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Any Lambic/gueuze blending tips & tricks?

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wickerman

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I have 5 gallons of each - a 1,2,3,& 4 year old extract lambic. I was thinking about having a few (1-4) people over to get some different perspectives on blends. What’s the best, or easiest way to go about this? Measure by weight, with a scale? How much to take out of each carboy for the tasting/blending? Pint enough? How much of each blend should there be? What quantity is considered enough for a reasonable taste? A 1/2 ounce? An ounce? Anything else I’m completely forgetting? I’ve Made lots of sours, but never blended by taste before. Just solera types, where it all went in regardless. Have had luck that most have been good enough - great on their own, or bad enough that they were obviously dumpers.
Also, it’s a little further down the line, but any recommendations on how much sugar at bottling? I feel like over carbing w/ sugar is less likely than under carbing, relying on the yeast/Brett alone.

Thanks in advance!
 

sweetcell

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a tip that was passed on to me: taste each component separately, and take notes, before blending anything. learn what each one has to bring to the table.

you can go by weight or by volume, either will work. you want to end up with a percentage breakdown in the end (20% of #1, 33% of #2, etc..) so either way will get you there.

if your beers are perfectly flat, because they've been aging for months without active fermentation, then you're about 0.4 volumes (approx) less than what most calculators expect. so if you want 2.5 vols in your finished beer, add enough sugar to get to 2.9'ish.

if your beers finished at very different FGs, then you might want to use a dedicated barrel-mixing tool like this one. in fact you can use that calc for just one beer. be sure to set "Barrel Aged? y/n" to "yes."
 

Qhrumphf

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I like to use graduated cylinders and go by volume. Taste each individually first as said.

I haven't blended in a 4 year but I personally start with 50% 3 year 25% two year 25% one year and adjust from there. Takes some tweaking but that's ballpark of what I like so it gets me close from the start.

Pulling 8 oz of each will probably be enough as long as you're judicious with the sampling. If it was just you, could get away with less.

My general rule is to assume your blend will reach the gravity of the lowest component of it, and to carbonate accordingly. For me they've always been close so it hasn't been an issue, but yeah, if there's a wild gravity difference you're gonna me making some assumptions. A barrel blending calculator is a good idea.
 

AMessenger

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Congrats on the patience to collect that many blending options.

I understand the lambic brewers use a fairly high % of their young beer to provide the food for bottle carbonation. I typically just choose whatever beers are most interesting (regardless of age) and blend in % that I think with be complimentary. I give these a few months bulk aging to meld and stabilize and then bottle with priming sugar like a normal beer.

I think you can’t go wrong if you blend beers that are already good on their own. How much of one beer or another you choose to use is largely dependent on the range of flavors in your components. I think of acidity levels, boldness of the various flavors, and the elements that would make for a complex (but not muddled) flavor profile when I blend. I’ll typically do 1 gal as the smallest increment and stick with 2-3 beers tops. I also don’t bother with mixing test blends as I usually have a high degree of confidence the beers I chose will work together based on individual tastings and I think there is enough change to the beers after they’ve melded to make fine tweaking of a blend sort of futile. You are really just setting up the best possible circumstances for the beer and then hoping it turns out well (not unlike all the other steps that go into making an aged sour beer)
 

mashpaddled

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Taste each component and then try blending in small volumes so you can figure out a blend that makes you happy. Anything with small volume markings will work (graduated cylinders, measuring cups, etc.) so you can scale it up.

Unless your fermentation vessels have volume markers where you can see how much is leaving the aged beer then you need the beer to go into a vessel with markings. If you are racking into a bottling bucket to blend I suggest beforehand marking it off at quarter or half gallons so you can be more precise about the volumes. I have several bottling buckets and sometimes rack each blending component into its own bottling bucket so I can measure what is going into a blend but generally I only do that if I intend to make multiple blends.

How you mix the ages depends on how you want the blend to taste and how you carbonate the beer. If you do not intend to add sugar you'll need to include a lot more younger beer although even a year old might be too old when using, I assume, yeast lab blends. They work faster than spontaneous ferments. Adding more old beer in the mix is going to put forward those oxidized flavors (sherry, leather, etc.) while the younger components will give you more bright acidity, younger brett flavors. A lot of lambic is blended more heavily with one and two year (and often six month) so if you want to target something closer to what you can buy work on that model. Personally I like to get as much older beer into a blend as I can but I like those old ass beer flavors.
 

NTexBrewer

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What do you typically do with any leftover beer you do not blend. Say you have 5 gallons of 2 year old beer and use 2 gallons in a blend. Do you rack the remaining 3 gallons into a smaller vessel?
 

mashpaddled

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What do you typically do with any leftover beer you do not blend. Say you have 5 gallons of 2 year old beer and use 2 gallons in a blend. Do you rack the remaining 3 gallons into a smaller vessel?
I try to work out blends to avoid that problem by blending in round numbers or make multiple blends to use up all the beer but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. You should either rack beer into vessels that will minimize headspace, add fruit to make a fruited beer, or rack in fresh wort right away and make those vessels continuous blends. Whatever you do your goal is to erase headspace.

When I rack sour beer into anything that isn't final packaging I add in priming solution so a small amount of fermentation will consume any oxygen picked up in solution and force the oxygen in the headspace out of the vessel. It isn't a permanent elimination of oxygen contact but resets the beer into a similar aging environment as it was in before I started moving it around.
 

kestrelbrewing

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When I rack sour beer into anything that isn't final packaging I add in priming solution so a small amount of fermentation will consume any oxygen picked up in solution and force the oxygen in the headspace out of the vessel. It isn't a permanent elimination of oxygen contact but resets the beer into a similar aging environment as it was in before I started moving it around.
That's a great idea!
 

sweetcell

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When I rack sour beer into anything that isn't final packaging I add in priming solution so a small amount of fermentation will consume any oxygen picked up in solution and force the oxygen in the headspace out of the vessel. It isn't a permanent elimination of oxygen contact but resets the beer into a similar aging environment as it was in before I started moving it around.
you avoid oxidation and its various off-flavors, which is great, but be aware that this may result in THP. not a problem if the beer will be spending several more months aging before final packaging.

that being said, i do something very similar: if i'm going to be moving around beer (ex: transferring to another vessel for fruiting), i will add some sugar in advance of the racking so that whatever is in the beer is awake and active. upon being racked to the second vessel, the beer will be off-gasing the recently-produced CO2, providing immediate protection. if you add the sugar at the time of racking, it could take days or weeks for the bugs to wake up... that's days or weeks for the O2 to do its damage.
 

mashpaddled

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you avoid oxidation and its various off-flavors, which is great, but be aware that this may result in THP. not a problem if the beer will be spending several more months aging before final packaging.
If I'm racking into another vessel other than a bottle it's sitting for at least a few months and typically when I bottle sour beer it sits in the bottle for several more months.

that being said, i do something very similar: if i'm going to be moving around beer (ex: transferring to another vessel for fruiting), i will add some sugar in advance of the racking so that whatever is in the beer is awake and active. upon being racked to the second vessel, the beer will be off-gasing the recently-produced CO2, providing immediate protection. if you add the sugar at the time of racking, it could take days or weeks for the bugs to wake up... that's days or weeks for the O2 to do its damage.
Personally I've never had much of a problem seeing aggressive airlock activity within a day or two even with beers that were more than a year old.

The issue I would raise with your process is that the racking process is introducing air into the beer even if CO2 is getting off-gassed at the same time--but if you're not finding oxidative flaws developing after racking then it's doing its job.
 
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