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First Lambic - questions on technique

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mirthfuldragon

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I jumped in on the 2018 12 Beers of Christmas exchange, and I ended up with a crabapple lambic from Randy Mosher's "Radical Brewing". I saw a copy of the base recipe - 44.5% pilsner, 44.5% wheat malt, 11% munich - straightforward enough. I plan to get it started in the next couple of week or two now that the weather isn't horrible and I can brew outside. My plan is a 12 gallon, batch, split it three ways for primary fermentation (2, 5, and 5) , then consolidate the smaller to a pair of 6.5 gallon carboys after primary. I was going to pitch Wyeast 3278 Lambic blend, and then add sour dregs to one of them and see how they develop. I figure I will rack on to crabapples an/or cranberries ~6-8 weeks before bottling, and use champagne yeast to carbonate.

Now comes the part where I fall down the rabbit hole. I'm halfway through American Sours Beers and have been through Milk the Funk forums and wiki. I understand the concept behind turbid mashing, but it is not something I want to try the first time out, so that leaves torrified wheat, flaked wheat, and white and red wheat malt as my options. I have used flaked wheat and white wheat before. I use a BIAB so rice hulls should not be an issue. I figure on mashing high, 156-158, to keep plenty of dextrins for the brett to chew on.

I am also worried about it finishing in time to rack to fruit and then bottle before Christmas - so I have eight months. I have access to Jolly Pumpkin dregs, which are supposedly very aggressive - JP turns their sours around rather quickly.

I thought I had some questions in there, but I guess it really comes down to, am I on the right track here?

For yeast/bugs, I will have to order 3278. My LHBS only has Roselare and Omega's brett blends. Personally, I do not like intense sourness - I had a sour from Une Annee at Christmas and it was just so incredibly sour that I really don't have words for it. I finished a short pour, and was eventually able to get to some of the complexity, but it was just way too sour. If I had a choice, I would lean it towards brett complexity with a pleasant sourness.

For hopping, I was able to get some seriously aged hops from my LHBS, so I was thinking 2-3oz of those against a ~12g batch. Thanks!
 

Dcpcooks

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Your reading the right stuff and your on the right track. If you choose a blend with pedio you need to plan for a longer secondary fermentation because it may succumb to ropiness which takes time to work itself out. It may not get it but usually they hit a window that just tastes like sh&t for a while.

I like the omega brett blends. That should finish by next December if you get it going relatively soon. You will still get some sour and funk plus you’ll have some extra tartness from the cranberry or crabapple.

Most homebrew stores have some open hops or old hops sitting around from when they bag smaller packs from 1 lb bags. I’d ask!
 

Dcpcooks

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The turbid mash isn’t that complicated. I’ve done the one in the American Sours book several times now. If you have a small pot you can just add your qt to that pot and heat it on the stove. If you can recirculate/ramp temps it’s really easy.
 

AMessenger

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I've made a beer with the Wyeast Lamic blend that aged three years and then pitched 4 other beers on the same yeast cake. I've been underwelmed by the flavors it developed - have some good tasting notes here if interested. None of them developed much in the way of sourness or general complexity.

I wouldn't use it again. I'm sure others have had better luck. If you do use it I'd recommend having some reasonably acidic lacto soured beer to blend in at bottling which can go a long way towards salvaging a bland beer.
 
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mirthfuldragon

mirthfuldragon

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The turbid mash isn’t that complicated. I’ve done the one in the American Sours book several times now. If you have a small pot you can just add your qt to that pot and heat it on the stove. If you can recirculate/ramp temps it’s really easy.
I re-read the section from American Sour Beers a few times and I kinda get it now, so I think I will give it a shot. I have a two keggle plus a cooler mash tun system, propane-fired. I have a chugger so I can recirculate, so that will help. I have started planning out the brew day, so I should be able to make it work. Thanks!

I've made a beer with the Wyeast Lamic blend that aged three years and then pitched 4 other beers on the same yeast cake. I've been underwelmed by the flavors it developed - have some good tasting notes here if interested. None of them developed much in the way of sourness or general complexity.

I wouldn't use it again. I'm sure others have had better luck. If you do use it I'd recommend having some reasonably acidic lacto soured beer to blend in at bottling which can go a long way towards salvaging a bland beer.
Yeah, I have read that. Any suggestions? Right now, due to availability at my LHBS, I think I may wind up using Roselare blend for half the batch and Omega's Bring on Da Funk blend (two Sacch strains, six brett strains, zero bugs), and go from there. With the beers destined for cranberries or crabapples, the overt sourness isn't a major concern to me (and I don't like intense puckering sour anyway - but Gose/Berliners are nice).

