Wanted to put out an update on what I have going right now. No beers fermenting. No beers in secondary. The 2 Saisons are carbing up right now, and should be ready in the next few days. I have 2 recipes written up for September, one super hopped pale ale, and one spontaneous fermentation (another blog post will be dedicated to that one soon).
At this point what I'm working on is starters/cultures. As stated in an earlier post 3 Beers, 1 Mash, I did a Berliner Weisse with the soured last runnings of a mash that made my Hefe and hoppy American Wheat, and then pitched WY 1007 German Ale, and a starter I had cultured from the dregs of Russian River Supplication into primary together. The beer is amazing, and I didn't make the same mistake with the yeast cake on that as I did with the starter of yeast I cultured for the Hefe (dumped it all). But I needed something to do with the yeast to save it. As I was brewing my Saisons 6 weeks ago, I drew off the last runnings from both mashes and boiled them with a small amount of hop pellets for about 45-60 minutes. I let them cool and then dumped it into a 3 gallon bucket. I added the entire slurry (full mason jar) to the 1.5 gallons of wort, and added about 30 used medium toast French Oak cubes I got from a buddy who goes to church with a Vintner in Lodi that had come from their barrells. The thought was to save the yeast by inoccluating the oak for future sours. I strapped the lid and air lock on and let it go.
5 weeks later as my son and I were hanging out in the brew house (garage) he was grabbing stuff that looked cool as any 16 month old does, and he pulled the airlock off the bucket. I took it and told him not to touch it like a dad should, but as I was replacing it, I gazed throught the hole and freaked out. What I saw was a giant blob of mold... or so I thought. After posting a How Do I Save It From The Mold forum on BeerAdvocate I was informed it was the pellicle (a layer of Brett that floats on top of the beer as they use the oxygen to reproduce, and also keeps oxygen out, as well as prevents mold and Acetobacteria). Having never seen one before (other than in the bottles of Berliner), I had no way to know. I also sent an email to The Mad Fermentationist who confirmed the same. After chatting it up with him over quite a few emails I decided to rack the beer into glass jars to continue as opposed to leaving them in a bucket that is permeable to oxygen and has about 1.5 gallons worth of head space. When I opened the bucket it smelled very sour, like a strong aroma from Rodenbach condensed. Almost vinegary, but not quite. I racked the beer into a 1 gallon jug and a 1/2 gallon jug, siphoned up a lot of slurry, forced as many oak cubes in as I could fit, and then added a little sugar to it to kick start a little fermentation to fill the head space with CO2. After 5 days, the beer has cleared, and a pellicle is forming on top again (see the big pic at the top of this post).
I also have a starter from a bottle of Orval I have built up that I used some of in bottling one of my Saisons. It should give me some nice Brett character here in the coming months, and taste great next summer. I also enjoyed a RR Consecration a few weeks ago and have built up a starter of the dregs from that as well. It has a very soft powdery coating on top with a layer of slime underneath, and some white, slimy looking flat things floating here and there... sounds like it is working, this is what pedio is supposed to do... right!?! My hope is to get them built up for future sours/wilds, including an all Brett beer fermented with only wild yeast.
I will continue to post updates from time to time as things progress, and new experiments pop up.