Lambic #2

>> Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sour beer time again! I recently split Lambic #1 in two and racked half onto red raspberries and half onto dark tart cherries. I figured it was time to start the next batch of lambic-style beer. I say lambic-style beer because there are some purists that don't believe a lambic is a lambic unless it's brewed the old world way (e.g. turbid mash, spontaneous fermentation, etc.). Personally, I don't subscribe to this line of reasoning. Processes, techniques, and raw materials change and evolve over time and I don't think it's that big of a deal to call it a lambic if the goal and the end result are consistent with the style. But what do I know, I'm one of those guys that eats their Chinese food with a fork.

Ok, back on topic. I also recently acquired a used Sanke keg that I converted to a keggle. It's more or less the standard conversion including a jig used to cut a circular opening in the top. I went with a ball valve and a combination sight glass and thermometer setup. This will be the inaugural batch on this new keggle and will also be my first time doing a 10 gallon batch. I know a lot of homebrewers start out doing 5 gallon sized batches then move on to 10 gallon or even larger sized batches. For me, 5 gallons is just about perfect; I have quite a bit on hand, but the kegs usually run dry right about the time I'm ready for a new style.  So I still plan to mostly brew 5 gallon batches, but it's nice to have the option of doing 10 gallons, especially for sours since they take so long to mature.

Today's recipe is similar to batch #1 but I'm playing around with the grain ratios a bit and I'm replacing a portion of the flaked wheat with wheat malt. As for yeast, I'm re-pitching the Roeselare cake from batch #1 along with a pack of Belgian Lambic Blend (Wyeast 3278). According to what I've read, 3278 doesn't contain a sach strain. Roeselare does when fresh, but since this is a re-pitch of the cake from batch #1 there probably aren't any viable sach cells left.

The mash schedule and fermentation temps will be the same as batch #1. As with most of my sours, I'm using aged debittered hops. Here's the recipe as I'm planning to make it:

7.0# Rahr Pale Malt
5.0# Dingemans Pilsner Malt
5.0# Weyermann Pale Wheat Malt
5.0# Flaked Wheat
1.0#-ish Rice Hulls
6.0 oz Aged Hops (90 minutes)
1t Yeast Nutrient
Roeselare cake blended with fresh Wyeast 3278

Dough in at 113F for 15 min. Raise temp to 122F for 15 minutes. Raise temp to 149F for 45 minutes. Raise to 158F for 30 minutes. Mash out at 169F.

Ferment at 68F for 12+ months.

Brewing Notes
The brew session went well. I got started a little later than usual which means I finished up later than usual. I did a test boil last night to make sure there weren't any issues with the new keggle.  There weren't except for a little bit of soot...and carbon monoxide when the gas was turned up too high. CO levels never got very high, but it was above zero. I tend to get higher readings just from parking the car in the garage. I believe the issue is the combustion gasses weren't properly venting resulting in incomplete combustion. To remedy this, I drilled a few holes in the skirt. This seemed to help so I'll keep an eye on it and may end up drilling a few more holes.

One other thing, I usually gravity drain the mash into the BK then lift the BK onto the burner. That's not an issue with 5 gallon batches, but 10 gallon batches with a pre-boil volume greater than 12 gallons is a bit of a back breaker. Fortunately my daughter is pretty strong so the two of us were able to lift it up onto the burner. I'll need to figure out a different method in the future.

Update 2/10/2014
I checked the fermenters this morning and there was zero activity. I came home from work this evening and it was like dueling airlocks. Fermentation has taken off like crazy.

Update 2/14/2014
Both carboys are still fairly active (about one bubble every 4-5 seconds)  but the krausen has dropped. Krausen had started pushing up through the airlock about 20 minutes after the above video was taken. I ended up switching out the airlocks for blowoff hoses but it's low enough now that I'm able to re-install the airlocks. The aroma coming out of the airlocks is slightly sour with some sulfur notes.

Update 6/24/2014
Not really an update with the beer, but my tart cherry tree has a nice amount of fruit on it this year. This is only the second year bearing fruit. Last year I got about a dozen cherries. Here's a pic of this morning's harvest. These will likely go into a portion of the lambic #2.
Update 7/2/2014
I've harvested almost all the tart cherries and I'm up to 13.5 pounds. Not bad at all for a second year harvest.

Update 6/2/2015
I pulled a sample from half the batch last night (the half that didn't go into the fermenter. I have to say I was a little disappointed. The tartness level was much lower than I expected and the body seemed a little thin. I may have to do some tinkering with this one.