Friday, October 7, 2011

Wild Yeast Lambic Brewday

This beer began several months ago as an experiment to collect and culture wild yeast; while the final insertion of the yeast into wort was delayed via our nuptials (the beer should have been brewed in September, not October), that’s the fun that accompanies life. Oh well. I keep telling myself I was giving the yeast an extra month to rest and build up their reserves. No, it didn’t really make me feel better or actually help.

Wild Yeast Experiment:
6/29/2011: I boiled 1 oz. DME in 12 oz. of RO water, and split it into two 12 oz. beer bottles. Into one bottle I added four ripe blueberries from our backyard, and into the other, I added four wild raspberries picked off of the bike path. The blueberry bottle started slow, with a slimy/chunky krausen and a weird clumpy head that became, for lack of a better description, something resembling a large chunk of phlegm. The raspberry bottle started quicker and cleaner, and also finished well before blueberry bottle.

7/20/2011: I boiled 3 oz. of DME in 32 oz. of RO water, and split it into two half gallon growlers. I poured off small samples of the fluid from each bottle, but swirled and dumped most of the contents of each 12 oz. bottle into each growler. Similar pattern to last time, with the blueberry slower and steady during the course of fermentation, and the raspberry quicker and faster. Towards the end, the phlegm clump in the blueberry bottle continued to grow, although it never covered the entire top of the growler—it just thickened and expanded. In the raspberry growler, small white dots developed all over the surface; there was not enough to cover the top, but there were quite a few slowly developing.

Blueberry: the sample tasted doughy and candy sweet; there was a slight medicinal flavor, but the main impression was bread dough and bright candy sweetness.
Raspberry: the sample was sharp and minerally; it was hard to distinguish flavors from the raspberry character obviously present (and in the color—look at that nice red color), but the main presence was the sharp mineral character mixed with a Vitamin C tablet flavor.

8/12/2011: I boiled 6 oz. of DME in 32 oz. of RO water; I drained as much of the fluid as I could without significantly disturbing the yeast cake, and then added the new wort to each growler. Both took off more quickly and more aggressively than before, although the raspberry still outpaced the blueberry. Over the course of time, significantly more white dots and even smaller pieces collected on the top of the raspberry growler, while the phlegm clump grew, but still did not cover the entire surface—maybe 1/3 of it.

Blueberry: Still mainly dominated by bready flavors and candy sweetness; there is a slight puckeriness developing, but not really tart. There is also a light musty/earthy component that is slightly funky as well.
Raspberry: Tarter and sharper than last time—I find this one quite pleasant—and the notes record that this is “Vitamin C delightful.”

I also took some of the samples (since I had about a 12 oz. bottle of each) to the monthly DRAFT meeting, which is my local homebrew club; while there were several interesting responses, my favorite was the moment of recognition by one person who only realized too late what we were discussing: in a very indignant voice I was queried “Wait—I’m drinking a starter?”

10/7/2011: Having sanctioned our love, I got back to making the lambic intended to be the base beer for the yeast; after brewing the batch, I split it in half into two 3 gallon carboys, drained as much of the fluid of each starter as I could, and inoculated each carboy with one of the yeast starters. Both tasted very similar to the last time I tasted them; there was a slightly increased adhesive/medicinal character to the blueberry starter, but nothing overpowering. Both still seem on track, and worth dumping into 2 ½ gallons of wort. So here’s to things working out in the long run....

100. Wild Yeast Lambic
8 lbs. MFB Pilsen
4 lbs. Weyerman Light Wheat

Step Mash:
113° F for 15 minutes: 1 ½ gallon RO water @ 136° F—118° F actual
122° F for 15 minutes: 1 gallon RO water @ 146° F—125° F actual
149° F for 45 minutes: 1 gallon RO water @ 212° F—145° F actual
158° F for 30 minutes: 1 gallon RO water @ 212° F—154° F actual; collected 3 ¼ gallons @ 1.054

Batch sparged w/ 3 gallons RO water @ 190° F for 20 minutes—168° F actual; collected 3 gallons @ 1.028

Collected 6 ¼ gallons; brought to a boil (90 minute) and added:
2 oz. hops; 1.8 oz. German Hallertauer leaf 4.1% AA & .2 oz. Williamette leaf 4.8% AA

w/15 to go: 1 tsp. Irish moss

Chilled, split batch in half in two 3 gallon carboys, and pitched wild yeast cultures—one into each

100a. raspberry version
Brewed: 10/7/2011 @ 78° F
Secondary: 11/4/2012 @ 1.048; racked into clean carboy and pitched ECY 04 Brett Blend #1
Tertiary: 2/16/2013 @ 1.002
Bottled: 2/28/2013 w/ 1.75 oz. table sugar

OG: 1.054
FG: 1.002

100b. blueberry version
Brewed: 10/7/2011 @ 78° F
Secondary: 9/1/2012 @ 1.022; racked onto 2 lb. 14 oz. blueberries, 2 lb. 12 oz. mulberries, 12 oz. cranberries, 10 oz. blackberry & blueberry mix, & 1.5 oz. paw paw (I found one in the freezer when pulling out all the other fruit); on 11/10/2012, I pitched an old vial of ECY01 Bug Farm 5 (Aug. 1, 2011 preparation date) & 4 Hungarian oak house toast cubes

OG: 1.054

Tasting Notes (9/1/2012): The beer in the blueberry yeast version tasted much better that the last starter bottle we recently sampled; there was less adhesive harshness, and much more fruit and candy flavor. It was also a bit doughy, in part from the 1.022 gravity (which also helped with the sweetness).

(11/4/2012): The beer in the raspberry version was far less tart that the starter bottle we tried a couple of months ago, although the nose was equally acidic. We’ll see what happens when the ECY 04 Brett Blend #1 takes off...

(5/9/2013): 100a: This has now been in the bottle a couple of months, so it is probably ready to try. The beer pours with a slight chill haze that quickly dissipates, leaving a crystal clear golden straw beer with a light white head and profuse small bubbles streaming up the sides of the glass; it maintains a ring and some swirling arabesques, but leaves little lacing. The nose is musty earth, pear, apple, and some developing funk, specifically hay and barnyard with a citrus twang. Flavors start with a dry crackery tartness mixed with lemon and earthiness. Tartness picks up in the middle with some gentle pear and apple hints mixed in, leading into a dry and crisp finish with just a touch of residual sweetness to balance out the tartness. The body is bone dry; coupled with the bright, sparkling carbonation, the beer dances on the tongue. It also brings some light rosettes of sweat to my cheeks. As it warms, the earthy tang picks up in the front and the middle, and the carbonic brut bite from the carbonation better balances the slight sweetness in the finish. Currently, this beer is developing some gueuze-like characteristics, ones that will hopefully continue to build. As well, I look forward to comparing this version with the beers that went onto the various yeast cakes involved in this beer: 132a, which went onto the original wild yeast raspberry cake, and 138a, which went onto the wild yeast/ECY04 combination from this beer. So many delicious possibilities. I also entered this beer in the AHA NHC as an American Wild Ale (Category 23); it scored a 41 in the Wisconsin regional, and advanced to the second round in Philadelphia. Here’s hoping it does well there!

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