Lambic Solera Update Twenty - Beginning Year Five - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

December 21, 2014

Lambic Solera Update Twenty - Beginning Year Five

It's almost hard to wrap my head around the idea that this little Better Bottle has been quietly producing lambic for four years and buried somewhere within the beer I'll bottle today is beer that dates back to that first brewday. Each brewday has made another change towards a more traditional lambic process and each beer coming out of the solera has been significantly different from its predecessor. With a traditional grist and the laborious turbid mash already part of the solera's brewday, I am running out of steps to further the authenticity of this beer short of spontaneously fermenting it (which is not something I am interested in integrating into this particular project). One area that I can take the beer more authentic is the use of aged hops in the boil. I have some 2011 East Kent Goldings that I have left at room temperature for a couple years that are slightly cheesy in aroma and should be a good fit for this beer.

Along with the new addition to the brewday it is also time to completely empty the solera to clean out the massive layer of trub and add some new saccharomyces and oak. I do this every other year to keep the solera in good health. I don't necessarily fear autolysis from the trub buildup but it just takes up too much volume if I let it go more than a couple years. I also like to add fresh saccharomyces and oak to put back some new flavor contributors. I believe the saccharomyces-created esters and phenols are important components of the brett flavors. I hypothesized a couple years ago when I added new saccharomyces that the years without a healthy saccharomyces fermentation would be less complex and less preferred by tasters than those years with fresh saccharomyces. The Year Four pull will provide a data point to compare against Year Three (which had fresh sacc) and Year Two (which did not have fresh sacc). More on that later.

Like the preceding years, I will break up the brew day and bottling across two posts. Today's post will cover the brew day and the subsequent post will discuss bottling, initial flavor impressions and some general thoughts about solera brewing for those currently enjoying their own solera and those considering starting their own.

2014 Refill Recipe

The recipe for this refill is pretty much the same as last year's but I am just doing my normal three gallon refill instead of last year's four gallon batch to make up for the enormous pile of trub I cleaned out of the fermentor. Otherwise, the only major changes here is the use of aged hops in the boil and I am adding some fresh saccharomyces to get some more flavor compounds in the beer for brett to play with.  In Year Three I added a Belgian strain from an Austin brewery that I didn't love when brett manipulated it so I am going back to a more trustworthy strain. Year Five will include a pitch of Wyeast Belgian Abbey 1214.

So here's the recipe.

Batch size: 3 gallons
Est OG: 1.046
Est FG: 1.009
Est IBU: 0
Est SRM:  2.8


2 lb. Unmalted white wheat [2 SRM]
3 lb. Avangard Pils malt [2 SRM]


6.25 qt. mash water
4.5 gallons sparge water
Water adjusted in bru'n water to yellow balanced profile

Water Profile

Calcium: 51ppm
Magnesium: 7ppm
Sodium: 5ppm
Sulfate: 75ppm
Chloride: 63ppm
Bicarbonate: 0ppm

Mash Additions

Gypsum 0.5g
Epsom salt 0.4g
Canning salt 0.1g
Calcium chloride 0.7g

Sparge Additions

Gypsum 1.4g
Epsom salt 1.2g
Canning salt 0.2g
Calcium chloride 1.9g
Lactic acid 2.4ml

Mash and Sparge

Turbid mash based on schedule in Wild Brews

1. Dough in 1.25qt at 146F for rest at 113F for 15 minutes.
2. Infuse 1.25qt at 150F for rest at 126F for 15 minutes.
3. Remove 0.625qt and add to kettle. Raise to 190F and hold.
4. Infuse 1.875qt at 188F for rest at 148F for 45 minutes.
5. Remove 1.8qt and add to kettle. Raise to 190F and hold.
6. Infuse 1.875qt at 202F for rest at 162F for 30 minutes.
7. Remove 2.28qt and add to kettle. Raise to 190F and hold.
8. Add kettle liquid to mash to raise to 172F. Rest for 20 minutes.
9. Sparge with 4.5gal at 190F.


90 minute boil
2 oz. aged EKG hops from 2011 at 90


Cool wort and rack onto three gallons of existing lambic plus pitch half of a wyeast 1214 smack pack. Age until Year Six.

Brewday & Fermentation Notes

Brewed 12/20/14.

I always forget how much of a PITA the turbid mash is, especially because my calculations always seem to be off on the first couple steps and I need to add more water to account for grain absorption. I just need to redo my math on the infusions but I forgot to do that ahead of the brewday and ended up adding more heated water after the second infusion to get the mash temperature up to 126. And oh how I forgot how much not fun it is squeezing runnings out of a dry mash. I had to use a strainer and a couple measuring cups to drain out enough runnings to move them over to the kettle. The picture to the right is the first extraction on its way to its 190F hold.

You can see how milky this stuff is coming out of the mash. As it gets up around 190F it starts to turn more of a brown color and develops a more gravy-like consistency. That shouldn't be too surprising because one way to make gravy thick like it's supposed to be is to add wheat flour.

I also forgot how difficult it is to sparge this stuff. The enormous amount of starch is begging for a stuck mash.

The picture to the left is the grain bed after sparging. You can see on the top there is a thick layer of gunk covering the grain. This is pretty common in any mash but it is abnormally thick here. It's about 1/2-3/4 of an inch thick. At least I kept most of it out of the brew kettle.

Every year I think about how much I should undergo this turbid mash because it's a challenge and with how little I have been able to brew this year it's a good time to spend a whole day brewing beer. Then I get in the middle of the turbid mash and wonder why I put myself through such an arduous process. Year Three was the first turbid mash and with its bottling later in the day I'll decide whether it's worth my time to keep it up.

The boil isn't too exciting; it's a very normal boil To the right are the aged hop pellets. The most interesting part of the boil was adding the hops. While dropping hops in the boil usually lets off those nice grassy and fruity aromas, these hops let off a very strange aroma of cheese and dead grass. Strange takes a different meaning in sour brewing, what with all the mouse taints and horse blankets.

That's it for today's post. The next half of this post will discuss the bottling and some initial tasting notes.

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