Lambic Solera - Brain Sparging on Brewing


Sour beer, saisons, farmhouse beer, homebrewing, ramblings

Lambic Solera

The posts below follow the path of my lambic solera, started in December 2010. I try to update periodically when something interesting occurs. There's no point in posting that the pellicle is still sitting there each month so sometimes time goes by with no updates.

If you don't know what a solera is, it's a term borrowed from sherry makers (although it is also used in some vinegar, wines and brandy) who use a series of barrels to blend different ages of their product to product a more complex product. There is a line of barrels with sherry of increasing age. As the oldest barrel reaches maturity it is partially drained and the next oldest barrel is used to fill the remainder of the oldest barrel so the oldest barrel is a blend of ages. The same process is done all the way down the line until the youngest barrel is filled with fresh sherry. They all age for another period of time, then the process is repeated. That way you get the different character of each barrel in every bottle plus a variety of ages rather blending several barrels of finished sherry of the same age.

Homebrewers have somewhat improperly adopted the term for what we do. Basically, it involves a single fermenting vessel (although you can use multiple if you like) where a beer is aged (with either primary fermentation occurring in the same vessel or only using the aging vessel as a secondary fermentor) for a period of time, then partially drained and filled with young beer. Then the process continues as the brewer chooses. Over time you raise the average age of the beer in the solera (depending on how much you drain out each time) but you also get a mixture of ages so it is, or at least should be, more complex than just blending several separate batches of beer.
The Initial Post - I blabber in more detail about soleras, talk about my initial plans, the initial recipe and brewing it up.

Update One - A quick update during the first fermentation.

Update Two - A couple months in, the pellicle starts to form and souring begins.

Update Three - Quick update at six months.

Update Four - Quick update at eight months.

Update Five - One year marks the first drain/refill. I discuss brewing the second batch and an initial tasting.

Update Six - A couple of weeks after refilling I discuss how I split the first batch and continuing plans.

Update Seven - Thirteen months in, I give the first carbonated bottle a taste and update the various batches.

Update Eight - A little over a year and a half, the raspberry portion gets bottled.

Update Nine - Nineteen months in, I taste the first carbonated framboise bottle.

Update Ten -  Party is still rockin' at twenty-one months.

Update Eleven - Keeping it real at twenty-two months.

Update Twelve - Beginning of year two. I bottled, racked beer to reserve for gueuze, racked some on blackberries, cleaned out the solera and brewed a new fill.

Update Thirteen - A week into the new year of the solera and primary fermentation has already given way to the beginning of a new pellicle.

Update Fourteen - Two months into year three I check in on all the pieces of the project and taste year one against year two. Year one is the tastier beer but the combination into gueuze should yield an incredible beer.

Update Fifteen - 2.5 years and the bottling of the blackberry lambic.

Update Sixteen - Thirty-two months in and a taste of the blackberry lambic.

Update Seventeen Part 1 - Three years complete, which means it's time for Year Four's brewday. Year Four will feature a full-force turbid mash.

Update Seventeen Part 2 - Bottling Year Three and blending gueuze out of Years One, Two and Three.

Update Eighteen - Two months into Year Four.

Update Nineteen - Eight months into Year Four with tasting notes on the gueuze and Year Three.

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