Wild Darkness – Belgian Dark Strong Sour Ale
Wild Darkness has a lot going into it. It is phenolic, fruity, spicy, wild, and tart. It has a smooth alcohol presence but enough kick to make you see double if you're not careful.
This derivative of the BJCP recognized Belgian Dark Strong ale style utilizes Brettanomyces and Pediococcus to give an extra layer of complexity to an already phenomenal beer style, and it is best served aged.
Original Gravity: 1.107 SG (25.03 °P)
Bitterness: 25.1 IBU (Tinseth)
Color: 60.6 SRM
Bitterness Ratio: 0.235 IBU/SG
Estimated Final Gravity: 1.024 SG (6.07 °P)
Estimated ABV: 11.0%
- Rice Hulls (Briess) - 2.3%
- 2-Row Pilsen Malt (Briess) - 64.9%
- Chocolate Malt (Briess) - 8.5%
- Carafa Special III (Weyermann) - 5.8%
- Dark Crystal Malt (Simpsons) - 5.8%
- Flaked Oats (Briess) - 5.2%
- White Wheat Malt (Briess) - 5.2%
According to the BJCP 2015 guidelines the Belgian Dark Strong style (26D), calls for a light-medium to medium-full body. Wild Darkness aims for the lighter end of that range so, to achieve this, shoot for a mash temperature of 151ºF, or approximately 66.1ºC.
Because of the addition of candi syrup to the start of boil the estimated pre-boil gravity is 1.078 SG (18.74ºP).
- D-90 Candi Syrup - 60 minutes
- Apollo Hops (22.3 IBU) - 60 minutes
- Yeast Nutrient and Clarifying Agent - 10 minutes
- Czech Saaz (2.8 IBU) - whirlpool
60 minute boil. Beyond that no special instructions.
Microbe Selection & Starter
Wild Darkness has a two step fermentation, and derives most of it's unique flavor from the complex interplay of metabolism between the organisms used. These include WLP545, a classic spice and phenol heavy high gravity Belgian ale yeast strain from the Ardennes region, the distinctive contributions of Brettanomyces bruxellensis, and the slight acidity and dextrin conversion of Pediococcus damnosus.
Primary Fermentation Starter
- WLP545: (1.88 x 10^8 cells) x Specific Gravity per ml (7.50 x 10^5 cells/ml per degree Plato)
- Example: 1.044 SG = 1.96 x 10^8 cells per ml
Secondary Fermentation Starters
- Brettanomyces bruxellensis: (3.13 x 10^8 cells) x Specific Gravity per ml (1.25 x 10^6 cell/ml per degree Plato)
- Example: 1.044 SG = 3.26 x 10^8 cells per ml
- Pediococcus damnosus: 5.00 x 10^5 cells per ml
In an ideal world you would propagate each organism separately and combine them before pitching at the desired count ratio, but this is probably beyond all but the most technical brewers. If you read those lists and found your eyes crossing don't worry, consistency in your process is more important than meeting ideal conditions.
Primary Fermentation (74ºF)
Wild Darkness utilizes a 75% primary fermentation, meaning the cutoff gravity for this 1.107 OG beer is right around the 1.044 SG (11.0ºP) mark. Once the beer reaches this point transfer the beer off of the yeast cake and pitch your secondary starter. This can either be a standard carboy, carboy with sanitized oak cubes added, or a full oak cask. I use a standard carboy with pre-boiled medium toast American oak cubes.
Secondary Fermentation (82ºF)
Both Brett and Pedio live quite comfortable at warmer temperatures than ale yeast, so raise the temperature up to the low 80's Fahrenheit. Let the beer sit in secondary for a minimum of three to six months, and don't be afraid to leave it for a year or two. After the majority of fermentation is complete allow the beer to drop back down to room temperature for aging.
Wild Darkness is served well by extended aging, and prolonged contact with the beer will allow Brett time to chew up any exopolysaccharide ropiness or diacetyl produced by the Pedio, as well as consume and convert any compounds released by the lysing of the Belgian yeast. This aging duration will also, unless your system is perfectly anaerobic, slightly oxidize the higher alcohols present and provide a smoother alcohol profile at packaging.
Don't expect much hop presence in this beer, because like most sour ales by the time it's ready for packaging and consumption the hop compounds will have degraded to a faint background note.