Today I brewed a beer I never thought I would… a Lichtenhainer; a sessionable smokey and sour beer that is slowly creeping up and into the craft beer conciousness. With the likes of Westbrook in the US and Cloudwater in the UK having produced interpretations recently we’re likely to start seeing more appear as the popularity of sour beer grows.
I’m no expert on the origins of this style and for some background readingI wouldn’t hesitate to direct you to a piece on Ron Pattinson’s Blog complete with some historical sources.
Accurate or not I’m starting with a similar malt bill to a Berliner Weisse – roughly 60% Lager malt and 40% Wheat Malt – and substituting in smoked malt in place of the pale malted barley. My method is as simple as it can be and involves not boiling the beer and then pitching the yeast and bacteria together, leaving both alive in the finished beer.
I’ll quickly sketch out my recipe for the beer I brewed and I’ll go into a few forks in the road later in a second post – link to follow – as well as thinking about other twists on the style.
Smoke and Sour
A sessionable and relatively sour ale with an interesting interplay of clean lactic sourness and fruity smoke.
|Original Gravity||Final Gravity||Colour||Bitterness||Alcohol by Volume|
|1.037||1.006||4 SRM||0.0 IBU||4.0%|
Wheat Malt – 40%
Lager Malt – 30%
Briess Cherry Smoked Malt – 30%
Swansons L. Plantarum. Available online in the US and UK is my default due to it’s wide temperature range. It will not reproduce in wort above ~4 IBU. It will sour low/unhopped wort in two to four weeks down to a pH of approximately 3.2-3.4.
US-05 at 1.5x the standard pitching rate on the packet.
Mash in grain @ 66c / 151f for 60 minutes
Sparge to desired final volume
- We’re not boiling the wort, so make sure you take this into account.
Bring wort to 82c and hold for 15 minutes
- This is the pasteurisation step and should deal with the bacteria and wild yeast in the wort from the grain
Cool quickly to pitching temperature – probably around 18c / 64.5f and pitch US-05 and Lactobacillus Plantarum (or other similar strain of Lacto bacillus)
- Re-hydrate ~1 plantarum capsule per gallon/4L in luke warm water with the US-05 to ensure the capsules dissolve.
- Optional : Acidify wort to a pH of 4.2; this has the potential to improve head retention in the final product. You’ll need food grade acid and a pH meter
Leave to ferment until terminal gravity.
- ~1.006 and around two weeks.
Carbonate or prime to 2.5 vol Co2 in keg/for bottling.
Brew day went very smoothly and was extremely quick thank to not boiling the wort. I brewed 9L and split it into two demijohns.
In a second demijohn I added some Belgian Dark Candi Syrup to increase the abv slightly and play to the sweet fruity notes you can get from cherry smoked malt, but we’ll have to see how that turns out.
I’m also planning on adding some Pu’er to a portion of the beer. Pu’er is a fermented and aged tea from Yunnan. Remarkably earth and lacking in tannins or bitterness it could work nicely in a Lichtenhainer. More on this in another post..
I’ll update this post with feedback once I’ve got the beer out to some people.
27/4/17 – Both versions down to a pH of ~3.8. The plain version is tasting fantastic, but the second demijohn with the candi syrup doesn’t have quite the same balance. It’s both sweeter and drier. I’m thinking of dry hopping the straight version to limit any further pH drop, While letting the other demijohn sour further.
19/5/17 – First tasting of the 4% version. Clean, light and refreshing with a pleasant sweetness (despite the FG of 1.006) that mixes in nicely with a light smoke. Not at all phenolic or overpowering as I find a lot of oak smoked malts.
20/5/17 – This managed to come in second place on it’s table at the London & South East Brewing Competition today. Looking forward to the feedback, but very happy with this for a first attempt!