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Gueuze

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DraconianHand

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I am in the planning stages for starting a gueuze and I need some input.

I have a 50L stainless steel vessel that I plan on storing the gueuze in. My idea is to store/age the gueuze in the vessel and blend in it. 5 gallons of aged gueuze comes out once a year and is replaced with 5 gallons of fresh lambic.

First, does each batch of lambic have to sit in the carboy for 6 months to a year, or can I take it out of the carboy once it has finished fermentation and let it sit in the SS vessel?

Second, do I need to inoculate each batch of lambic (after the first) prior to racking to the SS vessel or can I ferment without the bugs and then rack the fermented beer into the SS vessel which contains bugs?

Third, I am thinking of putting some oak in the SS vessel to provide some wood flavor to the gueuze as if had been in a cask. Should I go with staves, cubes or chips?

Fourth, I assume that the gueuze needs contact with air (a very small amount). This should form a pellicle. Each year when the 5 gallons of gueuze is removed for serving and 5 gallons is added to replace it, the pellicle will be broken. Will the subsequent pellicles dissolve or can I expect some sedimentation in a few years?
 

avidhomebrewer

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I haven't done what you plan on doing, but can offer some suggestions. You mention removing 5 gal and replacing with 5 gal. How much do you originally plan on putting in the SS vessel? I would fill it with about 5 gallons then add 5 more, let it sit and eventually remove the second 5. I've made a few Lambics and I would ferment in primary for about 1 month then rack to secondary where aging takes place and any fruit additions. You could rack to the SS as the secondary and let it age for quite a while in there. Or, you could do all of your fermentations in the SS vessel. Your second and third questions are kinda related. I would use oak chips in there which will eventually become 'inoculated' with the necessary bugs over time. For the first batch, I would put in either Wyeast 3278 alone (which I have done with good results) or 3278 and Lacto or Pedio. Obviously, you could use the White Labs equivalent. For this, I wouldn't use anything but oak chips. Expect the oak to take a while to get the flora on it and don't sanitize the oak after each batch, otherwise you start over. My lambics didn't have contact with air, other than racking, and they formed a pellicle. It does take quite some time (about 1 year, I found) to form it though.
 
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DraconianHand

DraconianHand

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Avid,

My plan, so far, it this:
  1. Brew 5 gallons of lambic. Ferment and inoculate. Rack into SS vessel.
  2. Wait 6 months.
  3. Brew 5 gallons of lambic. Ferment. Rack into SS vessel.
  4. Wait 6 months.
  5. Brew 5 gallons of lambic. Ferment. Rack into SS vessel.
  6. Wait 6 months.
  7. Brew 5 gallons of lambic. Ferment
  8. Remove 5 gallons of lambic for consumption.
  9. Rack newly fermented lambic into SS vessel.
  10. Repeat steps 7-9 once a year.
This should give me an ever changing/evolving complex flavor. In theory, a portion of the beer in the SS vessel will be the first lambic introduced into the SS vessel.

As for oak, I am not sure if I should add it to the fermenter or put it in the SS vessel. If it goes in the SS vessel, it will be staying there for just about forever. I don't think that digging around in 10-15 gallons of beer on a regular basis is a good idea (but maybe I am wrong).

No fruit for the gueuze, just straight lambic.
 

Iordz

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1. Each batch should sit in the carboy for, at least, 6 months. I think Vinnie said it best, "the beer will tell you when it's ready." No one can really put a time frame on lambic, Flanders ales or any "sour" ale. A great indication of "readiness" is the natural flocculation of the pellicle. But, any good Belgian brewer will tell you that you need to taste the beer and determine whether it's ready or not.
2. You only need to inoculate one batch. Once the lambic is ready, brew another and rack onto the yeast cake. The bacteria will start to dominate the flavors after about two to three generation, making the beer unpalatable.
3. Oak flavor is not important in the style. Lambic brewers use very old barrels because they contribute no flavor but provide a great environment for the brett and other bacteria to grow. You could add some for complexity, but it is not necessary. I would throw oak in because the brett and bacteria will grow in the wood, then you can use the cubes to inoculate other beers.
4. The pellicle should flocculate naturally when the beer is ready. There may be a small amount of sediment in the bottles, but it's all natural.
The hardest part of brewing lambic is waiting; you're looking at about 2-3 years before you can drink your first gueuze!
 
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