Monday, September 29, 2008

A Bottle of Cable Car

At least now I'll have something to compare my Cable Car Clone against when I bottle it in a few months, thanks for the trade Scott...

Granted I just read that they changed the blend this year (dropping the Red Barn Saison portion), not that I'm complaining only 50 cases were made this year.

The Smoke for Homemade Bacon

Yeah, I know the pun doesn't work for this one as well as for the first bacon post, but what can I do?

After the pork belly sat with the cure for 6 days (during this time I flipped it every other day) in the refrigerator it had released a good deal of liquid creating its own brine. The night before smoking I took each slab out of the Ziploc bags and gave them a rinse and patted them dry with paper towels. I then left the meat uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to develop a pellicle. In this case pellicle does not refer to the white layer that forms on the surface of an aging Lambic, but to the tacky dried protein layer that helps smoke adhere to the meat.

My friend Scott already had his charcoal smoker going when I arrived early on Sunday morning. We opted to go with a couple big chunks of hickory, the classic bacon wood, soaked in water for a few hours to prevent complete combustion. Once the smoker got up to 200 degrees we put the meat on (more to come later on that duck breast in back).

After 2 hours, with a second dose of charcoal added half way through, the meat hit the target internal temperature of 150 degrees, and looked wonderfully brown.

Once the meat had some time to cool we ripped (note the pliers) and cut the thin, but though, layer of skin away from the subcutaneous fat. I'm planning on tossing a piece of the skin into a pot of beans later this week.

When I got home I sliced up a few pieces of the plain bacon. It was hard to get it cut as thin as store bought bacon (getting it as cold as possible first would have helped), but who wants 1/16 inch thick bacon anyway?

The pieces fried up nicely and went well on a pizza (homemade sourdough crust, sliced zucchini, mozzarella, and two roasted red peppers pureed with a tablespoon of bacon grease).

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alderwood Smoked Imperial Porter

I'm getting ready to really jump back into brewing beer after taking most of the summer off, so I thought I'd post one from the archives that turned out well. This was my first attempt at a smoked beer, and it certainly lived up to my expectations.

It was a relatively straight forward process as I didn't smoke the malt myself. I bought alderwood smoked malt from Folsom Brewmeister, which sells malt that they smoke over alder, cherry, and maple. If you are interested in smoking your own malt I would highly recommend reading Smoked Beers by Ray Daniels and Jeff Larson which goes into the process in depth.

The base porter recipe for this beer is pretty standard . I based it loosely on Jamil's Smoked Porter recipe from Brewing Classic Styles, and the recipe details for Alaskan Smoked Porter in Smoked Beers. The twist was that the basemalt, crystal, and dark malts were all from the UK.

This is a beer where I did pretty extensive water adjustment because of both the dark color and the smoked malt. Chlorophenols are made when you have phenols (like those produced by yeast or smoke) and a form of chlorine (either from your water or bleach sanitizer). Since this beer was so high in phenols I decided to take out insurance against chlorine by using bottled spring water. To help with the dark color I added a good deal of bicarbonate in the form of baking soda and chalk. The dark malts are acidic so you need a base (carbonate) to cancel them out, this helps the mash stay at the right pH, and also prevents the beer from getting acrid.

The only real hurdle for someone trying to copy this recipe is that smoked malt is highly variable and loses smokiness as it ages. The malt I used was pretty fresh (~1 month since smoking), so if your malt is older I would suggest swapping out some of the golden promise for more smoked malt. You could certainly just use Weyermann's Rachmalt, but I would not suggest using peat smoked malt at a similar level as it is much more aggressive.

Tasting 9/27/08

Appearance – Creamy one-finger tan head covering an inky-black opaque beer. Good head retention, but not much lacing. From the color is looks more like an imperial stout than a porter.

Smell – Distant campfire, light roasted coffee, bread. I don't get the distinct smoked salmon (varietal alder smoke) aroma that I get from Alaskan Smoked Porter, but it also doesn't have the smoked sausage/ham aroma that many German Rauchbiers have. It had some hop aroma a few months ago, but that is gone after 6 months in the bottle.

Taste – Smooth with a long dark chocolate finish. Smokiness is not as apparent in the taste as it is in the nose, just a supporting roll. Moderate bitterness fights against the residual sweetness. Well balanced and drinkable for a big smoked porter, but it isn't particularly complex.

