December 17, 2015

Lambic Solera Update Twenty-One: Bottling Year Five and Brewing Year Six

Every year it seems crazier to me that I've been brewing and aging this beer for five years. The first brewday was in December 2010 right after fall finals in law school and five years later I'm whipping work as an attorney and brewing the fifth annual fill of this solera. For reasons I'll get into in a different post, Year Six will be the final brewday for the solera. It will be completely emptied in December 2016 in which I will blend a second gueuze out of Year Four, Year Five and Year Six as I did with the first three years and bottle the rest straight. I might do a final fruit addition out of part of Year Six as I did the first two years but the beer is already so complex I'd hate to lose that behind fruit. At any rate, this will be the last brewday post for the lambic solera.

I overlooked posting a review of Year Four between last December and this December. I still intend to make that post but I held off for a while to see how the beer developed. Year Four was the first attempt at a turbid mash and that beer took some time to mature and had some unpleasant solvent notes for about six months and really hit its stride mid-summer this year. I haven't opened a bottle at a place where I could sit down and write a deserved review so I haven't had a chance to put that post together. I will do that soon.

To catch up on the history of the lambic solera, I've attempted to add something new to the recipe each year:
  • Year One: Initial recipe was 60% malted barley/40% malted wheat with a triple decoction mash, pitched WY Lambic Blend with a small amount of chardonnay and well boiled oak chips.
  • Year Two: Same recipe and mash but with wheat flour added to the boil with nothing pitched or added to the fermentor other than fresh wort.
  • Year Three: Same recipe and mash but substituted unmalted wheat for malted wheat with no wheat flour added. Pitched a Belgian yeast cultured from a local brewery's bottle and some fresh oak chips soaked in whiskey.
  • Year Four: Same 60/40 malted barley/unmalted wheat recipe but conducted a turbid mash. No additions except the fresh wort.
  • Year Five: Same as Year Four but pitched WY1214. No other additions but fresh wort.
For Year Six I am following Year Five's recipe but adding brandy-soaked oak. I nice final hurrah for this beer. Rather than repost the recipe I'll just include a link to Update #20 which include the three gallon recipe for this year's brew. I'm pulling three gallons from Year Five which means by the time I add the fresh wort I will be nearly maxed out on space in the six gallon Better Bottle. I don't expect much krausen on this beer so there shouldn't be a problem with minimal headspace. I'm adding approximately a quarter ounce of medium char oak cubes and approximately four ounces of brandy in which the cubes sat.

Brewday Notes

Brewed 12.13.15--I forgot how much of a PITA turbid mashes are.

First runnings: 1.063
Pre-boil gravity: 1.035
Pre-boil volume: 5.4 gallons
Mash efficiency: 73%
Post-boil gravity: 1.064
Post-boil volume: 3.5 gallons
Brewhouse efficiency: 72%

Boiled 90 minutes with 2oz. aged EKG at beginning of boil.Check out how pale these have turned. They are from the 2010 harvest and came out of the freezer late 2011. You can see how the pellets have broken down into a powder. They smell like hay and lemons.

Bottling Year Five

Like Year Four I've decided to pass on doing fruit additions to the lambic solera. I'm glad I made this decision because the beers have turned out nicely complex and I don't think the fruit would have added to the beer anything more valuable than what the fruit would obscure. I will yield two gallons of bottled Year Five plus reserve a gallon for the second gueuze blending next December with the final three years.

Ran off three gallons from the solera, bottling two gallons and filling a 4l jug with the remaining gallon to blend next year. Added 1.1oz table sugar per gallon for priming and added a small dose of KV-1116 wine yeast to each bottle before capping or corking.

Initial taste (with priming sugar blended in) is promising. The aroma is honey, lactic acidity, pineapple, lemon, leather and restrained barnyard funk. Flavor is very similar. The acidity is prominent but balanced. Lots of honey and lemon. Almost a candy-like flavor. It has a lot of character from the aged portions but also a bit of raw and aggressive barnyard flavor that suggests it's not quite ready to drink. Year Four had this same flavor for several months in the bottle although it was more prominent in that year than this one. I'll expect to hold on to bottles until late spring before sampling. I suspect this is related to the turbid mashing leaving behind starches requiring a longer meal and more of the fermentation byproducts are left behind that would have been chewed up earlier in a beer with a simpler meal. This is my hypothesis at least. I can't say for sure.

All this said, I'm pretty happy with Year Five's early taste. It's very promising and unusually fruity. Perhaps that is the work of WY1214 pumping out lots of esters for brett to work with.


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