December 28, 2011

Lambic Solera Update #5: Year One Complete/Year Two Begins

It's finally here and I don't mean the big box of grains for 2012 brewing that also came today from Brewmaster's Warehouse. I mean the day I can finally sample that lambic from December 2010 and replenish the solera. I am soooooo excited! As a result of my week in Colorado and trying to get things done around Christmas I ended up a little late on brewing the second batch of lambic. I decided I would pull four gallons of beer and replenish the full volume. In subsequent years I intend to pull just three gallons so the beer will average out in the solera just a little younger the first few years but I think after four or five years (I forget what the calculator I used said) it will be about the same down to hundredths of a year.

My plans for the four gallons include: keeping one gallon aside to make gueuze in two years; one gallon on raspberries for six months to create a framboise; and two gallons of straight lambic. Even though unblended lambic is normally flat I intend to carbonate at bottling because it's my beer and I'll drink it however I want. I bought enough raspberries to do just a little over one pound for one gallon of lambic. I have prepared the raspberries by freezing them and currently they are in a saucepan with a little water waiting for bottling time to approach. I am going to heat them to pasteurization and then add the berries and water to the jug/carboy with the lambic so I'll have a little more than a gallon but one can never have too much lambic.

Today is also my first use of a turkey fryer to boil. I am still using my stove to heat strike water, decoctions and sparge water but after my 7.5 gallon boil last December for the lambic put a stove burner on the road to a quick death I decided using a turkey fryer for the boil process is a lot cheaper than the money we spent replacing the coil, wiring assembly and infinity switch for that stove burner. By using the stove for the mash and sparge water I can limit the use of propane and reduce heating costs. Thankfully I was able to obtain my propane tank and turkey fryer for free my trading in some points I had on an account for amazon gift cards which I used to buy more homebrew equipment. I will probably also continue to do batches under three gallons on the stove since they don't put a lot of pressure or long term heat on the stovetop (bringing 7.5 gallons to a boil on the stove took multiple pots and about an hour and a half, plus the hour and a half boil, all of which was after heating the strike water, three decoctions and sparge water). Unfortunately going to the fryer means my first boil kettle, an eight gallon steamer pot, will probably not see a lot of use since it is too thin of metal to survive on a fryer and my steel five gallon kettle does all the rest of the stove top work. Possibly in the future I'll move to a house with a stove that can accept a canning element, a heavy duty electrical coil with support so extra weight from a canning kettle doesn't damage the stove top, so I will have some flexibility with electrical brewing. I might also come across a skillful homebrewer that can install some electrical heating elements and I can wire a future home for electrical brewing. My house now doesn't have a reasonable place to stick a 220v outlet for that kind of brewing. Well that's all future stuff so let's get back to the lambic.

I continued to follow my 60% pilsner/40% wheat malt grain bill this time. I am still not ready to do a full on turbid mash, hence the wheat malt instead of unmalted wheat. In the future I might try the turbid mash. I did a triple decoction with rests at 97F, 122F, 148F and 158F. I did this to ensure the wort going to the bugs with a lot of precursors for flavors as well as a well converted mash with both simple sugars and complex sugars. The complex sugars will be broken down by brett so the final beer won't have the thick mouthfeel and caramel flavors usually produced by a decoction mash. Although unconverted starch is beneficial for brett to produce more interesting off flavors I like to do the decoction mash and to an extent the decoctions get my beer part of the way there. This year, unlike last year, I am going to add a tablespoon of whole wheat flour towards the end of the boil so I will increase complexity and get some unconverted starch back in the beer to give brett more things to play with. It may not produce the same results as a turbid mash but I think it's close enough to produce a good beer. I don't want too much unconverted starch in the wort because brett takes a very long time to work through the starch and convert it to sugars and I want to stay on my annual schedule without risking that starch going into the bottle.

The boil was to be expected; the turkey fryer reached boil much faster than my stove so I cut off a good thirty minutes off my brew day. I added the wheat flour at about ten minutes remaining. I hopped the beer with half an ounce of kent goldings. Since these hops are fairly fresh and I did not "age" them in the oven they might impart a little more bitterness than I want but I think my lambic blend should survive. By the time the boil was finished the raspberries had started to dissolve into the water, now a deep red color. I won't pasteurize them until it's almost bottling time so they will stay as clean as possible. Just because my lambic is sour doesn't mean I want to get a nasty infection screwing up the flavor.

I took care of some other work while the fresh wort cools. Out of concern for acetobacter turning my lambic being reserved for gueuze I added some corn sugar (boiled in water to make a syrup) to create some fermentation and push out some CO2 until the pellicle can reform. The raspberry fruit mush/juice turned out to be quite a bit, probably around 20-25% of a gallon so although I know the fruit will continue to break down and turn into trub I suspect I'll get more than one gallon out of it. That's good because as I said before, you can never have too much lambic.While moving the full fermenter downstairs to the kitchen I got to enjoy the delicious smells of the lambic. It smells so good. It smells tart but with a big cherry aroma. My mouth was salivating the whole way down the stairs. It made it hard to concentrate but I was able to lug the six gallons of lambic down the stairs.

I gave the lambic a little taste during bottling. It's phenomenal. Tart with a prominent cherry flavor. I can't wait for it to carbonate. I ended up with a good number of bottles along with the framboise and gallon held off for gueuze. I ended up with way more wort than expected so I'll end up with more lambic than I expected. Once again, there's nothing wrong with more lambic.


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