a duck on my calendar

Imagine if there was a sort of chart with all the days of the year listed in order. Now imagine that you could plan future events and then note these events on this list of days.  Sounds great doesn’t it? Well, much to my surprise this magical list already exists and there is even one hanging on the wall in my kitchen! All, joking aside, I am trying to get over my fear/lack of planning. Last year I had a serious problem of having to ditch brewing and barbecuing days because they weren’t planned far enough ahead for life to comply. It seems to be going better now. In fact I just had a  brewday this past Sunday, and there is a serious pork smoking session planned in a couple weeks, and the next brewday is planned in March.

Enter the Ugly Duckling:

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, but smells a bit funky, then it must be the Ugly Duckling American Sour. Sunday’s brewday was another venture into sour beers. A funky and tart sessionable beer with citrus hop notes. Well, that is the idea anyways.

There are several ways to get lactic tartness in your brew (Lactobacilus, pediococcus, sour mash, pure lactic acid) but I decided to try something simple I had heard about from a few pro-brewers, a relatively high percentage of Acidulated Malt (or Acid Malt). This malt is a Reinheitsgebot way of controlling your mash pH but using higher ammounts will also give you some lactic flavor (see this link for some more info.. scroll down to “Berliner Weisse from Weyermann Acidulated Malt”). It won’t be as complex a lactic character as some other methods, but for what I want in this beer it should be good. Especially when considering this will be a 100% brett fermented beer. Oh, and brett favors a lowered pH to do its thing, so win win.

Ugly Duckling American Sour:

  • Wort volume after boil : 20 liters
  • OG: 1.048
  • Expected FG: 1.010 – 1.012?
  • Expected ABV: 4.8% – 5%
  • Expected IBU: the math says 36 but with mash hopping my experience says it will seem lower
  • Expected color: 11 EBC (4.6 SRM)
  • mash efficiency: 76%
  • Boil duration: 60 minutes


  • 56.5% Pale – 2.2kg (4.85 lb.)
  • 30.5% Munich – 1.2kg (2.65 lb.)
  • 9% Acid malt – 350g (.77 lb.)
  • 4% flaked oats – 160g (.35 lb.)


  • 35g (1.2 oz) Amarillo – mash hop

No kettle additions. After aging for a while I will dry hop this with more Amarillo.


  • single infusion mash at 67C (153F) for 60 minutes


Ugly Duckling was also a bit of a process re-working for me. Over the years I have tried playing with my process  to raise efficiency, cut time, or just look cool. In the end I wasn’t happy with the stuck or slow sparges, the running around and the extra worry. This time I re-evaluated my technique. I even turned back the adjustment on my grain mill a bit. In return I had a great brew day! It was very easy and relaxed and I was even able to pull off a brew in less time than before. My efficiency was slightly lower (76% instead of 80%), but I was expecting that.


February 13th 2011 – brewed: Brew day went very well. It was perhaps my most relaxed brew day to date.

March 15th 2011 – racked this over to secondary so it can age a while before dry-hopping. It was sitting at 1.010 SG. I’m finding these all brett beers are best after about 5 months or so.

July 17th 2011 – dry hopped this beer with 30g Amarillo whole leaf hops. The aroma before dry hopping was quite funky. Good barn-yardy notes!

July 29th 2011 – The duck is in the bottle! FG went a bit lower than expected 1.006! Bottled 17 liters (damn dry hops soaked up my beer) primed to get me 2.7 vol CO2 carbonation. Beer is tasting quite nice. Big orange notes. A good lactic  sourness with big fruity brett and amarillo all combining to a sort of orange and lemon juice combo.

11 thoughts on “a duck on my calendar

  1. Good to see a homebrew post again. You always have an interesting batch going. I have heard of good results about acid malt, Ithaca Brewing uses it on their Brut that just won Gold, more details are on a BN podcast. I’m curious to hear your results.
    Also why did you choose WY Brett Brux?


    1. Thanks! The BN episode with Ithica was what finally “forced” me to try out the acid malt approach.

      The obvious choice for this beer would have been Brett Clausenii, and if I was brewing a competition beer thats what I would have gone with… but I went with the Brux for a few reasons:
      1: I have had a few amarillo dry-hopped lambics with a strong farm-yardy (goat scrotum is my favorite descriptor) character and it worked really well. I know that Brett Brux produces quite a bit of this so I hope that it will work out
      2: I didn’t want too strong of a citrus tropical fruit thing going on, just a hint
      3: I have yet to use Brett Brux by itself
      4: I already know that Brett C goes awesome with Amarillo so I wouldn’t be learning as much.


