Friday, November 9, 2012

Wild Brews!

Just started brewing about 60 gallons of Flanders red ale (sour ale) and about 60 gallons of lambic each one after primary fermentation will go in their own barrel and after one to three years of secondary fermentation will be conditioned and mixed with Traverse City cherries.

lambic is probably one of the oldest styles of beer still made today. The problem now is that lambic brewing is in danger of ceasing to exist. This is due to the changing European economic market, changes in consumer preferences, and the artisanal nature of lambic brewing. It will be a sad day when these beers are no longer available. Lambic is made by what many consider an anachronistic process. The grist is made up of 30-40% raw unmalted wheat with the remainder being malted barley. 

The mashing process is carried out using a technique called turbid mashing. Unlike decoction mashing the liquid portion of the mash is removed and boiled. Whereas most brewers want the freshest hops, lambic brewers use hops that have been stored in the open for 2-3 years. The wort itself is not inoculated with a pure strain of yeast. Instead the brewer allows the wort to cool overnight in open cool ships. This way any microorganism in the brewery can get into the wort and grow. These organisms include various bacteria and wild yeast.And finally, the beer is fermented not in stainless steel but in oak casks for upwards of 3 or more years before bottling. So as you can see lambic is not your ordinary beer.

Real lambics can only be produced in a small area outside Brussels by spontaneous fermentation in areas that have the unique microbial flora for these brews. So I will not call my beer lambic out of respect for those who brew the real thing. I prefer to use the term lambic-style, plambic, pseudo-lambic. Again with the point being that real, true lambic is only made in Belgium and nowhere else. Making lambic-style ale requires a great deal of patience. Real lambic is not made in a few weeks or months. It takes years for it to become the complex product you find in the bottle. There is no magic formula for “instant” lambic-style ale. The microorganisms used in the fermentation grow very slowly and are equally slow at producing the flavor profile that gives a product that has depth of character. You can use traditional techniques, use all the right ingredients and add all kinds of wild yeast and bacteria, ferment in a cask for years and still end up with a totally disappointing product. The beer may end up so acidic I will want to use it for cleaning calcium deposits off of your brew kettle or it may be so mild that it barely passes as infected beer. And even after bottling, the beer can undergo large changes in flavor. So I'm prepared for a large amount of uncertainty all along the way.

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