oak that were previously used by a winery in Lodi, CA to revive an old barrel as well. I also have a starter from RR Supplication that I won't be adding, at least not right now, because there is a lot of head space in that vessel right now and that culture has some definite acetobacter from when I used it in a bucket on another brew.
Just for the fun of it, I also made a 1L starter with 750ml water and 250ml Apple Juice, and 100g DME, that I cooled to 115*F, and pitched in 1/3 a serving Zoe Non-Fat Plain Greek Yogurt, which I inserted my temp control probe into and set it to 115*F wrapped in the heating blanket I received from a friend. 3 days later, the temp is constant at about 39*C (~100*F). When I poured a sample it fizzed like Alkaseltzer, which is good, that means carbonation, which means that something is going on. A sniff gives hints of yogurt, clean, nothing off in the aroma. A taste gives off sour apples, and a light yogurt twang. I effectively cultured Lacto from Greek Yogurt! After a few more days, I added 3/4 gallons of water mixed with 1.25# Clover Honey to bring it up to 4L, and give it a week or so at 100*F. Once this gallon of Lacto fermented Mead is ready to go, I will add it to the main Blonde Ale in the conical, along with another 1.25# of Clover Honey in a gallon of water, and let her ride for a good 6-8 months. Then I will add back in the gallon of Brett only portion, and hit it with 2-3# of fresh Apricots this Summer. This will bring the total volume of beer up to 6 gallons, with a new OG of 1.041 (1.037 prior to honey), and a FG of near 1.002 (or less) for a 5% ABV oak aged, wild Honey Blonde Ale.
Here's to innovation and infections!