Tastes a bit thin for such a big beer (despite the highish FG). The carbonation might be just a bit higher than ideal for a big rich beer, but it is still medium in the grand scheme of things. There is a hint of ethanol warming as the beer warms up, but it is pretty smooth for a 7%+ beer.

Drinkability & Notes – Certainly a balanced beer with none of the individual components (smoke, roast, sweet, bitter) dominating. If I brewed it again I would probably increase the smoked malt and add some dark crystal for some dark fruit character, but other than that there isn't much I would alter.

Alderwood Smoked Porter

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 3.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.09
Anticipated OG: 1.071
Anticipated SRM: 42.8
Anticipated IBU: 47.3
Brewhouse Efficiency: 62 %
Wort Boil Time: 100 Minutes

4.50 lbs. Golden Promise
2.75 lbs. Alderwood Smoked Malt
1.00 lbs. Crystal 55L
1.00 lbs. Munich Malt
0.50 lbs. Chocolate Malt
0.34 lbs. Black Patent Malt

0.75 oz. Whole Centennial 8.60% AA @ 60 min.
0.50 oz. Whole Willamette 5.40% AA @ 30 min.
0.50 oz. Whole Willamette 5.40% AA @ 15 min.
0.50 oz. Whole Willamette 5.40% AA @ 0 min.

WYeast 1056 American Ale/Chico

Water Profile
Calcium(Ca): 66.0 ppm
Magnesium(Mg): 9.8 ppm
Sodium(Na): 110.0 ppm
Sulfate(SO4): 39.0 ppm
Chloride(Cl): 142.0 ppm
biCarbonate(HCO3): 241.0 ppm

Mash Schedule
75 minutes @ 154

Brewed 3/16/08 by myself

Alderwood smoked malt from Folsom Brewmeister. I used it about 1 month after it was smoked. Started with Fox Point Spring Water. Mixed 5 g baking soda, 3 g chalk, 2 g CaCl, and 1 g kosher salt, added half to the boil, half to the sparge.

Batch sparged and collected 5.5 gallons of 1.044 wort.

After the boil, I chilled down to 68 and strained out the hops I was left with about 3 gallons to which I added half of a 2 qrt yeast starter I had made that morning. The starter had gotten pretty active, no idea what the cell count was though.

Put into the fridge at 62 degrees, fermentation looked like it started quickly, but it was probably just residual foam from the 60 seconds of pure O2. The next morning I boosted the temperature to 64 to make sure the beer fermented well while I was down in Florida for the week.

3/21/08 Still a pretty big krausen when I returned, I upped the temp to 68 to help the yeast to finish off fermentation.

3/25/08 Krausen almost gone. Gravity down to 1.018 (75% AA, 7% ABV). Good balance of sweet, roasty, and smokey.

3/27/08 Lowered temp to 62 to get the yeast to start dropping out.

4/10/08 Dropped temp to 50.

4/11/08 Bottled with 2 3/8 oz of cane sugar. Gravity still around 1.018, smokiness has subsided a bit, but it is still tasting nice.

Carbonated quickly, smoke was milder than I expected, but still prominent.

5/10/08 Scored a 37 in The Spirit of Free Beer, most suggested that it was balanced but could have been smokier.

6/28/08 Side-by-side with a 2007 Alaskan Smoked Porter mine is a shade darker with a darker head, slightly less smoke, fresher/hoppier, and not as much dark fruit. If they were the same age they would probably be even closer.

9/12/09 2nd Tasting, with a much better photo...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making Fresh Sausages

Not many thing go better with a beer than a sausage. One the extra joys of going to the phenomenal Toronado beer bar in San Francisco is grabbing a sausage to go with your beer next door at Rosamunde Sausage Grill. So when my friend, and fellow homebrew, Nathan invited me over to give lend a hand making sausages I jumped at the opportunity to give it a shot.

Nathan and I enjoy many of the same things including sour beer, bread, funky cheese, cured meat, and pickles. That said, our styles of cooking and brewing are completely different. While I am precise in my note taking and planning, Nathan is an inspired madman who hates recipes and notes. Our two outlooks compliment each other though, I keep his crazy impulses in check and he comes up with flavor ideas I wouldn't otherwise. The downside is that he method that follows doesn't include many precise amounts because frankly we didn't do much measuring.

