Yesterday we brewed our first 100% spontaneously fermented beer of 2017! We had the pleasure of being joined by Brandon Jones of Yazoo Brewing Co. / Embrace the Funk in Nashville, Tennessee. Brandon is a great brewer, even better person, and his work as a professional and amateur has inspired us over the years. Like us, Brandon has a passion for spontaneous fermentation. The randomness of the results based on the airborne microbes, and the connection of the beer to a time, place, and people, really appeals to both of us.
In advance of his trip, Brandon sent us Tennessee-grown oats, rose hips, and lemongrass. We combined the oats with Texas-grown Silver Star malted barley and raw Texas-grown wheat, both from Blacklands Malt in Leander, Texas. We did a turbid mash, long boil with aged hops, knocked out to our coolship, and let the wort chill overnight, become inoculated with airborne yeast and bacteria, and steep with the rose hips and lemongrass. This morning, we’re racking the wort to oak barrels for 100% spontaneous fermentation. How long the beer takes to be ready, if at all, is anyone’s guess. My guess would probably be 18 to 24 months.
Central Texas winter weather is highly variable. It could be an overnight low of 35F or 65F. Brandon happened to be visiting us during a warm stretch of weather, which came on the heels of some frigid weather (for us anyway). The overnight low temperature wasn’t sufficient to cool the wort, so we used our immersion chiller in the coolship. The immersion chiller runs cold water through copper pipes that come into contact with the wort. Despite overnight lows in the 60s, the wort this morning was nice and cool to the touch. How the microbial balance with warmer temperature effects the fermentation is something we’ll find out. We did a similar experiment with warmer overnight temperature and an immersion chiller last winter with Fonta Flora Brewery, and the results are tasting fantastic about a year later. So we have high hopes for this spontaneous fermentation despite less than ideal weather. We’ll see!
I did want to point out that while this beer will be 100% spontaneously fermented (no yeast or bacteria pitched), it does not follow the process of making SPON — Méthode Gueuze, which is closely linked to and inspired by authentic Belgian Gueuze. We made some key departures from Méthode Gueuze, including for instance our use of an immersion chiller, warmer than appropriate winter weather, and the addition of adjunct ingredients like rose hips and lemongrass. I’m actually glad we can put forth an example of a spontaneous fermentation that isn’t so closely tied to the Lambic/Gueuze tradition. I love the tradition immensely, and find it incredibly inspirational, but spontaneous fermentation is a broad category, and Méthode Gueuze is just a part of it. We enjoy the freedom to experiment with unique techniques, interesting ingredients, and great friends, all while still doing 100% spontaneous fermentation.
It was an honor having Brandon down here to Texas to brew with us! We’ll patiently wait and see how this 100% spontaneous fermentation turns out in the months and years ahead. Here are some pictures and a video from the last 24 hours brewing with Brandon!
Jester King Brewery