Monday, March 18, 2013

Cabernet Grape Lambic Tasting

Cabernet Lambic Tasting!Some batches of sour beer take a little longer than I originally plan. The beer I’m drinking tonight was brewed in June, 2009. The majority of the base lambic was bottled, with delicious results, about a year and a half later. This portion was racked into two one gallon jugs with a total of two pounds of Cabernet sauvignon grapes. The flavor was never spectacular, so I was never motivated to do anything with it. Eventually (i.e., two years later) a sample I pulled convinced me to finally get around to bottling.

Cabernet Lambic III

Appearance РThe color is between ros̩ and a brand new penny. Crystal clear. Not nearly the saturated garnet of the batch Nathan and I aged on the same wine grapes with double the ratio of fruit to beer. The tight white head stays aloft for a few minutes before dissipating completely.

Smell – Nuanced funky nose. I get lemon peel, minerals, with some raw-barnyard Brett. The grapes add a deep subtle fruitiness, but it really isn’t identifiably vinous. No detectable off-flavors from the advanced age, Brettanomyces is a superb anti-oxidant!

Taste – Bright lactic-acidity, a severe case of the funks, and vanilla-oak through the finish. The Brett character is not to the level of being objectionable, but it obscures some of the more enticing fruit flavors. As my palate becomes desensitized to the initial wave, I detect more citrus zest, and faint jammy grapes. Many of the elements of a great sour beer are there, but the pieces don't fit together perfectly.

Mouthfeel – Medium-high carbonation on top of a thin body. Not tannic or otherwise rough or overly dry. I had one bottle gush a couple months ago, but the rest have been fine so far.

Drinkability & Notes – Not my finest work, but the effort of my first turbid mash (and pitching bottle dregs from a 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze) really made this batch more lambic-like than either of my previous efforts. The grapes needed to be more aggressive to make a worthwhile contribution to the flavor, but the fermentation sparked by their sugars did boost the acidity closer to where I wanted it compared to the straight version.

9 comments:

Don said...

If you had it to do over what would you change if you were doing it again? Increase the grapes? use a different variety? It still sounds pretty good.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I'd probably go up to 2 lbs/gal on the grapes. The beer we did that for won its region at last year's NHC as a fruit lambic. The base in that case (wine barrel solera) was also a much different beer than this, more sourness, less funk. I'd also cut the time on the fruit way down. The fruit character in that batch was already dying at about 6 months after we bottled (4 months on fruit).

Eric Branchaud said...

I've seen you use this glass for pics of a lot of your sour beers, and I love how it looks (especially for brilliantly clear brews). Do you recall who makes it and/or where you got it?

Anonymous said...

What would you recommend to improve a lambic? It seems like a simple but involved process i.e. turbid mash with a simple 60/40 pils/unmalted wheat grain bill, pitch lambic blend, maybe pitch some dregs, wait. Temperature is a key factor of course. I noticed some of your lambic posts report unsatisfactory results. What would you do to improve the final product?

Aaron Brown said...

Where did you source your grapes? I like the wild grape lambic I sent you, but picking them was a pain (not to mention seasonal).

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

IKEA has some beautiful hand-blown glassware for really reasonable prices! I like the one in this shot (Ivrig White Wine Glass), $2.99, for the angular shape as well. They sell a larger red wine version of the same shape that I should probably buy a few of as well.

My lambics have been slowly, but steadily improving over the last six years, but with the slow feedback loop it takes time to refine the process. I’ve honestly had much better luck with a more “modern” approach to my other sour beers, but it seems with lambics that the more traditional I go the better the results. However, even with “perfect” process Jean at Cantillon and Armand at 3 Fonteinen need to dump and blend beer. Not only do they talk of the importance of barrels, but they are often barrels larger than the standard ~60 gallon variety. The wood also provides a residence for the microbes, which can differ from barrel to barrel providing natural variations.

Hopefully these are the sorts of things I’ll be able to do at Modern Times, on a scale impossible as a homebrewer. I’m hoping to start a dozen or so barrels initially, each with a unique culture. Some wild, some with dregs from a particular brewery, others with cultures from labs. From there the best microbes will be propagated to other barrels, while those that produce unpalatable beer are dumped. I’d rather that route than the one-size fits-all mixed cultures that many breweries opt for. We’ll see if it works…

The grapes came frozen from Midwest Supplies. They were pretty reasonable per-pound, but required buying a 5 gallon bucket. I ended up putting them in four beers, and giving bags to a half dozen friends.

Beer Diary... said...

That's a beautiful glass of beer. Cheers!

Carl Tolino said...

That Barn yard, and funk that you describe in your beer is probably from the Brett fermenting the Cab Sauv grapes. Brett is something that wine makers dread. It produces flavors like barn yard, wet leather, wet dog, old hay, etc.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

The base beer has similar phenolic compounds, certainly (and intentionally) Brett derived. Brett does tend to produce more of its unpalatable characters in wine than beers, but I haven't seen a great explanation of why. I'd guess it had more to do with way they are introduced, rather than compounds in the grapes.

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