After Nathan and I got out bacon into the cure we did two rounds of sausage making. Before I arrived Nathan had cut up an entire pork shoulder (Boston butt) along with 2 lbs of leftover pork belly for the extra fat (the ideal amount of fat for a fresh sausage is around 25%). The pieces just need to be cut up small enough that they will fit down the feed tube of your meat grinder. He had put the bowls of meat into the freezer to get them as close to freezing as possible without actually getting solid. One of the keys to making sausage is to keep the meat and equipment as cold as possible while you are working so the fat doesn't melt.

We made two different spice/herb blends for some flavor variety. The first, inspired by Italian sausages, was a paste of pressed garlic, fresh rosemary from Nathan's garden, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and whole fennel seeds along with kosher salt. The second blend was more exotic, fresh toasted coriander, and cumin, along with smoked paprika, red pepper flakes, and black pepper with kosher salt. The 8 lbs of meat was divided in two with half getting mixed with each spice blend (ideally this would have been a few hours before grinding, but we didn't have time). I would say each 4 lb batch of meat got about 1/4 cup of seasonings plus the 3 tbls of Morton's kosher salt (you would need about 5 tbls of Diamond Crystal kosher because the flakes are larger), and that seemed to be about right for my tastes. If you want to check your seasonings you can always fry up a little sausage patty and give it a taste test before stuffing the mixture into the casings.

Before grinding we put the Kitchen Aid mixer meat grinding attachment into the freezer for awhile to get it as cold as possible. We then took turns grinding the meat through the small dye into a bowl set in ice water. After we ground the Italian batch we swapped it into the freezer for the spicy batch.

After the spicy meat was ground, we retrieved the Italian meat and beat it on low for one minute with the paddle attachment (this is called the primary bind). After the meat was reasonably homogeneous we added 1 cup of Nathan's homemade hard cider and beat it for another minute. We found that it was important to stir the liquid into the meat by hand for a minute to make sure the liquid didn't splash out when we turned the mixer on. Once all the cider was absorbed into the meat we moved it back to the freezer, and then repeated the bind with the spicy meat and a cup of Sly Fox Gang Aft Agley Wee Heavy.

We retrieved the Italian meat from the freezer and attached the sausage stuffer attachment to the Kitchen Aid. We lubed the stuffer with some butter and slid a natural casing onto it. We used some string to tie off the end of the casing, which he had soaking in water to make it pliable while we prepared the meat.

It took awhile for the air to work its way out of the stuffer, so I would suggest running meat through until it comes out smoothly before starting to stuff sausages. The technique that we found worked best was to have one person stuff the meat into the grinder with a good deal of force while the second person held the sausage forcing it to fill the casing before it extended out further. You do not want to try pulling the casing out to keep up with the flow of meat, the meat will move the casing on its own when it needs more room. We also found out that the thin plastic plunger the grinder came with was woeful at getting a steady stream of meat down to the auger, apparently the wooden one they used to include was much better.

After the ropes of sausage was complete we started to twist them into sausage links. After twisting a few links we had a tear in the casing and decided it wasn't worth the effort. With the two batches of sausage stuffed we decided to cook up a few links of each. The larger one on top is the spicy sausage, the three paler ones below it are the Italians.

Nathan put the sausages into a simple Cassoulet he had simmering on the stove, just a pork stock with some beans and aromatics. Both sausages were excellent with the Italian one being my favorite. I think the cumin was a bit too strong in the spicy sausage, but overall the flavor was still excellent.

We froze the rest of the sausages for a later date. I'm certainly looking forward to doing this again now that I have the basic technique down.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Cure for Homemade Bacon

My friend Nathan invited me over to give him a hand curing some bacon. He found a great deal on pork belly from a Korean restaurant supply store, ~$1.75/lb, so he bought a full 12 lb cryovaced slab. 2 lbs of it was added to a batch of sausages we made to increase the fat/meat ratio.

We split the remaining 10 lbs into three slabs so we could make three different flavors. Each slab was first dredged in a basic dry cure of kosher salt (1 lb), dextrose (13 oz), and pink salt (3 oz) (recipe from Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn).

The first slab got some extra turbinado sugar for a standard sweet bacon that should be perfect with breakfast. The second slab was coated with a great pastrami spice mixture from Schwartz's in Montreal. The third slab got a savory paste of garlic, fresh rosemary, and black pepper.

