Lambic Solera Update #11 -- It's Almost That Time... - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

October 18, 2012

Lambic Solera Update #11 -- It's Almost That Time...

Nothing exciting going on right now, as has been the case most of the year, because it's like watching paint dry. Nothing happens. However, I realized I haven't posted any pictures in a while so I thought this would be a good time to show off some beer porn before I make the next pull in December. I also have a couple updates following the pictures.

Lambic Solera

Here's the solera to the left. I know my picture-taking is terrible.You can see the top is obscured by krausen residue but the pellicle isn't particularly exciting right now and I don't want to open it up any more than I already have the past month or so. You can kind of see the thick trub left behind by two fermentations.

More lambic solera

If you pretend my picture-taking skills are not completely useless, you can see the beer is extremely clear.

Almost two years old
Below is the first year gueuze reserve. If you compare this picture to the pictures above you can see this beer is slightly darker, which is a natural effect of age on beer. The thicker white portions of the pellicle have slowly grown over the past year, which suggests there is a slow ingress of oxygen.

Yes, that is a jug from crappy Carlo Rossi wine. No, I didn't drink it. I used it for cooking.

Slightly darker than the solera
Yeah, sorry the pictures look like ass. I'm using my camera phone because it's higher resolution than my six year old digital camera and has better focus. I'd buy a newer and nicer camera but I really would only use it for taking pictures of beer. $100 could buy equipment or books for my upcoming legal practice and I need those more than a new camera. So just pretend like you're looking at the pictures after you've had a few beers and they would be fuzzy, anyway.

Just because I'm snapping pictures of all things lambic, here's a picture of the black sour I soured with the dregs of a bottle of the lambic. I added the dregs in secondary so it would be more sour than funky. It is damn delicious. I'm in love with my lambic but I really think this sour brown, maybe more of a sour black, is my best beer to date. I am kicking myself for only brewing a gallon of it, and most is going into a blend, but I don't think I have room for more sour fermenters. I currently have fourteen gallons of sour beer aging across five different vessels. If I added another large fermenter of sour beer I don't know where I would put it and still have room for some clean beers.

You can see it has a thick pellicle. I don't want to pull the stopper out since I recently broke the pellicle for a taste, but the pellicle is taut and powdery.

So with a couple months left before the end of year two I solidified my plans for the next pull. Last year I took four gallons out, put one on raspberries, two bottled straight and one set aside for gueuze. This year I am only taking three gallons. One will be set aside, one bottled straight and one aged six months on blackberries. I had planned on blackberries most of the year but it looked like blackberries were going to be expensive this year so I had started looking for alternatives. Last weekend I found blackberries frozen on the cheap so the blackberries are a certainty.

I am only pulling three gallons this year for a couple reasons (I feel like I have explained this before...). First, I still have about a couple gallons of the first year lambic in bottles so adding two more gallons between the straight and blackberry lambic will give me enough to drink for the next year. The next year's pull will result in five gallons bottled (two reserved plus three pulled) so I'll have a huge supply of lambic and don't need to worry about building up a supply year after year. Second, by cutting down the amount pulled from four to three I can increase the average age of lambic at each pull from one and a half to just shy of two years. So even though I get new lambic each year I will effectively have two year old lambic each single year.

As a bonus shot, here's a picture of my holiday beverage. It's a graff of store-bought apple juice and some spare runnings from a tripel I brewed back in 2010 that I froze. I'm fermenting it with the Belgian yeast I cultured from the South Austin Golden Strong Ale and used in the Petrus clone. I haven't decided whether to spice it yet. I'll see how it tastes without. I'm fermenting it at ambient temperatures because it's floating in the mid-70s in my fermentation (bath)room and that's a good temperature for this yeast.

I wasn't going to brew a holiday beer this year but I just bought two pounds of whole leaf hops -- the Belma I wrote about earlier -- and they are taking up more freezer space than I thought they would, so I needed to move some stuff out and frozen wort was an easy one to take out and use. It's about fourteen hours into fermentation as of this picture.


  1. I'm a first time reader here and I enjoyed this post about your lambics. I can guiltily admit that I've yet to really try sour beers, but a solera is a new term for me and I love the idea of the blended aging process! Could you recommend a couple of good commercial bottles that I could pick up to get into sours?

    1. I'm glad you're enjoying it. I'm looking forward to tasting this year's portion in December.

      There's a lot of regional availability of sours that might affect what you have access to. The most commonly available are Lindeman's Cuvee Rene gueuze and Petrus Aged Pale, both of which I really like. Rodenbach and/or Rodenbach grand cru and Cuvee de Jacobins may be in your area as well. If you're lucky you might live in an area where you can find more pricey lambics from Cantillon, Boon, Drie Fontenein, etc. On a less sour note you may be able to find Petrus oud bruin and Liefman Goudenbond and yet still less sour Monk's Cafe and Duchess de Borgogne (neither of which I particularly enjoy).

      Domestic sours are usually only distributed to certain parts of the country but you may be able to find New Belgium's La Folie (sour brown) and this time of year Kick (sour pumpkin ale) or Clutch (blended sour brown and imperial stout). Jolly Pumpkin produces a good line of sours, Jester King makes a great farmhouse sour called Boxer's Revenge. Cascade Brewing makes well regarded sours. Russian River makes a line of sour beers that are exceptional. Lots of other breweries make a sour beer or two, such as Allagash, Odell, The Bruery, etc. if you can find those.

      It's hard to go wrong with a sour beer from a reputable brewer. There may be local brewers in your area sneaking out a sour beer. I'd recommend trying at least a lambic/gueuze and a flanders red or oud bruin just to see how those different styles taste. Not everybody loves both. American brewers are doing a good job of taking sour beer to different places than the usual Belgian styles so they are worth trying, too.

  2. Thanks for the detailed reply, I'll be bringing your list next time I can head to my beer store!