Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Blueberry Lambic - First Tasting

I've been holding off on reviewing this one for awhile, hoping it would improve, but the time has finally come to bite the bullet. After two years in the fermenter, 6 months on fruit, and 6 months in the bottle, I can officially call this beer a failure.
Appearance – Talk about a beautiful beer, brilliantly clear (right out of the fridge) purple-red with a one finger stark white head. Clearly a good amount of carbonation streaming through the beer and giving the head a lift.

Smell – Sadly the aroma does not have the same beauty. It starts off with a pleasant enough spiced blueberry note, but after that comes a harsh solventy assault. Not much else to speak of.

Taste – Nice lactic tang up front, but the finish has that same off putting chemical flavor as well as some vegetal notes. There is certainly some acetic acid as well that scrapes at my throat. It has none of the characteristic funky lambic complexity, it just tastes like a crappy infected blueberry wheat beer.

Mouthfeel – Light and crisp, except for the acid. The traditional hot sparge did not extract any tannins that are still hanging around.

Drinkability & Notes – What can I say? The base beer wasn't great and the fruit certainly didn't help matters much. Not sure what caused the problem, but when this beer is thinned with a bit of water it improves quite a bit, so part of the problem was probably the too big OG.

I am hoping that whatever bugs were in the lambic that I blended into the pluot Flanders pale don't do any harm to it (I'll see when I bottle it in two weeks). Hopefully the changes I made for my second batch of lambic (namely adding more microbes to get fermentation going sooner than four days) will give me better results. I am planning on doing a third batch in a couple weeks, this time with a traditional turbid mash (that will be a fun day...).


Josh said...

Man, if I waited two and a half years to try a beer only to have it come out badly, I would kill myself.

Did you try to decant it? Get a glass, pour beer in, let it sit in the fridge over night.

Dan said...

I very much enjoyed that opening paragraph and have to agree with the tasting. It's been a while since I brewed a beer I'd call a failure, but it sucks every time.

Tim said...

I've wondered if cherries and raspberries are the traditional fruits because they taste the best with malt and hops. Beers with other fruits provide something new and interesting, but are they actually good? I have yet to drink anything that I would say make me say yes.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Yeah, certainly sucks to wait this long for crappy beer, but those are the breaks. The nice thing about having plenty of sour beers in the pipeline is that you always have something to look forward to, so waiting isn’t that hard.

With decanting would you just hop that the offensive compounds would volatilize and fly off? The problem is that this beer wasn’t great at bottling time, so I don’t think it would help.

There are certainly other fruits besides the classics worth trying, for example I had amazing luck with blackberries in a Flanders Red, one of the best beers I have done. I also got to try a homebrewed Cabernet Sauvignon lambic that was out of this world good (it recently took a gold in the first round of the NHC). I think plenty of fruits work with sours because they have a pretty minimal malt/hop profile and the acidity to compliment the fruit flavor, matching fruits to clean beers is a much harder proposition.

Jeff said...

So do you think it was a faulty base beer, bad choice in fruit, or a combination? How did the lambic taste upon racking onto the fruit? I am planning on brewing my first Lambic this summer and I will eventually put some onto fruit so I am trying to see what would be best, as of now I am leaning towards apricots.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Here is a review I did last fall of the base beer (http://madfermentationist.blogspot.com/2008/09/lambic-2006-1st-tasting.html ). The main issue with the whole batch is that I just pitched a pack of the Wyeast blend, and it took about 4 days to take off. The batch of lambic I brewed last summer ( http://madfermentationist.blogspot.com/2008/09/brewing-lambic-20.html )got a greater variety of bugs, started fermenting much sooner, and has tasted much better than this one.

Josh said...

With decanting would you just hop that the offensive compounds would volatilize and fly off? The problem is that this beer wasn’t great at bottling time, so I don’t think it would help.

It works for wine. C'mon now. Decanting, while it might make a gross sour beer, also gives it time to oxidize some of the nastiness. You've waited two years, what's it going to cost you to leave a pint open in the fridge over night? :)