July 6, 2012

Lambic Solera Update #8: Raspberry Adventures

 So having passed the six month mark, it was time to bottle the delicious looking framboise gallon that I divided out at bottling in December. The beer developed a nice deep red color while the fruit turned almost white. Here are a couple of pictures: the first is in the bottling bucket; the second is a sample in a glass. You can see in the sample the beer is more pinkish in a smaller volume, as is typical for any beer.

The beer has a delicious lambic flavor with a raspberry background. I only used a pound of fruit for the gallon; I probably should have used a little more to get a more intense raspberry flavor but overall I'm happy with the sample. The raspberry did not make it too tart and it seems to be a little smoother in acidity as it has aged. (I am noticing the same effect in the bottles of straight lambic.)

In light of the low carbonation in the straight lambic bottles, I decided to add some wine yeast (EC-1118) at bottling. I've never dosed bottles with yeast, so that was a new one for me. It's easy to use dry yeast because you can just add a few yeast cells and move on. The rest of the sachet of yeast went on to ferment a nice perry-ish beverage made with store-bought pear juice (it's still in the fermenter). I haven't tried the framboise yet because it's only been in the bottle a couple weeks now. I'll make another update when I taste it.

So with the framboise bottled that leaves the gallon held in reserve for gueuze and the full solera. The reserved gallon is slowly building up a flat, bubbleless, patchy pellicle. Nothing really interesting there and even though I know it has another two years to go I'm excited. The solera itself is not very exciting at the moment. The pellicle on top is thin and bubbly but it looks about the same as it did last year at this time. Towards the end of summer it will probably develop that powdery look like it did last year.

My current plans for the 2012 release includes just three gallons instead of four I took last year. The main reason is the less I take out the overall older the beer will be averaged out across years. After roughly six years the average age will be 1.9 years old (adjusting for the four I took out the first year) if I only take three. If I continue to take four, the average age will be just shy of 1.5 years. Not a huge difference in the grand scheme of things but that's about five months difference, which is a lot of time for the flavor to continue to develop. It also means that as the beer sits in the bottle it breaks into the two year age.

I thought I would drink through the lambic in a hurry but I really haven't. I brewed some crappy beers this spring and I've been punishing myself by forcing myself to drink them because they were crappy thanks to poor process on my part. I'm conditioning myself to be more strict about everything (brewing). So since I still have a lot of the lambic left I think I can get by with just three gallons. Plus, once I make the one year of gueuze I may decide the gueuze isn't worth holding back lambic, especially since the average age of all the lambic will be close to two years, so that means I'll actually bottle three gallons each year.

So out of the three gallons, one will be held for gueuze, one will be bottled straight and right now the plan is to put the third on blackberries. It's a relatively new idea so I haven't done much research on it. I'll poke around and see if blackberry is something others have found works in lambic. If not, I'll probably find another fruit to try. Maybe try dry hopping it with some hops, if I manage to get a harvest this year.

I'm also contemplating using unmalted wheat instead of malted wheat this December. I'm still on the fence about adopting this more traditional route. I think it will be good for the funky flavor elements since brett breaks those starches down. However, I think if I go the unmalted route I will want to do a turbid mash and I don't know if I'll have the time this December to give up a full day for a mash. (I'll take my last finals in December, then begin a six week bar prep program and somewhere in between try to take a few days off to relax.)


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