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Zester's Elbow

Written by Rob Hern


Posted on January 22 2019

ZestingAs some of you are aware, we brewed Pulp again with Barncat Artisan Ales in early January. I won’t get too deep into the pain of zesting, so let’s just say that it was more than enough… particularly since we’re releasing two versions of Pulp this time around. The original recipe, first brewed at Barncat in 2017, and an SFBC tweak. Both beers were brewed the exact same way with the exact same ingredients + ratios. Barncat was kind enough to let me use their house yeast to ferment with, so even the sacch strain is consistent. As most homebrewers know, though, just because you have the same recipe does not mean that you will make the exact same beer as your brewing partner on the other side of town… there’s also the fact that I added Lacto. 

Short Finger has started to make a name for itself based on our mixed fermentation/sour beers (which is good, since this was the plan). Getting the pH to drop at SFBC is usually a pretty easy task, but in the case of Pulp it has been a real fight. I am starting to use a new blend of lacto from Escarpment that kicks a really nice, fruity characteristic alongside the sour, but the fresh pitch that arrived on brew day was not up to this particular job. If you have tried to sour a beer before, you may know that lacto is actually a particular beast: too much IBU and it won’t go. Wrong temp and it will fall asleep or die (like most yeast and bacteria). In this case, the amount of zest appears to have inhibited this new strain of lacto from dropping... at least that’s our best guess at this point. Not having a lab does limit the amount of hard data I can pull from the brewery itself. I was surprised, though, because I have used lacto with citrus juice and zest in the past. In Boat Couch, our collab with GLB, we actually whirlpooled a blend of Deli Cinq citrus. The difference, in this case, is both a new lacto strain and a significantly larger quantity of zest.

There are, of course, other things that could have affected the lacto but, at this point, zest seems to be the most logical. In the past, I may have blamed temperature control, but this year I’m working with a new [rudimentary but effective] solution. In the winter, our main problem is holding high temps for lacto and mixed fermentation, which I like to be 28-30C. Our tanks are dimple jacketed, which is super helpful for cooling/crashing but also for maintaining heat. With that in mind, I set up a sous vide machine in a bucket with a sump pump. The sous vide allows me to control the temp of the water/glycol mix in the bucket, which then is pumped around the fermenter holding the temperature in the sweet spot. When it is -15 outside, our building is not very warm so this trick allows us to keep brewing the kind of beer that we want to drink. Jeff Broeders from Indie Ale House passed along the sous vide idea, which I think he picked up from Beyond the Pale in Ottawa.

As for Pulp, I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. It has rocked through fermentation and will be ready to go at the end of the month. We will be launching Pulp at Willibald on Thursday, January 31st. There’ll be a bus leaving SFBC at 7:00pm, returning at 10:00pm. If you are interested in catching a ride, you can snag a ticket through the Willibald website. Pulp(s) will be tapped at 7:30pm sharp.





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