September 12, 2012

Lambic Solera Update #10: Project is still rolling

It's been a couple months since I last wrote about the ongoing saga of my lambic solera so I thought I'd offer a few quick points.

Over the weekend I did a side-by-side comparison of the straight lambic and the framboise. The framboise is definitely better carbonated so I think the addition of wine yeast at bottling was extremely successful at maintaining some carbonation to the beer. So that will be an ongoing part of my process, probably with all of my sours. The straight lambic maintained some fizz but at an obviously lower level of carbonation. If I had to guess I'd say the framboise was carbonated to somewhere around 1.5 volumes of CO2 and the straight lambic around 1 or slightly less. So it's well within style but I find that extra bit of carbonation helps spruce up the acidity. The straight lambic is still showing lots of cherry pie and funk with the acidity but the acidity is definitely smoother and less biting than at bottling. The framboise has great color and the raspberry is tucked well into both the aroma and flavor of the lambic. It's not overwhelming but the acidity is definitely sharper. I enjoy both a lot but I enjoy the straight lambic slightly more just because the fruit covers up some of that great cherry pie aroma and flavor in the lambic. It's nice to have that variety though. I definitely plan on doing another fruit when I pull the next round in December.

The main solera is still running as expected. It is crystal clear with a not-too-interesting pellicle. It is very thin and shiny. The sour brown I inoculated with dregs from a bottle of this lambic has a dusty white pellicle, which is what I seem to recall the solera had about this time last year. I'm not too worried about how the pellicle looks (even if it means no cool pictures to show) as long as it is doing its job. The solera smells tart and very lambic-like. No signs of acetobacter in either appearance or smell. My plan remains the same to pull three gallons in December and replace it with three fresh gallons (last year I pulled and replaced four gallons). One gallon will be bottled, one gallon will be aged an additional six months on fruit (probably blackberries) and one gallon will be set aside to make gueuze next year.

The gallon from last year I set aside for gueuze is still about the same. There is a patchy white pellicle with a couple patches that seem to be growing in thickness. I don't know what that means, and I don't particularly care, as long as it is doing its job. I don't open that beer for fear of disturbing the pellicle and losing it to acetobacter so I have no idea how it smells or tastes. I do know it is a slightly darker color than the solera, which is just an effect of continued aging. I assume it probably tastes about the same as the lambic in the bottles, since they were all pulled at the same time.

I've been very sparing in drinking the lambic because I want to make sure I enjoy it the whole year and I hope to keep a bottle behind for a vertical tasting some day in the future. Right now I have around a gallon and a half of the straight lambic and about 2/3 of a gallon of the framboise. I thought for sure I would be out of lambic by spring but I guess thanks to my busy schedule and commitment to trying to kill off the remainder of several prior batches I have been very patient with it so far. It also helps that we are starting to see more sour beers in the store and on tap so we can mix in commercial sours with our own.

Unless something super awesome happens with these beers I'll probably leave it alone until the brew/bottling approaches in December.

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