Starting a solera project

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TandemTails

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I've been slowly getting my feet wet in regards to wild / sour brewing and would like to eventually start a solera project. So far I've done a tart cherry mead with wyeast lambic blend (8 months into aging), a blueberry mead with wyeast lambic blend (6 months into aging), a sour wort berliner weisse and a cider pitched with wild yeast, lacto and brett.

Based on all the researching I've done, it seems like the solera method goes like this:



1. You start with a base beer and pitch your culture into it (interval 1).

2. The next interval you rack that into a separate vessel and pitch new wort ontop of the original yeast/bacteria. The original beer continues aging.

3. At interval 3 you rack the 2nd generation beer to a new carboy and add fresh wort to the original carboy on the same original yeast/bacteria.

4. At interval 4 you bottle half of your original beer and then top it off with the 2nd generation, which in turn gets topped off with the 3rd generation. A 4th generation wort is brewed to top off the original carboy.

5. This cycle continues indefinitely or until the taste starts to stray.

Am I missing anything as far as the process goes? Is the "primary" fermenter the only one I need to worry about keeping innoculated with yeast/bacteria (adding bottle dregs, etc)? i was planning on using the larger 6.5 gallon carboy for "primary" so some of the original beer stays behind during interval 2 and 3 rackings and it lets me completely fill a 5 gallon carboy to eliminate headspace.

I'm still not sure what style I want to brew for the actual beer itself. I'm not sure if I should go with a more standard clean sour or if I should try brewing something darker. I'd plan on doing any fruit additions after racking from carboy 3 to a different fermenter before bottling.

Does everything look good so far? If so, I need to start figuring out what style I want and then get to obsess over recipes for a while :)
 

tarmenel

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Looks spot on. I have started a similar process without the initial move. To get things up and running I brewed a batch in March and again in June. Each was 5 gallons.
I will brew again sometime soon to have the third solera fermentor and then in March next year will do the first pull and transfer.
This way I'll have it up and running within a year and then every six months make another pull.
I haven't been brewing the same beer for each one although I might start just making something super simple and then adding various bugs along the way.
If things get to sour I'll just brew something really hoppy and run that through to hopefully lower the LAB.
 

specharka

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I didn't think a solera had to be this complicated. Why are you bothering to rack the makeup beer twice? Unless you add young beer from two separate sources to the solera (almost like a traditional gueuze blend of 1, 2, and 3 year lambics), why do you need that that intermediate racking step?

I was toying with the idea of something similar, but in lieu of a 5G terminal carboy, use a 10G used French oak wine barrel. Racking 3G out every six months into a small 3G finishing carboy and replacing makeup + angel's share with clean non-inoculated beer. I'm still toying with it.
 
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TandemTails

TandemTails

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I didn't think a solera had to be this complicated. Why are you bothering to rack the makeup beer twice? Unless you add young beer from two separate sources to the solera (almost like a traditional gueuze blend of 1, 2, and 3 year lambics), why do you need that that intermediate racking step?

I was toying with the idea of something similar, but in lieu of a 5G terminal carboy, use a 10G used French oak wine barrel. Racking 3G out every six months into a small 3G finishing carboy and replacing makeup + angel's share with clean non-inoculated beer. I'm still toying with it.
The original only gets racked once. After 6-8 months it gets racked to a 5 gallon carboy and then the original 6.5 gallon carboy is filled with fresh wort.

Unfortunately I don't have the space for barrels or sanke kegs but I already have 1x 6.5 gal carboy and 2x 5 gallon carboys I can dedicate to this.
 

tarmenel

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My understanding is that using one vessel is not really solera as you aren't really moving aged beer through the system. I like the idea of the three vessel approach. Looking forward to hearing about the results. I have gone back and forth on a barrel and probably will rather use a few 5 gallon carboys and this will allow blending once things get up and running and each beer is ready.
 

specharka

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My understanding is that using one vessel is not really solera as you aren't really moving aged beer through the system. I like the idea of the three vessel approach. Looking forward to hearing about the results. I have gone back and forth on a barrel and probably will rather use a few 5 gallon carboys and this will allow blending once things get up and running and each beer is ready.

This might be true for a sherry solera but it's rather unorthodox for a brewery to use more than one souring vessel in series. It's far more economical and logical to take smaller pulls from a larger souring vessel than to use multiple, smaller souring vessels in series. You're still going to develop the same house character in your carboy/barrel, but with reduced risk of oxidation since you're not racking it as often.

If you want to use multiple carboys for house character, you could easily develop a blending program which took pulls from individual carboys, similar to blending programs in modern sour beer breweries. And if you notice the flavor/character drifting towards something undesirable, it is far easier and quicker to make a correction this way.

http://www.milkthefunk.com/wiki/Solera
 
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