Lambic Solera Update #17 Part 1 -- Three Years (Finally!) - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

December 9, 2013

Lambic Solera Update #17 Part 1 -- Three Years (Finally!)

Today's post has the privilege of discussing the third anniversary of the lambic solera. It's a pretty big accomplishment to have the patience to let beer sit for so long but today's brew day will include an avalanche of activity. I am draining three gallons from the solera, brewing another four gallons of replacement wort, bottling one gallon straight and creating gueuze out of a combination of each year's lambic. Busy, busy day. There's so much going on and so much to talk about that I'm going to break up the processes into two posts. One to discuss the brew and one to discuss the bottling/blending. This post will be about the brewing part of the day.

Each year I have slightly changed the recipe towards the more traditional. This year will be no exception. I decided to take the plunge this year and go for a full scale turbid mash. I'm not scared of the process as much as I am just concerned about the length of time it will take. It's a long, complicated process that makes the triple decoction mash I have been doing seem simple. Otherwise, this year's brew will follow last year's recipe.

If you look back at Update Twelve, one year ago, you'll see that last year I added some Belgian sacc yeast with the fresh wort. In the post I mentioned that I added the yeast for fermentation security but what I didn't write was that I also wanted to see how much the addition of new yeast esters would change the flavor profile. There is a clear difference in the flavor profile between Year One and Year Two and one theory I wanted to test was whether the yeast esters from the primary sacc fermentation played a substantial role in that difference. Year One had a strong cherry flavor while Year Two was much more of a hay/barnyard funk. Year Three will determine whether my theory is correct. I'll share that secret in the next post. I decided this year I would leave out adding fresh yeast because I want to see if the difference between Year One and Two is replicated in Three and Four. This whole issue is part of a larger theory I have that I plan on testing with my second lambic project this month. I'm being a little secretive about the larger issue because I'm an ass and because I want to be able to speak about it, whether I turn out to be right or not, from a credible position.

Lambic Solera Year Four Recipe Construction

For now let's just focus on the recipe and how I put all the pieces together. The recipe itself is very simple. It's just a mix of pilsner malt and unmalted wheat with a small bittering charge of hops. And water, obviously. As usual I am going to use a very small bittering charge of hops to clear the generally agreed 8 IBU threshhold to keep the beer clear of unpleasant bacteria. I have some old EKG hops and some of the Belma hops I bought last year that I'm aging at room temperature but I'm going to hold on to those for later years. For now I want to see how the turbid mash changes the beer. That will probably be the new thing I do for year five.

It's basically the same recipe I used last year but rather than performing a decoction mash I am going to give a turbid mash a shot. I'm also going to tweak the water profile to try to accentuate the acidity. In the past I have just used straight RO water from the store with no salt additions. While I've been happy with the results with no water chemistry I am concerned about the temperatures in the turbid mash plus too high of mash and sparge ph pulling an excess of tannins. Since I'm adjusting the water for ph I might as well also make the adjustments for flavor at the same time. I used the turbid mash schedule in Wild Brews. There isn't a turbid mash option in BeerSmith, so I had to take the percentages listed in Wild Brews and play around with the mash functions in BeerSmith to figure out infusion temperatures and volumes. A real pain in the ass.

Turbid mash is a weird and complicated mash schedule. The modern adaptations are primarily from Belgian sources, which come from 19th century (and earlier) mash procedures that made the best out of the sometimes inferior equipment. Most breweries have abandoned the complex mash process in favor of either decoction mashes or step mashes but some lambic brewers continue to use turbid mashes. To perform a turbid mash you need both an available kettle and a hot liquor tank, because it uses a combination of hot water infusions and very long decoctions, often at the same time. You can't just use your kettle as a hot liquor tank, as most of us normally do. You also need a separate mash tun. I suppose you could do a BIAB turbid mash as long as you have enough vessels available. Unlike a decoction mash, where you pull from the thickest part of the mash for the decoction, in a turbid mash you pull just the liquid. It's very unusual compared to modern techniques.

And Now the Recipe...

Batch size: 4 gallons
ABV: 4.5%
SRM: 3.4
IBU: 10
Est. OG: 1.046
Est. FG: 1.012
Est. Efficiency: 72%

The Grain

4 lbs. German Pilsner (2 SRM) 57%
3 lbs. Unmalted wheat (1 SRM) 42%

The Water

RO Water adjusted in Bru'n Water to Yellow Balanced profile
Added 0.5 gallons to sparge water to account for boil off during long turbid mash
3.5 gallons mash water
2.71 gallons sparge water

Mash Water

Gypsum 1.1g
Epsom salt 1.1g
Canning salt 0.2g
Calcium chloride 1.4g

Sparge Water

Gypsum 0.8g
Epsom salt 0.8g
Canning salt 0.1g
Calcium chloride 1.1g
Lactic acid 1.4ml

The Mash

Turbid Mash schedule

1. Add 2.8qt at 134F to reach 113F rest for 15 minutes
2. Add 2.8qt at 212F to reach 126F rest for 15 minutes
3. Remove 1.25qt liquid from mash, raise to 190F and hold
4. Add 4.2qt at 212F to reach 149F rest for 45 minutes
5. Remove 3.875qt liquid from mash, raise to 190F and hold
6. Add 4.2qt at 212F to reach 162F rest for 30 minutes
7. Remove 5.5qt liquid from mash to kettle, raise to 190F and hold
8. Add all kettle contents to mash to raise temperature to 172F and rest for 20 minutes
9. Vorlouf
10. Batch sparge with sparge water at 190F

The Boil

90 minute boil
0.15oz Belma [12.10% AAU] at 90

The Fermentation

Add cooled wort to fermentor with remaining solera contents. Allow fermentation at ambient temperature until next December.


The brewday was a long, long process. The majority of time went into preparing for and executing the mash. because the decoctions must be held at 190F it requires a lot of oversight on the mash, which limited how much work I could do at the same time. I tried to get some of the bottling done during the mash but it was slow work. Anyway, let's get to it.

The Turbid Mash

Started heating water at 10:30am. First step was barely enough liquid to make half-moist lumps of grain. Second step finally broke up the mash but it was still thick. Overshot temperature, at second infusion, around 140F.

Decoction was a mess to pull. Not enough liquid in the mash to get a siphon going to pull out liquid
so had to hand strain the decoction. Milky texture, like clam chowder but without the clams (see picture to the right). Second decoction was easier since the mash was looser. Less milky. Third decoction was even clearer, almost a chicken broth color and clarity.

First runnings are clear (see the second picture...sort of). I expected a more starchy, murky wort. 1.0628 gravity. Second runnings more cloudy. 1.022 gravity. Pre-boil gravity: 1.036. Pre-boil volume 5.5 gallons. Efficiency: 76%

Boil & Fermentation

Sparge ended at 2:15pm. Boil began at 2:45pm. Post-boil gravity: 1.051. 3.5 gallons recovered. 68% efficiency.

Positive pressure in the airlock appeared Monday morning, roughly three days later.

No comments:

Post a Comment