The Catharina Sour, a beer that many may not quite be familiar with…YET! This beer recently originated in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina in 2015. In this article, I’ll walk you through my pineapple Catharina sour recipe!
What is a Catharina Sour?
The Catharina Sour is a fruited sour beer originating in Brazil. The founding of this style was a collaboration between commercial brewers as well as homebrewers in Brazil who wanted a way to showcase their local fruits.
Ingredients used and brewing process are very similar to the german style, Berliner Weisse. However, the Catharina sour is stronger (ABV: 4.0-5.5%). Brettanomyces is not used in the Catharina sour as it is can be in the Berliner, however.
The other main difference between the two styles is the use of fresh tropical fruit! This fruit character should be the dominating component of the finished beer. Tropical fruit that is grown in the Brazilian region would be the most fitting for the style, but any fruit can be used.
As with the Berliner Weisse, wheat makes up a large component of the grain bill. However, given the fruiting of this style, the bready notes typical in a Berliner should not be present in the Catharina Sour.
This style is almost always produced using the kettle souring method. This process is the most controlled way to get a clean and consistent lactic acid sourness from lactobacillus bacteria.
I dedicated a full article to this process, so if you’re interested, please follow this link.
This is one of the newest styles to obtain a BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) guideline. The current style code is X4 and the overall impression reads as follows, ”A light and refreshing wheat ale with a clean lactic sourness balanced by a fresh fruit addition. The low bitterness, light body, moderate alcohol content, and moderately high carbonation allow the flavor and aroma of the fruit to be the primary focus of the beer. The fruit is often, but not always, tropical in nature.”
How to Brew a Good Catharina Sour
As noted earlier, the ingredients used in this style are very similar to the German Berliner Weisse. Let’s talk about some key things to do to make your best possible Catharina Sour!
Nothing specifically of note regarding water profile for the Catharina sour.
Use a similar balanced water profile that you would for most of your light-colored beers. I recommend decreasing mash pH with lactic acid vs phosphoric acid.
The grain bill for the Catharina sour is surprisingly simple. As noted earlier, wheat makes up a large part in this style. Most brewers find that approximately equal parts of barley and wheat make for a great beer.
I prefer to use the clean Pilsner malt for the barley portion of the grain bill.
It is important, especially when using a mash tun that is taller than it is wide, to utilize rice hulls in your mash. As wheat is huskless, it makes lautering difficult if adequate rice hulls are not present.
Acidulated Malt- The use of acidulated malt can aid in the kettle souring process. This malt should be added towards the end (last 15 minutes) of the mash. This helps to decrease the pH prior to the actual kettle souring process.
Hopping should be performed with a very light hand. You want to shoot for 2-8 IBUs. Hop character should really not be present to any degree in your finished Catharina Sour. I chose to use a very small addition of the high alpha acid, Magnum, hop early on in the boil. This helped to limit hop matter added to the beer.
Keep in mind that hops are naturally anti-septic. Almost always a good thing, but if you will be purposefully inoculating your beer with bacteria, keep in mind that hops and bacteria are not great friends. When kettle souring, the hops are added in the second boil after the desired acidity has been produced by the bacteria.
Use a yeast that is fairly clean and neutral. I have had good success using Safale US-05 in my kettle sours. Any clean and neutral ale yeast that is fairly tolerant of low pH should work just fine.
You will want to consider pitching more yeast than usually necessary for a five gallon batch. After kettle souring, the wort will be much more acidic than normal. Yeast are not extremely happy with acidic conditions, so you will want to make sure that your yeast of choice is fairly tolerant to acidic conditions and set it up for success by pitching more than normal.
I chose to use pineapple for the tropical fruit component of this beer. However, any tropical fruit could easily be substituted depending on your taste! It is not uncommon for multiple fruits to be used in this style.
During the Catharina Sour competition night, one brewer made one that combined passion fruit and guava. This beer was absolutely delicious! I could see a dragonfruit, mango, or a papaya Catharina sour being great as well.
Fruit can be added either in juice form or as whole fruit. Adding juice is definitely easier, but it ends up lacking some of the fresh characters associated with this style.
Ideally, fresh tropical fruit would be sourced and added after active fermentation. Keep in mind that adding additional fruit sugar will restart yeast activity.
When adding fruit, I prefer to ‘double freeze’ it. Meaning, freeze for ~24 hours, then thaw, then freeze again. This helps to break down the cell walls and let more of the sugar become available for the beer.
Kettle souring is my preferred method to producing quality sour beer in a controlled manner. There are other ways to produce sour beer, but it is tougher to control the final acidity and off-flavors using these methods.
I will walk through the kettle souring process in the directions just below the recipe. If you would like a full run-down on how to kettle sour, please follow this link for my comprehensive kettle souring article!
For this particular beer, I shot for a pH of 3.38. This is on the more acidic side, if you would like your finished beer less tart, end your kettle sour before I did (i.e. at a higher pH).
Let’s get to the recipe! This recipe is for a 5 gallon (18.9L) batch, but it can easily be scaled up or down depending on your desires.
