Pretty In Pink

Looking Pink

Here's a beer a long time in the making. I brewed the base beer for this a year and a half ago as part of a split batch with a Belgian wit. While the wit was fermented with a yeast harvested from some La Trappe Witte, the half which became this was fermented with a wild culture. The grain bill is very pale, with a mix of pale ale malt, wheat malt and unmalted wheat and spelt flakes. Hopping was minimal, only 16 IBU from some Saaz.

I cultured the yeast and bacteria from a handful of uncrushed malt in a starter culture first, then pitched this after confirming that no obvious off-flavours were present. Starter cultures are my preferred method for doing spontaneous fermentations as they allow more control over the conditions and mean that if things go horribly wrong you'll only lose a couple of litres of starter rather than a full batch of beer.

Brewing spontaneously fermented sours is an enterprise that requires a fair bit of patience. Wild yeasts and bacteria are often slow to do their thing and over time the conditions in the beer will favour different species and strains. Most of the time the best thing to do it to stick the fermenter in some corner of the cellar and forget about it for a while. Thus this beer sat largely ignored for a bit over a year before I started thinking about what to do with it.

The beer that emerged was fairly sour, and quite funky, but somehow unremarkable. Because of this I decided to try to liven it up with a bit of fruit. I added 500g of frozen raspberries, defrosted first of course. I then promptly forgot about the beer again for another 5 months while I pursued other, more short-term, brewing projects.

Finally, in January this year, I decided it was about time to bottle.


The raspberries have given the beer a fantastic, pink colour while during the long conditioning with bacteria has left it crystal clear. Theres a decent bit of carbonation and it pours with a bright white head. As is often the case with sour beers thoough, the head fades very fast.

Taste & Smell

There's something almost wine-like about this, it reminds me of a Sauvingon Blanc, or perhaps a dry sparkling wine. The flavour is pretty sour, probably through a combination of lactic acid bacteria and malic acid from the fruit. A Brett funk of earthy farmyard provides the base layer to the nose, but the raspberry comes through strongly too. The flavour starts full of raspberries, but this is a bone-dry beer without much sweetness at all. The finish is a bit disappointing, the flavour seems to fade somehow and the lack of body means it doesn't really linger on the palate.

Final Words

This beer is still a bit unexciting in all honesty, it certainly doesn't live up to its stunning looks. Although the raspberries did a lot to liven it up, in the end I'd have preferred it with a more interesting finish. Partly it's probably due to the vagaries of spontaneous fermentation, partly probably due to the grain bill. Perhaps the best solution for the beer would have been to wait to blend it with something else to get the best out of it, but unfortunately I don't have quite enough fermenters to wait for ever for the right candidate to come along.

Vital Details

Batch size: 10l
Expected OG: 1.049
Expected FG: 1.010
Expected ABV: 5.1%
Colour (SRM): 4.3
IBU: 16

55.6% (1.25 kg) Pale Ale Malt
22.2% (0.50 kg) Wheat Malt
11.1% (0.25 kg) Flaked Wheat
11.1% (0.25 kg) Flaked Spelt

Saaz (30g / 16 IBU) @ 20 min

Wild yeast cultured from malt