Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Flanders Red - ECY Flemish Blend

There are few beers I've brewed repeatedly on a regular basis. One of the joys of homebrewing is the freedom of not being locked into producing the same few styles, as consistently as possible, over and over like a commercial brewery often does. That said, there are a few styles I've taken to re-brewing because I like them, and in some cases I find them very open to variations. Saison is a prime example. It is a very open ended style to begin with, and it's got examples all over the map with variants based on season, locally available ingredients, and pure creative brewing artistry.

On the other end of the spectrum, I find Flanders Reds to be something where I really appreciate a small percentage of the limited commercial examples out there. Rodenbach Grand Cru, Rodenbach's Vintage releases, and La Folie are my definite favorites and there are certain distinct similarities I find in them. They are 3 of the most sour, acidic beers I've tried, the fruity flavors of each fall into similar realms, and the oak aging brings out similar flavors and tannic mouthfeel.

In an attempt to get an eventual good Flanders sour ale brewed at home, I've done 3 batches in the past, all using various slurries of East Coast Yeast's Bugfarm releases. While meant for lambic fermentation, as well as general intense souring, they were my best option available since I find Roselare to be very lacking in the sour department until it is several generations old.

Recently, Al of ECY also released a Flemish blend. It contains a similar blend of yeast and bacteria, although not nearly as many and the balance of them is a bit different to hopefully get closer to a Flanders sour. I'm excited to try it! Since the vial of yeast/bugs sat around waiting patiently in the fridge for longer than I would have liked, I put half of the slurry through a stir-plated starter and saved half to pitch directly into the secondary. The logic behind this is that pediococcus, one of the players in this blend, is not a happy camper when introduced to large amounts of oxygen. I grew half on the stirplate to encourage the Saccharomyces strains in the blend to get healthy for a good initial fermentation. The pedio- is hardy enough to survive well enough in the vial, so I'll pitch the second half of the slurry later to encourage it to go to work once the fermented beer is transferred to a carboy to age and sour for a year or two.

Now that I've got 4 different batches of Flanders Red brewed, all with different yeast/bacteria blends, I'm looking forward to blending some into what I hope will be a passable, and quite acidic, batch of Flanders sour ale later this year! Here is the recipe I used, based on the information in Jeff Sparrows' Wild Brews. It is the same recipe, bug blend aside, that I've used in the past batches.

Flanders Red - #4

brewed on: 5/1/11
OG: 1.053
IBUs: 12 IBUs
mash temp: 150F
expected color: 13.1 SRM

5.5 lbs. Vienna malt
2.25 lbs. Flaked Corn
1 lb. German Carahell
1 lb. Belgian Caravienna
1 lb. Belgian Aromatic malt
6oz. Belgian Special B

Hops (all loose pellets):
0.6 oz Styrian Goldings @ 5.2% - 60 minutes

ECY Flemish Blend - 1/2 grown on stirplate & pitched into primary. 1/2 pitched directly from vial into secondary.


  1. Very nice post. I agree with you on the Rodenbach and La Folie being the best examples, and due to the limited variety available I decided to give it a go myself. I've only got one 5 gallon batch going right now but I used 1056 and Roselare. I want it to be nice and acidic so I plan on dumping the dregs of some jolly pumpkins in as it ages. It's only 5 months young right now so it's got some time. I was just thinking it's almost time for another batch. To get the bugfarm...do you still have to contact that guy on BB direct still?
    Just about to bottle my first funk beers..Saison Brett's. Picked up some champagne bottles just today! Can't wait to try this one out. Cheers!


  2. Hi Nick.

    I know others' opinions vary, but I haven't had good luck getting Roselare to sour until it's a few generations old. I'd definitely do the Jolly Pumpkin dregs. You might want to consider a pack of pedio in the secondary as well. One of the best sours I did was my standard saison recipe, but with Bam! dregs and pedio.

    AlB is selling Bugfarm and his other ECY products through Princeton Homebrew shop. The owner's name is Joe. The supply is prety limited still, so Joe will email when a new batch of blends is coming in and instructions for ordering. He isn't willing to mail things again until fall when the weather cools off though. I had good luck getting vials mailed all autumn and winter.

    I forget the phone number, but it turns up easy enough on Google. You might want to give Joe a call and get on his ECY email list sometime this summer so you know when they are available for mail order again. Cheers!

  3. Interesting. I think I'll get some Pedio and add it to my current Flanders batch. I was wondering about that! Thanks for the advice. Can't wait to get some Bugfarm yeast! Cheers!

  4. Let me know how it turns out. When I did the sour saison I mentioned, the pedio and dregs were added along with the sacch in the primary.