February 6, 2012

Lambic Solera Update 7: Finally Getting A Taste

With the Superbowl comes some good drinking so I couldn't help but crack open a bottle of our lambic along with our other homebrew and commercial beers I picked up on sale at Central Market. We opened the lambic second after a nice heavy coffee porter (Real Ale Coffee Porter) to make sure we weren't too buzzed to enjoy the flavors and the lambic would help cut the heavy sweetness from the porter. Not surprisingly, the bottle was carbonated far less than I had hoped. I added enough sugar to get to 3.0 volumes of carbonation but I only got was around 1.0, based entirely upon my guess. I didn't add any extra yeast at bottling but I know in the future I need to.

The flavor was incredible; it was exactly what I hoped for. The aroma is tart with hints of cherries. The flavor starts out for a split second like a light beer before getting washed over in acidic sourness. The sourness is strongly lactic although I can tell there is some acetic acid as well. As you swallow the funky flavors start to emerge and you're left with the funky notes as an aftertaste. It's some of the really funky lambicus flavors -- horsey, hay, leather, barnyard -- with some nice cherry undertones. There is a little complexity in the flavor so I am excited to see how this beer develops in the bottle and how future years will develop. I hope to pace myself on drinking this beer so I can appreciate the changes over the rest of the year. I want to sock away a bottle or two to compare side by side with future batches, so with only two gallons bottled, I will really have to be discerning about when I open a bottle. Fortunately I also have a gallon on raspberries that I will bottle in the early summer to extend the reserves.

Turning to the framboise fermenter, it still looks the same as it did shortly after I racked. It has a brilliant red color but no pellicle. I know there was some fermentation due to positive pressure on the airlock in the days following racking. My hope is that the layer of CO2 is just dense enough to avoid oxygen contact to warrant the pellicle.

The gallon held for gueuze is developing a white, filmy pellicle. I had hoped the sugar addition would be enough to generate a protective layer of CO2 on this fermenter as well, but that apparently was not meant to be. It is fine that the pellicle formed. Oxygen is being blocked off one way or another, and that is what matters.

The solera itself has calmed down and the souring has clearly begun. For most of January there was a constant release of small bubbles from the bottom of the fermenter. Perhaps the saccharomyces and sherry strains were trying to ferment before the ph dropped too low for them to work. Now it is still and a thin film pellicle has formed over the top of the beer. I am confident this batch will continue to progress as expected and produce another great lambic.

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