  2. Hopefully this turns out well for you, this mayy be an up and coming method for making sourish beers without all of the hassle of bringing scary bugs in to your brewery.

    A month ago I put a batch up that had 8 lbs of LME (apartment brewing, no all grain for me) and a full pound of German acidulated malt to test just the same theory… fermented like crazy and now sits merrily in secondary awaiting an empty keg.

    I am actually playing with hops (I was fortunate enough to get about 15 lbs of hop pellets that I am trying to use up as fast as humanly possible) and trying to find a standard recipe to vary the hop additions in. Since I primarily drink sour beers, this seemed like a good start.

    At any rate, looking forwards to the results.

    Oh, why the flaked malt, maybe that is something that I should be using!


    1. What I like about this approach, assuming it works, is that it seems very repeatable. You should be able to dial in the right ammount of sourness in your recipe formulation and be able to get consistent results time after time. When using bugs or sour mashing there seem to be more variables… but also they seem to offer more complexity. One of my next two brews is going to use a seperate pure lactobacillus fermentation that will get blended back into the main beer. Then I can see the difference in lactic acid profiles. Should be interesting.

      Definitely let me know how your batch turns out.

      In lower ABV beers I often like to throw in some flaked oats or flaked barley in order to boost the body/mouthfeel a bit. I have never done that in a Brett fermented beer though. I just want to see how they play together. For extract brewers it is a bit difficult. Technically you have to mash the flaked oats to get any real use from them. So you could do a mini-mash on your stove top. In practice you can actually draw some goodness out of the oats by just steeping them. There are plenty of extract oatmeal stout kits that include flaked oats and lots of people have done it. Sounds like a good side by side experiment to me… does steeping flaked oats give you anything in extract brewing?

      Nothing wrong with extrct brewing! I’ve recently started doing some extract batches again. But you know, I did start all-grain when I was in an apartment. 10 liter batches with a small cooler as my mash tun. It can be done!


  3. This sounds like a great idea, I have wondered about this method for the longest time. I think it would add sourness, but not require such a long aging period to get the sourness. I would love to try this in my summer saison, or a nice low abv sour.

    I hope the brett brux works for you, keep us posted. I made my second batch of 100% brett beer recently. Last time it was 100% brett c. and 100% amarillo. This year’s batch was 100% brett c. and 100% nelson sauvin. I love the citrus, fruitiness that brett c. gives.

    Ithaca is making a new beer called Dark Humor that will be 100% brett dark beer. I think a 100% brett brux dark would be nice.


    1. From what I’ve read it should be a great way to get some simple lactic acid but it won’t be complex enough to really stand on it’s own. Sounds like it needs something else to play off of, like Brett or fruit maybe.

      Your Brett C beers sound great. Brett C matches so well with both those hops! The thing I’ve noticed about Brett is that it seems to keep hop flavor and aroma fresh, even after 8 months in the bottle.

      I am a little worried that Brett Brux wasn’t the best choice but I wanted to see what would happen. In general I have heard that it works great in darker beers. One of my next brews is going to be a lacto and Brett stout. I may pitch on the yeast cake from this beer… But I do have a starter of Brett L going so we’ll see.


  4. Have you tasted this one yet? I’m going to make a Brett Only beer with all the American “C” hops soon. I’m trying to narrow down what Brett strain to use.


    1. i had a quick taste when I racked it over a couple weeks ago. I didn’t take any notes but I can say that it definitely was going in the barn-yardy direction. It was still a bit mellow though. If your doing a bunch of “c” hops I would say that from the bretts I’ve used so far (this one not included since its too young to tell), or tasted from others, I would say Brett C would be a good bet. But sometimes it is too clean. Maybe a two brett blend would be good.


      1. A Brett blend now there is an idea. I think I may do my main batch with Brett C then try a bit with the Drie Fonteinen Brett Strains I have from Avery 15. I have been loving those strains, and they make some wonderful tropical flavors. Then I can blend it if want.


      2. Nice. I also have the two bretts from A15 but haven’t used them yet. I am planning on doing a split batch of EKG hopped saison with them… But if they are as fruity as you mentioned then perhaps I’ll have to go for some more fruity hops.


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