Once concern I have is head space. I would like to end up with two full six-gallon carboys, so I was going to brew a 12g batch, split it into two 5g batches in the 6g carboys, and then 2g in a 3g carboy. I could throw some Goodbelly L. Planatrum at the small batch. I would like to generally keep the large fermentors biologically distinct, but I don't want to let 2g of wort sit for a few days without something in it, while the big fermentors drop after high krausen. I could put it in my lager fridge at 34° - that would be an option. Suggestions, or am I over-thinking this issue?
 

couchsending

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Headspace is not nearly as big of a deal in carboys as it is in barrels. I wouldn’t worry about the headspace. Also Cantillon doesn’t top off their barrels...
 
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mirthfuldragon

mirthfuldragon

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Headspace is not nearly as big of a deal in carboys as it is in barrels. I wouldn’t worry about the headspace. Also Cantillon doesn’t top off their barrels...
Thanks for the reply. I ordered a pair of 7g Fermonsters (I already have one and love it), with the goal of putting 6g of wort into each one. I ordered yeast, too - Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend and Gigayeast Sour Cherry Funk, to split fermentation.

I visited a local brewery (Une Annee) that does mostly sours this weekend, and went through their lambics (and brewmaster was nice enough to pull an unfruited sample from the primary for me), and now I understand better why people reference some lambic blends as "bland" - the sourness was a very clean lactic acid (non-vinegary) which let the peach/raspberry/cherry shine through. It makes a lot more sense to me now.

I did some more reading on turbid mashing, and I broke down the schedule from American Sour Beers. I may be missing something, but using a couple of calculators (and breaking the formulas down and checking and re-checking), the infusion steps do not seem right.

At one point, with 8# of grain and 11.5q of water at a target mash temperature of 150° (including infusions and subtracting tubid draws - I am starting in the middle), the instructions are to add 5q boiling water to raise the mash to 162°. Brewer's friend says that it would only take 3.1q to go from 150° to 162°, with 5q taking me closer to 167°. The math seems wrong at every step, and I don't get it.

At this point, I am leaning back towards mashing high (158°) with a 30% malted wheat/70% pils grainbill, over-sparging, and then boiling it 3 hours.
 

AMessenger

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There are so many options for handling the mash bill for one of these beers (I've tried quite a few) but I don't believe any of them give you that great of control over the levels of sourness or complexity of the beer. The biggest lesson I've learned so far is that you really need to brew a number of beers to get a reaonable set of blending options.

Your decision to start with two blends is a good one. I would expand to more and explore how the character changes as you repitch new beers onto them.

Finally, as another alternative to turbid mashing I have found that a cereal mash with raw wheat produces some nice starchy wort. I do a primary with a blend of Belgain Trapist Ale yeast and lacto that finishes at about 1.020 on wort made this way so I think it is leaving a fair amount of food for the Brett and other microbes.
 

RPh_Guy

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Personally I wouldn't use a turbid mash. Flaked wheat (+/- wheat malt) should provide the same effect -- it is already gelatinized. You could even shorten the saccharification rest if you want more starch.

It hurts my brain even reading through the turbid mash instructions in that book.
 
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mirthfuldragon

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So, here we are, five months later. I drew off samples to check gravity. The Gigayeast Sour Cherry Funk batch is at 1.000, mildly tart, moderately funk (my wife's reach was *shudder* "no no no no") with notes of sour tart cherry, but generally mild, with a measured pH of ~4.01.

The Wyeast Lambic blend SG was 1.020(!) with a pH of 3.80. pH readings were with my $15 pH meter, so no guarantees there, but it is a ballpark if nothing more. Lots of raspberry, blueberry, and maybe cherry notes, but all of them are more like actual fruit than what one thinks of as raspberry. Tartness is there, but it hides behind the relatively high gravity and resulting sweetness.

Generally, both sours are still mild, and since they are destined for cranberries or crabapples, I am not too worried about the pH. I may let them sit another month and check the gravity again. I also have several examples of commercial sours from New Glarus, including a cranberry lambic, which I may use for their dregs. I think I am going to pull some of the sour cherry funk blend yeast cake into the Wyest lambic blend batch, to help with the gravity.
 
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mirthfuldragon

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Going to revive this thread to update a bit. In October I added the crabapples (harvested from a tree behind my LHBS, believe it or not). Blended them a bit, topped up the non-fruited fermentor with fresh wort, and let it sit for two months. Kegged and forced carbed the fruited one. Final results are very nice, and surprisingly clean. The nose is full of funk and barnyard, and the complexity is there in the back and roof of the mouth. Sourness is pleasant. The crabapples, being mainly sour and pithy (almost mealy), don't really add a lot to it, and I think I might go with cranberries next time.
 
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