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Old 11-18-2010, 07:12 PM   #1
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Jul 2009
Keller, Texas
Posts: 4,882
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Now that my sour mash-fake-kriek is about ready for bottling I am finally ready to delve a little deeper into the world of sour brewing. I want to try doing a lambic through a solera and I'm a little unclear on a few pieces. I know some of you are lambic wizards and have solera experience...

I want to start off small with maybe a 5-6 gallon project. I'll probably do it in a carboy or bucket and pitch a lambic blend and the dregs of lambic or two. Each year or so I want to pull out a portion and replace it with fresh wort. The removed portion will likely get split up, some going into another fermenter for further aging to create gueuze down the road and each year doing something different with the rest such as bottling straight, aging with different fruit, etc. so I get a nice collection of lambics.

I'm aware 5-6 gallons won't produce much beer, but I'm looking to produce them more for special occasions. As much as I would like to do something bigger I only have so much room for fermenters and I usually have some normal beers fermenting and I have an oud bruin project I intent to start in December that will also take up some long term space.

So here are my questions:

1. I know lambic blends typically take at least a year but am I being overly ambitious to assume that it will be stable and palatable after a year? Should I target tapping into the fermenter every 18 months instead? Most of the beer that gets removed will be further aged for another year or more to blend into gueuze or get another 6 months on fruit...

2. It seems to me the more beer is removed and replaced with fresh wort the longer it will take for all the critters to get done eating because they are being given a bigger meal. That said, how much could I realistically swap out for fresh wort to keep on the yearly cycle? Ideally I would like to take at least half but I don't want to mess up the cycle by taking out too much.

3. My research suggests that over time the acid-producing bacteria will multiple faster than the yeast so each cycle may become more acidic. Will that be true in this case? If so, is there any way to avoid it, such as pitching more yeast with fresh wort?

4. Anything else I am overlooking?

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Old 11-18-2010, 09:43 PM   #2
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Sep 2007
DC, Washington DC
Posts: 3,237
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For our pale solera barrel we are planning on cycling 1/3 of the beer each year. This will eventually give us a blend with an average age of 3 years. Here is a spreadsheet I came up with to help figure out what the different variables do to the average age of the blend:

1 year old sour beer can be quite good, but it will depend on how fermentable the wort going into the system is. If you are doing a turbid mash it may take more than a year for the gravity to stabilize, but for a simple infusion mash you should be fine.

Not sure if the lactic acid bacteria will dominate or not, that is more in the short term. After a year the Brett will be the dominant microbe (probably).

Watch out for using a bucket, some people suggest that they let in too much oxygen leding to acetic character. I haven't used them, but it is something to be aware of.

Yeast autolysis can be an issue, so after a couple years you may want to rack off into a clean ferementer (much easier for you than for us...).

You are probably being too ambitious with the number of different things you are hoping to do, but if it tastes great I'm sure you'll find room for a second solera.

Hope that helps, good luck.
Check out The Mad Fermentationist for my adventures in fermentation and my book: American Sour Beers!

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