Each slab was then transferred into its own 1 gallon ziploc bag with as much of the air squeezed out as possible. They will sit in the refrigerator for 1 week, I will flip each one once a day. During this time the salt will help to pull moisture out of the meat while seasoning the meat and drawing the added flavors in. The pink salt (sodium nitrate) helps to defend the cure from botulism (a bad fermentation) and will keep the meat a pretty pink color.

Next weekend I will clean off the cure and dry the meat overnight in the refrigerator. Once it is dry I'll either hot smoke it or cook it in a 200 degree oven for about 3 hours. It will then be ready to slice, fry/bake, and eat. Most of the bacon will be kept in the freezer where it will last well for at least 6 months.

Camembert - Making Cheese at Home

The first step was to wash and sanitize a large pot, two molds, and various spoons. I used Star-San, but any sanitizer suitable for brewing would work here as well (Iodophor was actually developed for the dairy industry). For two small rounds of Camembert I used 1 gallon of whole milk, in my case just a standard supermarket jug (the rawer the better though).

Here are the three oddball ingredients, from left to right: rennet (an enzyme that curdles milk proteins), Penicillium candidum (the classic white mold), and Flora Danica (a blend of different acid and CO2 producing bacteria, including Streptococcous lactis, S. cremoris, S. lactis biovar diacetylactis, and S. cremoris).

I heated the 1 gallon of milk to 90 degrees on the stove. I then added 1/4 tsp of the Flora Danica and 1/32 tsp of the Penicillium candidum (eyeballed). It takes a bit of time for these cultures to dissolve so I stirred gently for a few minutes (you want to be gentle as oxygen is not good for lactic acid producing bacteria).

I held the milk at 90 degrees for 90 minutes, during this time the Flora Danica feeds on the milk sugars creating lactic acid which in turn lowers the pH of the milk. This step is necessary for the rennet to curdle the milk proteins properly.

I then added 1/8 tsp of rennet which I had diluted in 2 tbls of filtered water. After stirring in the rennet I let it sit for 60 minutes still at 90 degrees. After the curd left clean cut marks I cut the curd in a 1/2 inch checkerboard pattern and let sit for another 30 minutes. The curd was very delicate so I skipped the 15 minutes of stirring Home Cheese Making. I scooped the curd into the two round plastic molds positioned on two sushi mats.

The whey drained quickly forcing me to pour off the excess that dripped through the mat onto the plate below. After the cheese seemed relatively solid (3 hours) I flipped it over and left it to drain another 2 hours. Took the molds off and added a light covering of kosher salt. Waited 10 minutes, then put into my chest freezer at 45 degrees, DampRid in the bottom to stop it from getting too humid.

The cheese will stay at 45 for the next two weeks while it develops the classic white mold rind. After the mold develops I'll wrap the two rounds in a cheese wrap and give them another 2-3 weeks to ripen at 45 before eating.

At this point I am much happier with this recipe from Home Cheese Making than I was with the one for provolone. That said I had to drop the step that called to stir the curd for 15 minutes, I am beginning to suspect that maybe I need to add more rennet than the recipes call for.

11/02/08 Tasting notes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Homebrew Water Treatment – A Practical Guide

I think that water treatment has made the biggest impact on the quality of my beers (besides fermentation temperature control and pitching more yeast). It has the greatest impact on very pale or dark beers, which both taste much smoother now that I adjust the various levels of ions in the water. That said if you are either just starting out or simply can't be bothered rest assured that you can still brew some very good beers without worrying too much about your water (read #6 anyway).

Most of the water guides out there in books and online tend to be heavy on the “why” and light on the how. What follows is the water treatment process I go through for most of my batches.

It is aimed at all-grain brewers. Malt extract contain all the minerals that were concentrated from the water that was used to brew it, so ideally you would be using distilled or reverse osmosis (RO) water to reconstitute it. You can still add some salts to the boil for flavor, but in most cases if you are using moderate tap water you probably already have more than enough ions.

In my experience it is not a good idea to copy historic or famous water sources (Dublin, Munich, Burton-on-Trent etc…). The brewers in these areas often go to great lengths to treat their water to make it suitable for brewing, it is much easier to start from your local water and tweak it to make an ideal water for the beer you are brewing. I have made several below par beers simply by dumping water adjustment salts (Epsom Salt, Table Salt, Calcium Chloride, Gypsum, Chalk, and Baking Soda) with no real concept of what levels were right for the type of beer I wanted to come out with, don't let this happen to you.

