December 13, 2012

Lambic Solera Update #12 -- Brew #3

The day of reckoning is here. No, it's not the Mayan end of the world, it's time for another play day with the lambic solera. Today I am racking off a gallon for next year's gueuze, racking a gallon onto blackberries, emptying the solera, cleaning it, racking the lambic back in and brewing a new batch of lambic to fill the solera. Quite a busy brew day.

This Year's Recipe

Each year I have added to the recipe as my brewing skills have increased. The first year I did a 60% two row/40% wheat malt recipe with a triple decoction mash. I was happy with it but decided the next year to do the same thing but add some wheat flour towards the end of the boil to make sure plenty of starch gets into the fermenter. This year I am going straight two row and unmalted wheat, which is far more traditional. I know the turbid mash is the appropriate traditional process but so far I've been happy with the decoction process but maybe next year I will switch over when I don't have so many things to do on a single brew day.

Batch size: 3 gallons
SRM: 3.3
IBU: 8.6
ABV: 4.39%
OG: 1.046
Est. FG: 1.012 (pre-souring)

Water profile: Brussels
Five gallons of water, 1.56 gallons in mash, 3.44 gallons sparged

Water additions (mash):
1g chalk
2g calcium chloride
2g epsom salt
1g kosher salt

Grain bill:
3lb Belgian pilsner
2lb Unmalted wheat

Mash schedule:
Dough in 1.56 gallons for 95F rest 30 min
Decoct 1.8 quarts, raise to 156F 10 minutes, then boil 10 minutes
Raise mash to 122F for 60 min
Decoct 2.26 quarts, raise to 156F 10 minutes, boil 10 minutes
Raise mash to 148F for 15 min
Decoct 1.22 quarts, raise to 156 F 10 minutes, boil 5 minutes
Raise mash to 158F for 45 min

Sparge with 3.44 gallons at 178F

Boil volume: 4.5 gallons
90 minute boil
Boil additions: EKG 0.25 ounce at 90

The Brew

My ghetto fabulous milling set up
There's not a lot of exciting stuff to say about the brew. It's very basic, aside from the decoction mash, which I have become fairly proficient at completing. Just lots of cleaning and sanitizing equipment. Since the decoction process is so involved it's hard to get a lot done at the same time but since I've done a few I know where I have free time and where I don't. That said, I really forgot how involved the process is. I usually skip the protein rest these days but with the unmalted wheat I thought a good long sixty minute protein rest was a good idea even though the whole mash process was about two and a half hours, plus milling and sparging.

I had a little boil over on one of the decoctions but I didn't lose very much wort. I'm usually pretty good about catching those but in this case I was caught off guard while cleaning up in the house. Overall, not a bad boil process.

First runnings
Boil bitches!









Racking and Bottling

Nothing really exciting to explain about racking or bottling. It's all very basic stuff. I'm continuing to bottle lambic in champagne bottles. I know the beer is stable enough that I could just use regular long neck 12oz bottles but I like adding a little fanciness. The bottles were bottles with some extra champagne yeast and 1.3 ounces of priming sugar per gallon. I know straight lambic is usually served still or near-still but it's my beer and I'll carb it if I want to. I've been happy with that combination so no reason to make a change. I ended up with four 750ml bottles and two 330ml bottles.

The gallon saved for next year's gueuze was also racked with an ounce of priming sugar. I did this last year to help produce a little CO2 cover for the beer. It seemed to help delay oxygen exposure in the gallon from last year so again, no reason to change the process.

The blackberry gallon was prepared similar to last year's raspberries. The blackberries were already frozen so I thawed them out, hit them with a little pasteurization and dropped them off in the fermentor and added beer on top. Good looking stuff.
Blackberry on the left; lambic for next year's gueuze on the right

Today's Filling

So much trub...
After racking out all the beer I had to clean out the better bottle. Other than my small one gallon jugs that I clean with a bottle brush, I have never had the joy of cleaning out a carboy. What a chore. It was extra fun (read the sarcasm) because it had two years of trub sitting in the bottom plus two years of krausen stuck to the top. I tried to clean as best as I could with a combination of bottle brush and lots of hot water. I gave it a good star-san sanitation just to make sure I wasn't introducing something foul from my water. Then I racked the remaining three gallons back into the better bottle along with the fresh three gallons.

I added some washed yeast from my supply of South Austin Golden Strong yeast. I added it back in to make sure I get decent fermentation since the saccharomyces that came in the lambic blend is no doubt all or almost all dead. This strain does a good job of pumping out esters so it will also help provide some tasty treats for the brett strains to manipulate over time.

Not too bad of a clean up
I also added some oak I had discussed in a post a couple weeks ago. I took an ounce of oak chips and gave them a good boil for several hours over several changes of water to eliminate some of the oak character. I then soaked them in Canadian whiskey for a couple weeks. Now I am one to say adding oak to lambic for the purpose of adding those oaky flavors is not appropriate for the style as one usually does not taste oak in lambic. While oak barrels are used in lambic brewing for aging vessels, lambic brewers use well worn barrels with no oak character remaining. Ok, so what am I doing here?

My goal is not to carry oak flavor into the beer. Instead, I want the oak to supply wood sugars and other flavor compounds that brett will manipulate into other flavors. I don't want the vanillin adding vanilla-like flavor. Instead, I want brett to create funk. That's why I boiled out a lot of the vanillin. I also used liquor to help extract more of the oak character and maybe seep in some of the liquor. I didn't add the liquor, just the chips. I do not expect to be able to taste either. Instead I'd like to see brett manipulate the herbal and smoky flavors in the whisky. Canadian whiskey isn't used in brewing because it's not a particularly bold flavor or highly thought of liquor. However, I have quite a bit of it because it's cheap and goes well into a whiskey and coke. So it was already available and I thought the milder flavor would be more beneficial than a bolder whiskey like bourbon or rye that might come through in the beer but I wanted something for brett to play with so I wanted something less neutral than vodka. I know some people will probably wince at the idea of adding cheap canadian whiskey to lambic and reasonable people will shake their heads at the whole idea but half the fun here is in the experimentation.

The Future

I couldn't help but give the lambic a little a taste. It's funky with a soft sourness. The acidity is a lot less sharp than the first year's pull was when I bottled it. It has since softened a bit as well.

The solera will sit for its usual year slumber until next December. At that time I will have six gallons in the solera plus one gallon of three year old lambic and one gallon of two year old lambic. The two year contains some of the first and second year, so it will actually be a little older than two years. The solera will be about 1.25 years old. I plan on taking three gallons from the solera and blending it with the two and three year old gallons to produce five full gallons of gueuze. After that I will refill the solera and continue as usual.

I am toying with a couple other ideas. I might take out a fourth gallon and beginning the gueuze process all over again. I might restart the same year or wait until the following year. I'm pretty sure I'll want to make another gueuze but I haven't decided which year to start over. If I decide to delay a year I am also toying with the idea of taking a forth gallon and putting it on fruit or maybe even dry hopping it. I'll have twelve months to think on it so no rush.

The gallon I bottled this December will get a few weeks in the bottle to carbonate before sampling but I will post up a tasting on it, probably some time in mid-January. I'll probably do a side-by-side comparison with last year's bottling to see how the lambic has changed between years.

The gallon on blackberries will sit for 5-6 months and get bottled sometime early summer. I'll also let it sit a few weeks to carb up. I'll probably compare it against the raspberry from last year and see how the different berries work. Maybe I'll try a little glass-blending of the two. That could be pretty good. I'll also update this stuff as it occurs.


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