February 16, 2011

Lambic Solera Update #2

This is the two month mark for the lambic solera. Looking back, it doesn't feel like it's been two months, but when I think about the past six weeks of school time feels like it is slowly creeping by and it could have been a long time ago. Ok, enough complaining about school. Back to beer.

So after about a month the lambic began to develop a white pellicle and very large bubbles. The bubbles have grown larger and more plentiful, but it hasn't turned into the sort of crazy pellicles some people seem to get. I'm not worried about the quality of the pellicle, I'm just glad it means things are progressing as they should. Unfortunately there is krausen residue on the sides of the bottle preventing me from getting a clean picture outside the carboy but I did snag a good picture from inside the opening.



There is definitely a great sour/tart aroma to it that is somewhat reminiscent of the Cuve Rene dregs I added. I'm sure it's a fairly common lambic smell coming off it though. The smell is what makes me most excited about getting to taste the beer in a year. When I see the carboy sitting in the bathroom where I do most of my fermentation, I don't think too much about it, but the smell really makes me anxious.

Looking back to my first batch of beer a little more than a year and a half ago, I remember how incredibly excited and anxious I was every day. It was almost painful to wait two weeks for fermentation and three weeks in the bottle. Now it's rare I bottle a beer after less than 3-4 weeks in the primary and drink it less than five weeks in the bottle. Now I'm going to wait over a year before bottling. It's crazy how that patience builds up once you start brewing a lot and appreciate that patience and time produce much better beers.

Honestly I think the hardest thing will be once I bottle the beer I will want to drink it all very quickly, but then I would be stuck waiting another year for bottling. I'll pull four gallons, which sounds like a lot when you are talking 30-40 12oz. bottles in a four gallon batch but when you're brewing something exceptional you want to share it and when you have to bottle in large champagne bottles you have very few bottles and a very high desire to open them you can go through it very quickly. It's a good thing that my fiance and I enjoy the Lindeman's products because it is an easily way to obtain the 330ml champagne bottles that will help spread out the lambic into more bottles. (I really like the faro and gueuze but I am not beyond enjoying some of the fruit lambics for what they are.)

I am still contemplating how I will split up this first batch. My current thought is two gallons on cherries for an additional 4-6 months of aging, one gallon backsweetened with splenda to make faro, and one gallon straight lambic, but carbonated. (Unblended lambic is generally served uncarbonated, but it's my homebrew and I'll make it how I want!) That will give me three different lambic flavors. The next year I will probably try raspberries and depending upon how I like the faro and straight lambic I may do one or both.

I fear that I will like this beer so much that I will want to take out five gallons instead of four. Although it isn't the worst thing imaginable, it will reduce the average age of beer each year from 1.33 years to about 1.10 years. I don't know how much of a change that will make but I think the more age I can keep in the solera the better it is for flavor. Ideally when being a lawyer starts to pay off (once the student loans are paid off) I would like to move into a larger home where I will have more room for fermentation (perhaps a fermentation cellar???) where I can have multiple soleras going and I can pull beer every 18-24 months and really get some age and a lot of lambic flowing.

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