Sour beer success – Sour Cherry Sour

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts: Down the rabbit hole of sour beer , I have begun experimenting with sour beers and alternate fermentation methods. The first was the Backyard Berry Sour (Pink Beer) which will now be a staple of the beer selections. It is a kettle soured beer with lots of fruit added in secondary.   We have made 3 batches so far. It is delicious, but I still need to work on perfecting the filtering technique as the raspberries crumble and plug up the kegs and beer lines.

The second was a mixed fermentation with BE-134 and “All the Bretts”. This was based on the NB Dead Ringer with added Acidulated malt, flaked oats (for body)  and more DME and the bret yeast. It was a moderate success.  Very drinkable and  smooth but had too of a much “hoppy edge” in combination with the sourness of the Brett yeast. It was a “Good – but I’ll only have one” sort of beer.

The third was trying some brett yeast as a 3rd fermentation on a batch of chocolate milk stout that was too sweet for my liking (stuck fermentation?) . To make room for new beers the remains of hte chcoloate milk stout was placed in 3l jugs with 100ml of brett starter and left to sit in a dark corner for 3 months.  Interesting, sort of like a very dark chocolate in bitterness but not quite what I hoped for.

While doing yet more reading, I was intrigued with the idea of something closer to Russian River’s Supplication.  Plus, NB had a great special on Scottish Wee Heavy kits which would become the basis of the brew.

Being that this would be a high gravity brew I needed to make a starter.  I used Lallemand Nottingham yeast in 1.5l of water and 3/4 c DME on a stir plate for 24 hrs at about 63F. Omega “All the Bretts” OYL-218 was already bulging in the package, so I figured it was going fine as -is (warm shipping temps in October and no ice in the shipment).


Steeping grains

8 oz Acidulated malt

8 oz Flaked oats

8 oz Carapils crystal malt

6 oz biscuit malt

2 oz  Roasted Barley

Place the above ingredients in a couple of bags and steep for 30 min at 150F. Raise temp at the end to 170F and drain well (don’t be afraid to squeeze).

Now add

6 lb  Gold Malt extract (4.0 SRM)

1 oz Northern Brewer hop pellets

Boil for 60 min

15 min before the end, add

6 lbs Gold Malt extract

1 oz Willamette hop pellets

Chill quickly and add water to get 5 gal at about 63-65F. With my well water at about 50F, I need to have the wort down to about 75F before diluting.

To the chilled wort, add the starters. OG was approx 1.090.  Use a blow off tube, in case the fermentation is a bit rambunctious.  My basement ambient temp at this time, was 63-65F and the fermenter was placed directly on the concrete floor. Monitor the temperature and add heat as needed to hold temp.

Add 3/4 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient at day 3 (68F).   Do not let the temp  go down after it has risen.  I  started raising the temp 1F per day soon after so that at day 14 it was at 78F.

Transfer to secondary

With the beer in the secondary fermenter, the next ingredients were added:

21 oz dried Sweetened Montmorency Cherries

12 oz Zante Currants (small raisins)

The labels on both of the fruits indicated that there were no added oils (which would adversely impact head retention -but I am not so sure there were not).  The fruit had been heated to 160F for 30 min in a bit of water (enough to cover).  This was to get rid of any competing bacteria or yeast. However, the temp was low enough not to add a “cooked” flavor to the fruit.

Start ramping the temp 1F per day to 85F and hold there.

On the second or 3rd day, the fruit will float to the top as the fermentation restarts. Now it is a waiting game. Shake the fermenter vigorously every day to wet out the surface of the fruit. If the top layer of the fruit starts to dry out, you risk mold growth (likely bad)  .

