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Janx 04-17-2006 04:08 PM

Lambic project
I thought I'd start a thread to talk about this lambic project I'm undertaking. There were some questions in another thread, so I figure a single thread to discuss all things lambic and see what everyone knows would be good.

I'm going to use a very traditional method as much as possible. The grain bill will be at least half unmalted wheat and I'll do a traditional turbid mash, which involves many steps and is basically like a complicated decoction. The turbid mash is very important to developing complex lambic flavors. The long-fermenting Brett strains need all the complex sugars and starches for their long fermenting process. There's no way to shortchange this part of the process if you want real lambic.

I'm going to ferment in 4 stainless steel kegs for about a week and then pitch in Wyeast Lambic blend in each of them to let it get started. Then I'm going to rack it all into a 60 gallon French Oak Barrel that has been used for about 6 batches of wine and has lost much of its oaky character.

As far as hops, I have been aging some...whenever I have just a bit left, I throw them in a bag and leave them out to get aged. But for this project, I'm going to buy some of the 10 year old hops from morebeer.com because lambics use a LOT of hops for preservative qualities, but they need to be aged so they don't have any bitterness.

I plan to age it for a year or more in the barrel, then possibly blend some with fruit for a secondary ferment, and then I'll bottle it and let it sit a while longer.

I'm hoping for the best. Anyone have any thoughts:D

I'm really excited about fermenting in a barrel.

Cheers :D

Brewpastor 04-17-2006 04:29 PM

Sound like you have things planned nicely and like it is going to be a great project. One question: The Lambic blend, I have always done single strain additions along the way, being under the impression that one strain sets the stage for the next. Do you get the same results from the blend and have I been wasting my time with single strain additions?

Also, are you doing anything to the barrel in the way of cleaning and prepping, prior to use?

Janx 04-17-2006 04:54 PM

Hey Pastor,

I went back and forth about the blend or single additions. I've read a bit about it, and from what I can tell, the single additions may offer you more control, or they may not. It seems like environmental conditions like pH and temperature cause one strain of yeast or bacteria to rise or fall in prominence maybe more than the timing of when it's introduced. In other words, they self-regulate and will cycle through different phases regardless of when you add them. Supposedly, the Brett will grow slowly throughout the process, and the slow diffusion of air through the barrely will keep it going through the process. So, that's my hope, but I'm not sure single additions wouldn't be better.

I had trouble finding a pure Pediococcus culture, and I've had good luck with the blend before, so I just went for it. I can get a lot more volume for a lot less money this way, and in the end, I really want to innoculate my barrel and have a "natural" harmonious house lambic blend living in the wood, so I eventually don't have to pitch any lambic yeast at all.

As for the barrel, it is currently full of my neighbor's Pinot Noir. We are going to time it so that he drains his barrel and I fill it back up again. I'll probably give it a rinse and a quick sulfiting, which apparently kills surface level nasties, but doesn't penetrate the wood far enough to kill desirables. I'm thinking that by never allowing it to be empty and thus get moldy, etc, I should be good. At least that's my hope. If anyone has experience with barrels, I'd love to hear what you've done. This is my first barrel experience and I'm really excited about it.

Cheers :D

Baron von BeeGee 04-17-2006 05:01 PM

You'll have plenty of lambic (I guess), so you could consider setting some aside, doing a batch each year, and then after several years you'll have 1, 2, and 3 year old lambic for a house geuze.

The process is too daunting for me...I've tried some I like, so I occasionally snag a bottle. But I am definitely curious to hear updates on how it goes.

Janx 04-17-2006 05:14 PM

Yeah I'm hoping to do something like that. I'm going to try to fill one barrel every year, and I also want to get a Flanders Red barrel going.

Geuze blending is, I imagine, an art form that's hard to pick up without a lot of trial and error, but I'll give it a go ;)

Brewpastor 04-17-2006 06:33 PM

I agree that the cultures self regulate, with one culture moving up and dominating when the conditions are right. I also know it is really diificult to culture some of those little nasties up, so the mixed blend makes a lot of sense. As far as the barrel goes, man if it is full of wine until just before you use it, I'd say it is good to go. My concern was more along the lines of dried wood and leaks, as well as REALLY funky stuff growing inside. I almost picked up a barrel at Walmart of all places a couple months ago. They had full barrels of toasted french oak from various wineries for sale in the garden section. Unfortunately I didn't have any the cash or the space and didn't want to hassle with the maintenance to keep them ready until I did have a project for them. But I have seen them at Walmart before and maybe they will be back next year. I will see how your project goes and then decide.

Janx 05-05-2006 10:07 PM

Hey y'all...life's been pressing so I haven't had a chance to post in a while. But I wanted to update anyone interested about the Lambic project.

I'm getting my barrel today. My buddy is bottling his wine as we speak. Then I get a nice 60 gallon French oak barrel that has been used for many batches of wine for...free :)

I'm thinking I'll rinse it well, then rinse it with a sulphite solution, drain it and burn a sulphur stick in it and bung it up until I can get it filled in a few weeks. The book I read about the subject said to open the barrel and scrape the inside, but this barrel doesn't open. The bunghole is the only opening. If anyone has any experience with barrels and wants to give me some pointers, they'd be much appreciated. I'm actually kind of stoked that the Pinot Noir may contribute some interesting qualities.

I'm also making the first batch of the lambic tomorrow (and maybe the second part Sunday). It'll take me 4 batches to fill it (at least).

Here's what I'm thinking (again, any thoughts are welcome):
15 lbs 2-row
2 lbs malted wheat
8 lbs soft white wheat - unmalted
2 lbs flaked wheat (unmalted)

8 oz Hallertau (10 year old alpha acids...who knows???)

I've got a good Chico ale starter going for it. I'll let that go for a week or so and then pitch a Wyeast Lambic blend. I have 4 Wyeast Lambic blend packets...one per batch. Once I get all 4 batches made and in primaries, I'll wait a week or so to let the last batch get the lambic yeast and bacteria going and then rack all of them into the barrel at once. Then it sits there for a year or more ;)

It's going to be a beautiful weekend here in NorCal and my brother is coming up to help me out, so I'm looking forward to a fun weekend of brewing. I'm missing the Boonville Beer Fest, but so it goes. For lambic, I'll make the sacrifice ;)

Cheers! :D

Toilet Rocker 05-06-2006 03:07 PM

Best of luck to you on this batch. SOunds like everything is well-thought out and you're ready to go. Be sure to keep us posted.

Janx 06-09-2006 09:32 PM

OK, I now have my barrel and 50-60 gallons of what will hopefully soon be lambic. I'll be putting it in the barrel this weekend most likely.

Some thoughts: A turbid mash is not trivial, but it also isn't all that hard. It does take a long time and requires more pots than usual. Combined with the long boil times, my brew days were 8-10 hours instead of the normal ~5. Doing two batches in a weekend was quite the process.

Yield - I think I would have gotten better yield from the unmalted wheat if I had been able to stir the mash the entire time like traditional lambic brewers. I have come to understand that the physical act of stirring it gets a lot of the starches into the wort.

Last, if you're going to make it, use rice hulls to help sparging. They work wonders. Never got a stuck mash despite using up to 50% unmalted wheat in some batches.

Now to wait...

Cheers :D

wulax25 10-13-2006 02:06 PM

When you pitched the Wyeast Lambic yeast blend, did you aerate the beer first? If you did, does it create any off-flavors common to oxygenating already fermented beer, or did the Wyeast blend consume the oxygen before it could impart its bad influence?

Thanks for any help!

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