Do all Lambics/Sours need to age for >1 year?

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Well-Known Member
Feb 23, 2010
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New Jersey
I'm a relatively new brewer (about 4 months now) who just went all grain, and I just tried a lambic from the liquor store and really liked it. Yes, it was Lindeman's, but that was all they had and I didn't know it was controversial here. However, I imagine I would also like a dry, non-backsweetened lambic as well. The only issue I see is time.

My family planning on moving in a year or so, and I don't foresee bringing a lot of beer with me that needs to age. As a result, I'm holding off on making any beers or wines that need to age, since it's heavy (and difficult through many services) to ship. (Feel free to infer that you can probably mooch some free homebrews from me in a year)

Do all sour ales need a long time to condition? Or is it just the most popular styles that do?

Also, I notice a lot of people here say they are making 15 gallon batches. Is that just because of the size of oak barrels, or is there something about 15 gallons that is better suited to lambics? I can only see making a 5 gallon batch with my current setup.
I brew 10 gallon batches, it's not much more work to brew in concentrate, like you do with extract, to make 15 gallons. I also use single container 15.5 gallon plastic fermentors. What I do is brew a couple of times a year just for the sours, and build them up year after year. There are a couple of styles of beers that are like lambics, but not aged their called FARO and "beer de MARS" beers. Faro is a immature Iambic that is sweetened and served very young, but it's not very complex. Home brewing lambics is time and space consuming hobby that not many people will respect. Except the us lovers of the Sour beer.
A timely question. I'm also thinking about jumping into the sour scene, but the 1+ year aging is quite disheartening. I want my sour beer now, dangit! I'm aiming more for sour browns like new belgium's la foile, or even a sour pale like petrus. What happens if you bottle something after say, 2-3 months in a carboy? Will I get bottle bombs and a wasted batch, or just beer that doesn't taste sour/funky enough?
Berliner Weisse beers are ready to drink very quickly and don't really require aging. All other sours that I know of do.
"Lambics" definitely need more than a year. Brewing 10 or more gallons twice a year and blending each year from there on out is an excellent way to start your wild brewery.

However if you want to funk out a standard belgian beer and get a nice sour note you don't always have to wait a year. I've added vials of brett brux to base beers and augmented with dregs from american sours and had somewhat sharp acidic funk beer in less than 7 months. These are usually initiated in the warmer summer months. Once you have the beer in long-term storage you can keep it at cellar temp for at least 3 years.

A word of caution - once you've achieved your desired level of funk and it tastes good out of the carboy and you then bottle or keg it with priming sugar...make sure you wait at least a month before tapping the keg or opening a bottle. I've found that the bugs will kick up into a "tertiary" evolution that can lead to an initial sickness that will produce flavors unlike what you tasted in the carboy. The beer will eventually clean up though. If you have patience you will be rewarded with an excellent wild brew.
Thanks for the advice and recommendations- I'll be looking up some Berliner Weisse recipes to sate my sour cravings till I can brew something else.
You can get them sour in a few months with a combo of sour mashing and lambic blend in the primary but I don't think it will taste good for at least 6-9 months. It's late into the second year where they start getting good. Producing sour beers is more like a decade long commitment that is realized in about the 3rd year but you just can't stop making them. They are in the same category as big barley wines.
It's been a while since you posted but I had a minute to suggest:
Do you have a keg system? Maybe it's time to start? A keg only costs 20 bucks, used, maybe 30. Dedicate one or two and have fun!

If you're not a purist, you can start a sour beer and add a teaspoon of 88% lactic acid, and from there just keep adding freshly fermented beer to the keg. Or fruit or mead or whatever. Just don't let it run too low! Try to get some sour beer concentrated, left over.

I like this technique, personally, I don't nurture any acidic acid: the co2 and my obsession with cleanliness seems to have made sure of that. Occasionally I might take a bit of home-made vinegar and add it to a pitcher, but not often.

Anyway, I am like you: I don't want to wait. So... blending has become a joy and an art. That way it's always on tap.
I agree with Simcoe for lambics only; they require at least a year.

A Berliner Wiesse, you can get by with a few months.
Agreed - one year minimum for the lambic. Two is better (painful, but better). The complexity and depth make it worth the wait. Once you take the time, you'll be glad you did.
You can sour wort to get something quickly which I do with a wheat beer that is real nice in the summer time. It's sour but not complex, you just need time for that. Brett often times only takes 4 months so you could try to sour wort then pitch Brett and it will be good but nothing replaces time
No love for full wort souring? I intend to try that this year.

That's how I did my BW. Turned out great. Sour-worted for 48 hours at 110-120F. I'll be doing this again, but with some other styles and maybe trying a hoppy BW or American Red. :) Have fun!:ban:
There are other sour beers that don't really need to age that long to be good. Try some of the Jolly Pumpkin beers like Bam Biere or Calabaza blancha. Those aren't aged all that long in the brewery. I just kegged a batch of a sour wheat beer using JP dregs that I aged for 90 days and I'm really happy with the result. I've also just bottled a batch of Saison with WLP670 that I also aged 90 days. It's a beautiful complex beer.
I was reading and talking to a pro brewer who said that Berliner Weisse is actually supposed to be drunk pretty fresh. He said they're not intended to be aged much at all.
I was reading and talking to a pro brewer who said that Berliner Weisse is actually supposed to be drunk pretty fresh. He said they're not intended to be aged much at all.

Depends on how it is produced - it certainly applies to a sour mashed Berliner. If you have living bacteria/brett in there, they last much longer.
You can also make a ale with Saccaromyces (saisons are the most popular for this, but other styles work too, especially belgian styles) and then secondary with a mixed culture of brett, lacto, and pedio. This will get you a drinkable sour beer in as little as 4-6 months, although more is better.
The joke my sour homebrewing buddies always make is, "IF you think a year is too long to wait, just imagine how you'll feel in a year. You'll still be saying a year is too long to wait but, had you brewed last year, you'd be drinking a sour right now."

Moving is a risk though so I understand that.