At 4 weeks add 4 oz used toasted oak cubes. I had saved these from a previous batch of beer. I am not fond of the burnt character of the fresh oak cubes.  I rinsed the cubes briefly in Star San to avoid contamination rather than soaking in Bourbon or Rum. I wanted just the light oak character to come through

After 6-8 weeks the fruit will sink to the bottom. This is your indication that the secondary fermentation is complete.   Throughout the secondary fermentation the SG never really moved as measured with a hydrometer (I needed taste samples anyway). The floating fruit threw the Tilt Hydrometer way off. It ended up at 1.016

At the time of writing it is still only partially force carbonated and head is basically non-existent (dried fruit processing oils?).

Dates / times

Start – 11/3/19

Transfer to secondary  11/17/19

Keg 1/25/20

This seems to be a success. I need a few others to taste it. I am getting ready to do another batch, maybe shifting more towards the currants  or trying frozen cherries instead of dried. It almost begs for a hint of cinnamon as well. I will try some experiments in the meantime before committing to a whole batch.


Clamp racks

Completed F clamp racks

Clamp racks are an easy project with the CNC router. They are a good way to use up the ever increasing pile of plywood scraps.

Old F clamp rack

I had an old and very simple rack for F clamps above the bench by the radial arm saws. However, it is not very convenient requiring a long reach to pull the clamps and some of the import clamps do not fit over the bar very well.


Pile of pipe clamps

Another problem is that the pipe clamps are just piled in a corner by the patio door. THey were hard to get to and I was afraid of cracking the glass.

So, with some downtime from larger projects required due to recent Cubital Tunnel release surgery and a pile of plywood scraps left over from Olivia’s bed, I decided to make new clamp racks. The idea was triggered by the new Lee Valley catalog which has single row racks for sale.

The design goals were to:

  • Allow for hanging from the walls or overhead floor joists maximizing flexibility of location.
  • Provide space for multiple (4-6) clamps per row for either F clamps or pipe clamps
  • Use up the existing plywood scraps without creating more.

This meant that the dimensions had to be flexible to adapt to the scraps on hand  without cutting into a new sheet and the “back boards” needed to be a bit tall to allow for hanging from the upstairs floor joists.

Back board for F clamps – right most slots squared up

Layout for the backs was done in V-Carve Pro. The slots are 3″ high by 0.47″ wide. The mortises are then squared up with a chisel. This ended up being faster and easier than rounding the bracket tenons. You could do this with a regular router and fence as well, but remember to use 1/4 or 3/8″ bit as the slots need to be less than 1/2″ wide for a good grip on the brackets.

The brackets are 3.25″ tall. This was the width of several strips of baltic birch plywood that I had left over from making dresser drawers. The lengths were 7 to 8 ” depending on the rack.  The bottom edge is sloped at about 12 degrees – I thought it looked better than simply leaving them square. The notches at the ends are 0.7″ tall by 1/8″ wide.  This gives just enough shoulder so that the brackets are self aligning when driven home and the tenon is very slightly recessed when viewed from the back.

Apply glue to the slots and drive the brackets in with a large mallet.   They are basically self clamping.

Back of the clamp bracket

1″ screws and fender washers are added to the back for added clamping pressure and to ensure the brackets cannot pull out under load. The screws and washers had been waiting for this occasion. I had not used them previously due to bits of epoxy and the washers being stuck on the screws. They were left over from doing the deck strips of the boat.

Pipe clamp rack

Now the clamp racks are hung and the clamps are much neater and more accessible. Next I will need to rearrange the various jigs and other items on the back wall since they are easier to get to with the new racks.

F clamp racks with the light back in place

Finish is a couple of coats of shellac. This  was another left over and I need to mix up a fresh batch for the bed.

If I were doing it again I would make both racks with the jaws facing the back wall as this provides more clearance in front of the peg board.

