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Jun 08, 2022 View:

Buffalo Trace Demonstrates Another Way to Sour A Mash

Yesterday BT announced the imminent release of the first in a new line of expected up-market whiskeys coming out under the Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. brand. The press release for the product -- called Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon Whiskey -- claims that BT "has recreated his traditional sour mash and produced a limited edition, one-time offering."

Unfortunately, the press release didn't go on to tell me anything I wanted to know so, naturally, I started to bug Buffalo Trace to tell me more. Today I spent a few minutes with BT Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley and he answered all of my questions.

What they used is a souring method that doesn't involve spent mash, which has been mentioned here before. I've always equated sour mash with spent mash, so I found this very interesting and enlightening. It seems like something anybody interested in whiskey-making would find interesting so that's why I'm sharing it here.

If you want to know more go to my blog post about it here.


Reply:

If I understand your description correctly, this is an old brewing method. This is actually described in the Kunze Textbook on Brewing that was first published in the 90's, I believe. I haven't picked up that book for a while, so I may be mistaken.

Brewers used to mash for hours and hours in addition to boiling portions of the mash (a process called decoction mashing). They did this to help break down the starches and proteins in poorly modified malts. The boiling in decoction mashing will literally explode the cell walls in starch using both heat and the mechanical action of boiling. That's an expensive way to get to the starch, obviously, with energy prices these days. Few all-malt breweries use decoction mashing these days.

Mashing is simply a continuation of the malting process. Setting aside flavor considerations for a moment, both procedures seek to get starch converted into sugar. Of course, back in the day, it was very common to have a malthouse/floor maltings on site at the brewery itself. So the Brewmaster was in charge of both malting and brewing. Literally from grain to glass. The Siebel Institute until just recently had their Diploma program still arranged around this notion. 1/2 of the course was all about malting, and the other 1/2 was all about brewing. Those of us in the course back in the 90's were pretty confused as to why we were spending so much time studying malting. Bill Siebel explained the m.o. to us over lunch one day. I'm thankful for this old method of brewing education, that's for sure.

So the extra hours of mashing broke down the starches into sugars, and the modern methods of, say, single infusion at one temperature would never work, because the malt wasn't broken down enough for simple alpha and beta amylase (together with limit dextrinase) to do the job. Losses would've been tremendous w/o this procedure. We're talking the malt in the 1800's here. A lower pH was a secondary benefit to this longer mashing method.

Edit. to clarify: modern malt is much better prepared for mashing, so this prolonged mashing is no longer necessary.

Anyway, this is a great post, Cowdery, thank you. I'd expect that this bottling will be quite estery if they got the mash to drop in pH with nothing more than natural lactobacillus that lived on the grain.


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I do wish I could afford their marketing department the next time I'm waiting for a tank to drain on a Friday

'“Bottled in Bond” at 100 proof.' they like to barrel at 125 proof, maybe didn't hit their typical TG due to the infection?

I think the proper historical term is in this case is not sour but foxed.


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I do wish I could afford their marketing department the next time I'm waiting for a tank to drain on a Friday

'“Bottled in Bond” at 100 proof.' they like to barrel at 125 proof, maybe didn't hit their typical TG due to the infection?

I think the proper historical term is in this case is not sour but foxed.


Reply:

Foxed is a term from pre-germ theory brewing days and describes a spoiled wort or gyle (mash)

lactobacilli when pitched with the yeast will not have much of a negative effect on the fermentation and some people may like how it effects the end product.

A mash pre-infected with lactobacilli as would happen in this case has been shown to significantly reduce the ethanol yield.

In this study it reduced it by over 1/5th http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11348444

Sour mashing effects the flavors mostly due to the PH change and the resulting change in the yeasts fermentation but that in the most part can be accomplished by most acids.

It really depends on your product and your grain bill but most top fermenting yeasts will drop the PH of the mash quickly if pitched at a proper rate quick enough to prevent infection.

IMHO sour mash is all about marketing and a free source acid to reduce the PH of your wort.


Reply:

IMHO sour mash is all about marketing and a free source acid to reduce the PH of your wort.


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Respectfully, I disagree. The reason they sour mash, and the reason that they inoculate is right there in the "Aim" section of the paper in question. They're not doing it for some piddly .3 reduction in pH, and they're certainly not doing it to affect yeast performance, although that's a secondary benefit.


Reply:

Polite? Crap. Did I come across poorly again? This is why I hate forums. I type in a conversational manner, and somehow I wind up coming off as rude sometimes.

My apologies if I sounded snide.

Stranahan's is indeed a rare bird. It's underappreciated, if you ask me. And I know you aren't.

Cheers.


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Dr. Crow died in 1856. I can provide a photograph of his headstone if necessary.


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Thank you Mr Cowdery for catching my typo, you are correct.

DD, I just poured a bit of your of your gin I hope to taste your whiskey someday, but being in a control state I am just happy to get one of your products.


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Well, hopefully the Gin was enjoyable. Don't think we'll be shipping more spirits there any time soon. The mark up is brutal, my good man!

Have a great weekend, folks.....