January 11, 2012

Lambic Solera Update 6: Now a Tale of Four Beers

With the end of the first year/beginning of the second year I've gone from one lambic beer to four: one gallon held off for gueuze, one gallon on raspberries, two gallons in bottles and six-ish gallons in the fermenter. Each beer has behaved differently so far so there's some interesting updates to make on each. So without further introduction...

Bottles

I bottled the lambic with some priming sugar to get some carbonation (even though straight lambic is typically not carbonated). Typically when I bottle I find after a few days you can shake the bottle a couple of times and see small bubbles swirling in the beer which suggests carbonation has at least started. After a few days there was nothing. I suspected carbonation would take a long time because of the acidity repressing any available saccharomyces and having to fight with brett and pedio for food. After a couple of weeks I did start to see some bottles producing some of those bubbles. Today I checked in on the bottles and all of them have a very noticeable white pellicle. Even though I added enough priming sugar to carbonate to three volumes I would not be surprised to find the beer less carbonated, which is ok. I plan on opening a small 330ml bottle towards the end of January, maybe on Super Bowl Sunday to test the flavor and carbonation.

Year One Gueuze Reserve

I also added some corn sugar to the gallon of reserve to try to get some fermentation and spit out CO2 in the event the pellicle did not form quickly. Although I never saw krausen I did see the pressure build up behind the airlock so I'm pretty sure this beer will be ok. Last week I saw the beginning of a white pellicle forming and each day it gets more noticeable. I will continue to observe the beer periodically to check for signs of an acetobacter mother, which looks like a jelly pad in the bottle on the fermenter. If I see that I'll have no choice but to bottle it up and consume quickly. I don't expect this to occur but better safe than sorry.

Framboise

The sugar in the raspberry has definitely produced some fermentation because the airlock began bubbling within a day of racking on the raspberries. So far the beer has developed a brilliant deep pink color and the raspberries are turning white. I never saw a krausen on the beer but there are some bubbles around the fruit. I expect that a pellicle will form over time but there is likely a thicker layer of CO2 over this beer than on the gueuze reserve. I'll continue to observe this beer with the expectation of bottling around June but I may want to let it ride for nine to twelve months.


Solera Year Two

When I racked in the new beer the first thing I realized is that there is very little headspace as a result of the trub from the first year's fermentation. That tells me that before I can rack any more beer in next time I'll need to ditch the trub. I'll probably give the fermenter a good clean to get rid of the krausen residue. I may also try to wash some of the yeast and bacteria from the trub to make sure some of the saccharomyces that might be alive will carry over.

Initially the beer retained a very tart aroma and signs of fermentation did not appear for three or four days. Eventually the airlock started to bubble and I could see tiny bubbles rising up from the beer. The fermentation was vigorous enough that for about a week I could actually hear the bubbling within the fermenter (not the airlock). Curiously there was very little, if any, krausen. I expected fermentation would be delayed due to the low pH and age of yeast but I was still surprised by the absence of krausen. Even all brett fermentations produce krausen.

The beer seems to be in good shape regardless of the krausen situation. I expect a pellicle will form in a month or two. The aroma coming out of the airlock is more neutral, which makes sense. The aromas from anything in the fermenter are usually blown off during primary fermentation which is why fruit and spices are not added during primary when you want to keep the aromas of those post-boil additions (as you almost always do).

I'm probably most excited to actually drink my own lambic but overall I am really excited about the progress of each of these beers.

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