Wednesday, July 14, 2010

65 Gal Lambic

I guess it was just over a year ago now, that my brew friends Al, Stefen and myself decided we would try our hand at brewing a traditional styled pLambic (while I respect the history, I will be referring to the brew as lambic here out). Independently we had each brewed a sour beer at one time or another, with average results, but our respect and enjoyment of the lambic beer drew us to an epic brewday. We decided to try to brew this as close to the Belgian method as possible, with the only exception of spontaneous fermentation.

First, we wanted to secure a barrel. After trying to chase down some internet leads, I decided to call some of my local wineries. I think I only made 2 calls before speaking with the cellarmaster at Chadds Ford Winery, and we managed to work out a deal on a 65G French Oak barrel. Since this is a fully operational winery, the barrel was recently retired after about 6 batches, and had remained swelled, and recently had a sulfur stick burned in it to prevent organism growth. I picked up the barrel and we really began to move forward with plans for the brew formulation, method approach, and sourcing ingredients.

For the recipe, I deferred to the single best source I have acquired on brewing lambic beer, Wild Brews by Jeff Sparrow. We went with the traditional 70/30 pilsner to wheat grist. We chose unmalted wheat since we were ambitious enough to tackle a turbid mash for this monster brew. Since I had previously brewed a starter batch with unmalted wheat, and had milled it at home, I pushed very strongly to have the wheat milled by the supplier, North Country Malt. Milling wheat is tough enough, milling raw kernels is no joke. Since I only milled 3 pounds and thought my drill was going to explode, 30+ pounds would really suck. The guys took my word for it, and we had the supplier mill the wheat. We also sourced our pilsner malt from NCM. For hops, we went with Hallertau Select since they were under 2% AA and we did not have access to ample amounts of aged hops. For yeast, we used 5 very fresh smack packs of Wyeast Lambic Blend, a half gallon, 4th generation, slurry of Roselare, and the contents of a primaried 5 gallon starter batch pitched with Wyeast Lambic Blend.

As far as process, we had to do a turbid mash - just because. Mike, at The Mad Fermentationist, had a great post breaking down the turbid process. I used the Wyeast method, as described in Wild Brews, to develop a spreadsheet based mash schedule seen below:
Mash/Boil Schedule:
Link to google doc

To say this was a difficult mashing process would be quite the understatement. We used two huge rectangular coolers as mash tuns. The only handy way we had to elevate the tuns to allow gravity draining was to place them in the bed of a pickup truck. Hitting the first rest went perfect - it was when we went to pull the first turbid collection we learned the borrowed tuns had a collapsed steel braid and the mash stuck. After trying the more common stuck mash procedures, we ended up bailing most of the mash in one tun, to the other so that we could tilt the tun and replace the braid. We then repeated for the other tun. Once this "open heart" process was done, the tuns drained as you would have expected. The remainder of the turbid mash process went long, but as expected.

Once we collected as much wort as we could fit in the kettles we began the long, arduous task of boiling. Since we collected a total of 120 gallons over the day, and only had 2 55G kettles, we would boil to evaporate wort, then add more wort, boil, then add... The boil took much longer than we anticipated, but since it was really a hands off process we took this time to drink several sour beers, and pitched the dregs in the barrel. Our second equipment failure came when we tried to recirculate the wort towards the end of boil for the chiller. Since we used pellet hops and no hop sack, the kettle hop filter clogged almost immediately. Our only recourse was to cobble together what became the largest "McGiver'd" auto-siphon this side of the Mississippi. We drained into buckets, then chilled and added directly to the barrel. After pitching yeast, we called it a night.

The long term plan is to follow a solera program for the brew. We will collect ~30 per year and split between the 3 of us, and top up the barrel each time with fresh lambic wort. That translated to 10 gallons of barrel fermented lambic each year for the foreseeable future. I will also be blending this beer with a smaller, personal lambic project I have of my own in a 30 gallon barrel. This should hopefully compliment the flavors of the larger batch.



A ProMash Recipe Report

BJCP Style and Style Guidelines

20-A Lambic & Belgian Sour Ale, Straight Lambic-style Ale

Min OG: 1.044 Max OG: 1.056
Min IBU: 10 Max IBU: 15
Min Clr: 4 Max Clr: 15 Color in SRM, Lovibond

Recipe Specifics

Batch Size (Gal): 60.00 Wort Size (Gal): 60.00
Total Grain (Lbs): 109.09
Anticipated OG: 1.052 Plato: 12.82
Anticipated SRM: 3.2
Anticipated IBU: 14.1
Brewhouse Efficiency: 75 %
Wort Boil Time: 240 Minutes

Pre-Boil Amounts

Evaporation Rate: 15.00 Percent Per Hour
Pre-Boil Wort Size: 150.00 Gal
Pre-Boil Gravity: 1.021 SG 5.26 Plato


% Amount Name Origin Potential SRM
70.0 76.36 lbs. Pilsener Germany 1.038 2
30.0 32.73 lbs. Wheat Unmalted Belgium 1.038 2

Amount Name Form Alpha IBU Boil Time
10.91 oz. Hallertauer Select Pellet 3.50 14.1 60 min.


Wyeast 3278 Lambic Blend (5 gallon starter batch to be pitched with barrel wort, 2 separate 5 gallon batches will get individual pitches)

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