1. Research your water. The important ion concentrations to find out are calcium, sulfate, sodium, (bi)carbonate, chloride, and magnesium. I have always been able to get this info for my tap water off the city's water department website. ProMash has a very helpful tool that will calculate your Ca, Mg, or Alkalinity based on CaCO3. If your water department doesn't have a site, or the site doesn't have all the ions listed, trying emailing, or calling them. As a last resort you can send your water to a testing company like Ward Labs (Either test W-6 or W-5A).

2. Determine what flavor ions you want in your beer. Calcium, magnesium, and carbonate primarily effect the pH of the mash, the other three are just there for flavor. Here are my suggestions for various types of beer:

Sulfate - Hoppy beers get 175 ppm, moderately hoppy beers get 75 ppm, and low hopped beers get less than 50 ppm.

Chloride – Hoppy beers get less than 50 ppm, moderately hoppy beers get 75 ppm, and low hopped beers get 100 ppm.

Sodium – Hoppy beers get less than 30 ppm, moderate hop/malt beers get 50 ppm, and very sweet/malty beers get 75 ppm.

3. Determine your estimated Residual Alkalinity. To do this John Palmer has a great spreadsheet on his website. Use any brewing recipe software to determine the SRM (color) of your recipe, then input this number into the spreadsheet, the spreadsheet will give you a range of RA, I just take the average of the high and the low.

4. Determine the rest of your water profile. Tweak the target water profile in the Residual Alkalinity spreadsheet until the RA matches the estimate needed for your beer. Adding calcium with lower the RA, adding carbonate will raise it. Magnesium will lower the RA as well, but it is much less effective than calcium and can give an off flavor if there is too much of it so I rarely go above 15 ppm. The spreadsheet also tends to require huge amounts of carbonate to get the RA high enough for very dark beers, but I haven’t found it necessary to go over 300 ppm. All beers need some calcium (it helps enzymes in the mash and promotes yeast health) so even if you need a high RA I would not go below 40 ppm calcium. If you have a lot of carbonate in your water you may want to dilute it with some distilled or reverse osmosis water to lower the number, it is hard to brew a very pale beer with more than 75 ppm carbonate.

5. Determine your salt additions and/or dilution. Enter your water (from step 1) and your target water (from step 4) into the free program BreWater 3.0. The program has a wizard that will automatically determine how much of each salt you need to add to reach your target water profile (a bit of rounding on your part is fine). If you have too much of any ion your best option is to dilute the tap water with store bough distilled or RO water. If you add a significant amount of pure H2O it is always a good idea to add some yeast nutrient blend, near the end of the boil, which will replace the trace elements that tap water contains (copper, zinc etc…) which are used by the yeast.

Steps 1-5 should be completed before you start brewing. Steps 6-10 are done on brew day, although 6 and 7 could be done the night before if you want to have your water and salts prepped.

6. Remove the chlorine/chloramines from your water. A carbon block water filter is the easiest way to accomplish this. In the long run it is much cheaper than a standard Brita/PUR filter and it filters water much faster. There are chemical and heat options as well, but I haven’t had great luck with campden tablets and pre-boiling the water seems like more effort than it is worth. This is also a good time to add any distilled/RO water. This may be the most important step as chlorine compounds can combine with phenols from the yeast or malt and create horrific medicinal chlorophenols.

7. Weigh out the salts on a gram scale. There are volume equivalents available for the weights, but since you are dealing with such small amounts it is best to be as precise as possible. I like to weight out each salt individually and then add it to another bowl. Divide the custom salt blend into two dishes by weight, one for the mash water and one for the sparge divided in the same ratio as the water. For example, if you will be using 3 gallons to mash followed by 6 gallons to sparge you should add 1/3 of the salts to the mash, and the rest to the sparge.

8. Mash in, mixing the malt, hot water, and the mash portion of the brewing salts. Wait 5 minutes for the pH reactions to take place, pull a small sample of wort, cool to room temperature in a bowl, and take a pH reading (I use Color pHast strips, but a pH meter is an option). A pH of 5.5 is optimal at room temp, which is equivalent to a pH of 5.2 at mash temps, but anything within .2 up or down of that is fine.