Pineapple Catharina Sour Kettle Sour Recipe
Volume: 5 gallons (18.9L)
Predicted SRM 3.38
Predicted IBU 3.43
Original Gravity 1.050
Final Gravity 1.010
5.5lb (2.5 kg) Pilsen
5lb (2.3 kg) American Wheat
4oz (113.4 grams) Acidulated Malt (last 15 minutes of mash)
6oz (170.1 grams) Rice Hulls
0.1oz (3 grams) Magnum (45 minutes)
Flagstaff Tap Water
0.6tsp (1 grams) CaCl
0.75tsp (3 grams) Gypsum
10mL Lactic Acid (adding just before kettle souring)
Safale US-05– 2 packets
Calibrate pH meter. Heat strike water to 163°F (72.8C). Add calcium chloride and gypsum. Mill the grains and mix with strike water to reach a mash temperature of 152°F (66.7C). Adjust mash pH as needed. Hold mash temperature for 60 minutes. Add acidulated malt during last 15 minutes of mash. Sparge the grains with 170°F (76.7C) water. Boil for 15 minutes to sanitize wort and kettle. Cool wort to 95°F (35C). Decrease pH of wort to ~4.5 with lactic acid (will likely require 10-15mL lactic acid). Pitch bacterial culture of choice. Purge headspace of kettle with CO2 and cover with sanitized saran/plastic wrap to exclude oxygen. Hold temperature at 95°F (35C) for 12-72 hours until desired pH is reached (3.3-4).
Once desired acidity is reached, bring wort to a boil. Boil for 60 minutes following hop schedule. After the boil has completed, chill the wort to slightly below fermentation temperature, about 64°F (17.8C). Aerate the wort and pitch the yeast. Ferment at 65-70°F (18.3-21.1C) for 2 weeks. Add 30oz (.89L) pineapple juice after active fermentation has slowed. Cold crash the beer to 35°F (1.7C). Bottle or keg the beer and carbonate to approximately 2.8-3.5 volumes of CO2.
Catharina Sour Fruit Choice
I would argue that there really aren’t many limitations here! Most fitting for this style would be using tropical fruits such as dragonfruit, passionfruit, guava, mango, pineapple, etc. However, even the style guideline states that any fruit can be used.
Feel free to have fun with this one. The great part about these sour base beer styles is that they play super well with fruit additions. A fun way to go about brewing this style would be to make 5 gallons (18.9L) of your base beer. Then, add five different fruit combinations to each gallon in separate fermentors. This would be a great way to see which fruit combo works best and have a variety of beers ready all at once!
Adding Pineapple to Beer
As discused above, generally the best way to add the fruit to a Catharina sour or most beers for that matter is by using fresh fruit.
When using fresh fruit, I recommend freezing it twice. The reason for doing this is to break down the cell walls of the fruit and allow the fruit substances to become most available for extraction by the beer.
To perform this, cut up your fruit into cubes or slices. Freeze for about 24 hours. Then take out of the freezer and let thaw. Then, put the fruit back into the freezer for another 24 hours. At this point, the fruit will be ready to add to your beer post-fermentation.
I chose to add pineapple juice to this beer vs fresh fruit for one main reason. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain. Bromelain can have anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits. However, bromelain also breaks down proteins. The issue with this in brewing is that it can ruin your head retention. Given that this style calls for good head retention, this is not something I was looking for.
The bromelain in pineapple juice has already been denatured, so it will not have the same negative effect on head retention. Another benefit to using pineapple juice is that you can determine the perfect amount to use by setting up a sampler for yourself. I slowly added pineapple juice to a sample of the base beer to figure out the right ratio on a small scale. Then I simply did the math to scale up for the 5 gallon batch.
Accurately measuring your pH when brewing a kettle sour is very important. Yes, you could in theory just base the desired acidity off of your personal taste. However, even prior to the actual kettle sour step, it is important to decrease pH to a level where other organisms’ growth is inhibited.
At the very least, I recommend purchasing pH strips that go down to the 3-5 range. Many strips you will find measure pH only above about 6.
Purchasing a quality pH meter will make your kettle souring adventure much more enjoyable.
Bacteria Culture Choice
There are several different bacterial pitches that you can purchase to produce the desired acidity for this beer.
I have had great success with using Good Belly probiotic drinks to inoculate my wort with the desired bacteria. I have used both the probiotic ‘shots’ as well as the drink that comes in a carton. These are fairly accessible at most health food stores and have produced consistent results for me. I generally get to a pH of about 3.5 within 12-24 hours.
Companies like White Labs produce different lactobacillus cultures for the sole purpose of kettle souring. I’ve talked to brewers that have enjoyed using these options as well.
Some brewers have even pitched yogurt to get the bacteria they were desiring!
Whatever you do, please do not be the brewer who makes their sour by adding a boatload of lactic acid. I can’t argue with the ease of doing this, but the quality of your flavor will be significantly less than if you had done a proper kettle sour! The BJCP even states specifically in their guideline for this beer that the sourness should not be artificial- dumping a bunch of lactic acid in is a good way to make it taste artificial!
Thank you for stopping by!
If you would like to read my comprehensive article on the kettle souring process, please click here!
If you would like to see more small batch recipes like this, please follow this link.
Given that this is such a new style, I have not been able to find any books that discuss it. However, given its similarity to the Berliner Weisse, Brewing with Wheat by the infamous Stan Hieronymus could be a good choice to learn more.
Here is a link to the BJCP Guideline: X4 Catharina Sour.
Another book that is about a different german sour beer but has a great deal of information on the kettle souring process is “Gose: Brewing a Classic German Beer for the Modern Era” by Fal Allen.