Anyone can do this - but it takes a while to be ready for drinking!
While some sour beer brewers go to extreme lengths to mimic traditional methods or perfect their sour creations, it is possible to brew a very nice sour beer with just a bucket, some patience and ordinary homebrewing ingredients and techniques. With that in mind, here’s my recipe for a “simple sour” — a straight lambic-esque beer that tastes great on it’s own, or can be used as a base for a fruit lambic or as a blender with other sours beers.
This is a sour beer that can be made simply, but still turn out great. Wort production for this beer is very simple. The quality of the beer comes from the fermentation and ageing.
INGREDIENTS (for 5 gallons)
The malt extract will already have minerals dissolved in it, so very soft water (even distilled or RO water) will work well. In reality, almost any tap water that tastes good will work. If you have water that is very high in carbonates > 150 ppm, dilute it with some distilled or RO water to lower the carbonate level to around 100 ppm. You should either carbon filter the water or treat it with one Campden tablet the night before to eliminate chloramines.
Malt Extract (for an OG of 1.047 and an SRM around 3 or 4)
5.25 lbs. dried wheat malt extract (*1)
(*1 — if you’re an all-grain brewer, make a wort from 65% pale malt and 35% wheat malt, with a starting gravity around 12 ° Plato/SG 1.048)
Hops (for 10 IBUs total)
Saaz hops (10 IBUs) (*2) 0.75 oz. (at 3.5% alpha acids) boiled for 60 minutes
(*2 — if you happen to have some aged hops that do not smell cheesy, throw in a couple ounces instead of the Saaz)
Fermenting Microorganisms Wyeast 3278 (Belgian Lambic Blend) or White Labs WLP655 (Belgian Sour Mix 1). You do not need to make a yeast starter
Yeast Nutrients 1/4 tsp. yeast nutrients (boiled for 15 minutes)
- Make your wort as you normally would. (And just because this is a sour beer, don’t skimp on cleaning or sanitation — you’ll be adding the “bugs” you want.)
- Cool your wort to 68–72 °F and transfer it to a plastic bucket fermenter. (A carboy will work, but a bucket is a bit better because it lets in a tiny amount of oxygen.)
- Aerate the wort, but don’t go nuts. If you can use air instead of oxygen, do that. Pitch the blend of yeast and bacteria.
- Put a strip of masking tape on the fermenter and write the name of the beer and the date you brewed it.
- For the first week, hold the fermentation within the typical temperature range for ales (68–72 °F). During this time, the brewers yeast in the sour mix will ferment the wort.
- Next, place the bucket somewhere at room temperature or above. Your best choice is to put it somewhere in your house that heats up a bit in the summer (up to 85 °F). In fact, exposing the beer to some heat (75–80 °F) in the first month or two after the primary fermentation is done will help the souring organisms. (Think about putting the bucket in a garage or near an outside wall in a room that the air-conditioner doesn’t cool well.)
- Now, leave it for one to three years. Yes, you read that right. The bacteria that sour the beer work slowly. Give them at least a year to do their thing before you either bottle the beer or add fruit.