9. If the mash pH is on target, let the mash rest as normal (this happens for me 90%+ of the time). If the mash pH is too high add ¼ tsp of phosphoric acid, stir and take another reading, repeat until the pH is low enough. If the mash pH is too low, add either chalk or baking soda ¼ tsp at a time until the pH is high enough. It would be a good idea to note how much change each addition causes so you can use this information next time.

10. Add the rest of the salt blend to the sparge water, some salts may not dissolve completely in water so it is worth giving the water a stir occasionally to keep them evenly suspended. I also add phosphoric acid to lower the pH of my spage water below 7 if I am making a very pale beer. The amount of acid you need will depend on the buffering capabilities of your water, it takes about ¼ tsp of 10% phosphoric acid per gallon to lower the pH of my water enough.

If you want a more technical “why” discussion of water treatment, take a look at How to Brew by John Palmer or New Brewing Lager Beer by Greg Noonan, both of which are very in depth and do a good job explaining things like why calcium lowers the mash pH or how to calculate salt additions by hand.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lambic 2006 - 1st Tasting

After doing the write up for my second batch of Lambic, I thought it was probably about time to do a tasting of the first. This batch was brewed almost exactly 2 years ago and bottled in late July 2008. This marks the longest I have gone between brewing and drinking the first carbonated bottle of a batch.

– Certainly looks the part of a Lambic, clear golden with just a thin wispy white head that sinks quickly. Carbonation still looks a bit low. I am impressed that it is so clear considering it was just the residual microbes doing the carbonating.

– Sharp acidity, musty wooden basement, squishy overripe cherries, with some floral alcohols. It smells a bit acetic for a lambic, but not as much as something like La Folie or Rodenbach Grand Cru. The alcohol comes out more as it warms, a testament to its 7.5% ABV (Boon Oude Geuze Mariage Parfait is the only commercial example that strong I know of).

Taste – Bottle conditioning has mellowed out the acidity a bit compared to the sample I had out of the bottling bucket, but sourness is still the primary flavor. The acidity is predominantly lactic and plenty sharp with some biting acetic acid in there (which hits me on the back of the throat). It has a minerally lemon rind quality that is interesting. A bit of that grainy aftertaste I seem to get early on with my pale sours, but if the Berliner Weisse and Temptation are any indication it should be gone in a couple months. It is solid, but the complexity of a great Lambic just isn't there.

Mouthfeel – Thin with only mild carbonation. The after taste has a very lingering dryness, there are some tannins in there, but I'm not sure if they are from the husks, or the oak. Carbonation still seems a bit low, but it should continue to increase as the microbes work on the more complex sugars that the DME added.

Drinkability & Notes – Better than I expected, but I still think it needs another 6 months in the bottle to really come into its own. The acetic acid might be a bit high for the style, but it may mellow out as the Brett continues to work on the beer away from oxygen. I'd say it was definitely worth the wait, hopefully the second batch will be even better.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Brewing Lambic 2.0

It has been a couple weeks since I did a post about beer, so I thought it was about time for something aimed at my chief demographic. When I took a vacation up to Massachusetts in August to visit my parents I got in my only brew of the summer. I wanted to make it count, so I went with a complex mash, 4 hour boil, and a zany assortment of bugs.

The first step was to grind all of the grain, 7 lbs Belgian pils and 3 lbs unmalted wheat berries. The wheat was from Arrowhead Mills, the grains were small and hard, so I ran it through my Barley Crusher twice on its own to make sure it was milled fine enough. Here is the pils portion in my mash tun:

The 3 lbs of wheat and 1 lb of the pils were mixed with 4 gallons of 150 degree water, the mixture stabilized around 140 degrees. This thin grain soup was then slowly brought to a boil and held there for 30 minutes to gelatinize the starches in the unmalted wheat. Gelatinization means bursting the starch granules (in this case so the barley malt enzymes can access them), this concept is the reason you need to boil a sauce after you add flour to get it to thicken.

Once the cereal boil was over I added the remaining 6 lbs of pils malt, along with 2 gallons of cool water to bring the mash down to a high Saccharification rest of 158. This high mash temp ensures there will be lots of dextrins. I left the mash in my 7.5 gallon "sparge kettle" because there was too much for my 5 gallon mash tun to handle.