Joinery Techniques and Minimizing Error

With each cut in a given piece of wood, it becomes “more expensive”.   In some cases, simply making a few spares for test cuts and to replace a damaged piece will work. In other cases, such as this bed, there are not good substitutes, are the pieces were chosen to have matching grain and in most cases, a given set of components were sawn from single planks of wood (arches, legs, stretchers).   This set of tips concentrates on minimizing the chance for errors destroying a partially completed piece

Centered Dadoes

The bed panels are placed in 1/2″ deep dadoes in the components (legs, stretchers, vertical dividers).  The pieces were of 3 different thicknesses to add reveals and avoid flush sanding.  As I laid it out, the components were all centered, including the dadoes.  So, this simplifies the layout but does require that all of the mortises, tenons and dadoes align perfectly in order for the panels to fit well.

I find that it is easiest to make half of the dado or mortise from one side flip the piece and complete it from the other side. This way the cuts are centered.  However, it is abit more finicky to set for width as every change that is made to the fence is doubled in the cut.   Additionally, the stock I have is not perfectly straight, with the stretchers across the headboard ending up with almost 1/8″ of bow as the wood relaxed after cutting.   While this in of itself, will not be visible in the finished piece, it does make cutting the dado  more difficult and highlights one of the choices for setup.

When cutting the centered dadoes, the blade should be cutting on the side AWAY from the fence as shown above. This way, if the stock bows slightly or the operator lurches and lets the stock move away from the fence, the error in the cut is directed towards the center of the dado rather than making an unsightly gouge on the outer edge.  This allows for a second (or third) pass, to clean up the joint or to use a hand plane to do the final adjustments as shown below.  When cutting the dadoes I typically use a single blade for 1/4″ grooves and a dado blade (wobbler or stack) for wider grooves. Just be sure to set the width of the cut to only about 2/3 of the width of the final groove width to allow for the 2nd cut to make the centered groove and leave room for errors without gouging the cut too wide.

I really like the Veritas Side Rabbet Plane shown above. It is far superior to the other two that I own (a Stanley and a Wood River).

Routed dadoes for decorative spindles

The spindles on the headboard arches are made from stock that was leftover  from Isla’s crib.  They are 1 3/4″ wide and 1/2″ thick.  They fit into plunge cut dadoes in the arches. A 1/2″ solid carbide end mill was used to make the cuts. The router is guided by a fence.  When routing with a fence you want the router cut to pull the fence tight against the work piece, so that you are not fighting the tool and risking an errant cut.  So with the fence on the side towards you, the cut progresses left to right.

Knowing where to stop the cut, is the hardest part, as the marks are obscured by sawdust and often some smoke. 

To make the start and stop points more visible, I use green masking tape, which is made for striping. It is thinner and stickier than the blue tape. The color also provides a lot of contrast against the wood. The next trick, is to plunge the start and end of the cut straight down. This makes for an easy start and stop for the successive passes.   Each pass should be half of the diameter of the bit or less. This is a general rule I learned when calculating feeds and speeds for the CNC router.  With the ends of the cut defined you don’t have to try to start and stop exactly on the line, which takes a lot of the stress out of the cuts.

Biscuits in small close quarters

The stock width for the legs and arches does not allow much room for error with the biscuits.  There are #0 biscuits on the tops of the legs and # 10 on the sides. There is <1/8″ of width left over on the cuts, so any slippage will show. Additionally, the ends of the pieces are too narrow for the retractable pins of the biscuit jointer to grab hold.  So, my cure was to clamp the piece down firmly so it does not move and then clamp the biscuit jointer fence to the piece prior to plunging in.  This took the risk and suspense out of the cuts.  It just took ~30 seconds longer to set up for each cut.

Biscuits for the plywood boxes

The base of the bed is made from plywood and biscuited together. To have good alignment of the parts requires that a fence be clamped to the parts prior to cutting and the measurements for the middle dividers be made consistently from one end (foot end was my choice).

Clamps as squares

The boxes for the drawers under the bed need to be square.  The easy way to achieve this (other than good square cuts) is to use the clamps as part of the jigs to square up the box. By placing the end clamps tight up against the box sides, they cause the box to self align. Note that you need large parallel face clamps like the Bessey K-body or Jorgensen Cabinet Master or Revo . Ordinary F clamps or pipe clamps will not work for this trick.