After holding the mash at 158 for two hours I transferred it from the kettle to my mash tun, at first using the leftover liquid from the mash, followed by 4 gallons of 200 degree water, enough to net 9 gallons of wort. The hotter than normal sparge helps to get a high degree of extract (about 91% in this case), including the starches and dextrins that the wild yeast and bacteria need. A sparge that causes the grain bed to go over 170 is not done in most styles because it leaches astringent tannins from the husks, but with several years of aging the tannins in a Lambic will bind with other proteins and settle out.

As you can see I was pushing the limits of my 10 gallon boil kettle. Luckily I was brewing outside so the small boil over I experienced didn't make much of a mess.

The boil was the longest I have done so far at 4 hours. This long boil helps to concentrate the large volume of wort, drive off the nasty aromatics for the aged hop (although I used 3 oz of relatively fresh, but extremely low AA% Hallertau Select), and coagulate and drop some of those tannins.

Finally after the wort boiled down to about 5 gallons, I chilled it, strained out the hops, and pitched my yeast and bacteria. The first Lambic I brewed got just the Wyeast Lambic Blend, and is pretty tasty, if a bit bland. So this time I decided to use the Wyeast blend as a base, which I augmented with the dregs from a bottle of 2004 Drie Fonteinen Geuze (probably my favorite Lambic), and the remainder of the Russian River Oak Chips (around 1 oz).

My first attempt at Lambic took about 4 days to show any sign of activity, this time after 4 days the krausen had already risen and fallen.

I will probably transfer this one to secondary in December and dilute it with a bit of water to bring down the gravity and get it off the remains of hop pellets.

Lambic Mark 2

Recipe Specifics (All-Grain)
Batch Size (Gal): 4.90
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.00
Anticipated OG: 1.070
Anticipated SRM: 4.0
Anticipated IBU: 11.6
Brewhouse Efficiency: 91 %
Wort Boil Time: 240 Minutes

7.00 lbs. Pilsener
3.00 lbs. Unmalted Wheat

3.00 oz. Hallertauer Select Pellet 1% AA @ 240 min.

WYeast 3278 Lambic Blend + Russian River chips + Dregs of 2004 Drie Fonteinen Geuze

Mash Schedule
Mash Name: Wyeast Lambic Mash from Wild Brews (See post for details)

8/13/08 Brewed with a drop by from Mat during the boil.

Wheat was raw Arrowhead Mills Wheat Berries, ~15% protein. Used bottled spring water. Wyeast mash, poor temp control (started a bit too hot, then between 149-158) since it was too big to fit in the cooler. Transferred malt to mash tun after 100 minutes at Sacch temps, some liquid remained to add to sparge.

Huge gravity 1.070 ~5 gallons, hops added at start of 4 hour boil, pitched dregs of 2004 Drie Fonteinen Geuze + Wyeast Lambic Blend + Russian River chips, ~72 degrees.

8/17/08 Small amount of blow-off through the airlock and fermentation dying down, just good to see fermentation going well so much sooner than my first attempt.

12/26/09 Good funky aroma, and already has more sourness than my first lambic. Hopefully it will be ready to go by next summer. I left it as is, but will probably dilute it before bottling, but that will depend on how it tastes.

6/28/09 Bottled half the batch with 1/3 cup of cane sugar. Racked the other half onto 2 lbs of sweet cherries and 1.5 lbs of raspberries.

8/19/10  Finally got around to doing a tasting, pretty tasty, but too big and lacking the sourness required of a Lambic.

10/14/10 Bottled the fruited portion (~2.5 gallons) with 2.25 oz of cane sugar and some champagne yeast.

12/25/10 The cherry-raspberry version turned out pretty well, good fruit character and plenty of funk.  Better balance than the plain, but the fruit and funk clash a bit.

What season do you do you start the most fermentations?

Summer 3 (5%)
Fall 17 (28%)
Winter 10 (16%)
Spring 8 (13%)
About even 21 (35%)

Like a plurality of you, for me it is about even, but I definitely ferment different things based on the season. This year I've been taking the summer off from brewing beer (for the most part... Lambic post coming soon), but I've been playing with ginger beer plant, sourdough bread, and cheese.

Fall seems like the most popular single season, probably because it is harvest season so most of the wine, cider, and pickles for the year are being made. I'd also guess that many brewers out there curb their brewing in the summer like me, and by the time the cool weather rolls around they have the itch again and a dwindling supply of homebrew.