Lambic. And yes, I’m calling it that. Deal with it. Part 2 – Homebrew Lambic Theory

In the last part of this series, I explored the title of lambic and whether you should call your homebrew a lambic. The answer is, if it tastes like lambic, then call it a lambic.

So, what does lambic taste like?

The BJCP says:

Young examples are often noticeably lactic-sour, but aging can bring this character more in balance with the malt, wheat and barnyard characteristics. Fruity flavors are simpler in young lambics and more complex in the older examples, where they are reminiscent of apples or other light fruits, rhubarb, or honey. Some citrus flavor (often grapefruit) is occasionally noticeable, and is desirable. The malt and wheat character are typically low with some bready-grainy notes. An enteric, smoky or cigar-like character is undesirable. Hop bitterness is low to none, and generally undetectable; sourness provides the balance. Typically has a dry finish. No hop flavor.

While the BJCP is not the final authority on beer styles, I think we can safely say we’re basically talking about a pale, wheat heavy sour beer with substantial character from brettanomyces and other ‘wild’ organisms including barnyard, funk, and fruitiness. Perfect.

Can we make this without the coolship and turbid mash I mentioned in my last article. Probably. At least a good to great example. Use wheat malt, mash high, and pitch a healthy culture of Wyeast Roselare and I’m sure it’ll be great. Maybe you even get wild and pitch some dregs from a commercial gueuze…from Belgium! The nerve. Some people even use extract. How dare they.

OK, back on topic. I think if I want to create a ridiculously good lambic, I should at least attempt to emulate the processes of a turbid mash and a coolship. Just trying to eek out that little bit of extra character that the extra dextrines and starch provides and the funk from the enteric bacteria. Now, lets talk about how to do that.

Derek Springer over at Five Blades Brewing thinks turbid mashing is for the birds. He’s right. It’s a long, tedious, labor intensive, equipment intensive process that has the ultimate goal of lower taxes. Sweet. I don’t pay taxes on my homebrew, so I don’t care. “But DAN! You said it makes extra dextrines and starches for the bugs to eat in the last episode!!” I hear you screaming at your monitor.

Fine, we’ll do some stuff to emulate that. Goals: extra dextrine, extra starch. Got it.

A turbid mash basically produces 3 worts. The first is a small amount of turbid and practically raw wort, the second is a moderate amount of dextrinous wort that should be less attenuative., the third is the bulk of the wort and is very highly fermentable.

In a turbid mash for 10 gallons the first wort pull is going to produce about half a gallon of starchy wort via a protein rest. So, there’s the extra starch.

The second wort will be pulled after a 40 minute beta amylase rest (149F) and heated to 180F to denature the enzymes in it. I can only assume this is to preserve some super long dextrines and maybe some starches that didn’t get broken down by beta. OK, dextrines.

Next a turbid mash will have a 20 minute alpha amylase rest at 162F. More dextrines. I’ll save you my theoretical rant that there’s nothing for alpha to do at this point. We’ll assume the traditional wisdom that an alpha rest makes extra dextrines is legit.

So the bulk of the wort is converted at 149, which is a highly attenuative wort, and I’ll need to add starch to approximate the first wort, and dextrine to approximate the second wort.

Let’s make some extra starch. One way to do this without the full turbid mash would be to just dough in a proper portion of the grist at a protein rest to yield a half gallon, and do this in a pot on the stove and after the protein rest, bring it up to 180 and add to the mash at sparging.

Another way would be to just add some wheat flour at sparging. We don’t need the beta glucan rest because we’re not required to use raw wheat so a sticky mash isn’t a concern. We don’t need a protein rest for similar reasons. The wheat flour will have plenty of time to hydrate in a standard batch sparge, I think. I’ll be using a Brew Bag in my cooler as well so I’m not worried about a stuck lauter either. How much flour? I don’t know yet. That’s for part 3.

flour photo
Photo by JeepersMedia

Now let’s make some extra dextrines. The easiest way would be to take a cue from AmandaK and add some maltodextrin to the boil. Not a bad plan at all, especially if you were able to find maltodextrin that had a broad range of dextrine lengths. That sounds like more work for the research and acquisition.

Another option would be to add some Carapils to the sparge. Carapils is known for it’s dextrine content, and Briess says it can be steeped, so when you add the wheat flour, add the carapils to the sparge. Or cap the mash with it to get a small amount of conversion. Or both. How much Carapils? I don’t know yet. That’s for part 3

malt photo
Photo by epicbeer

We also need a highly attenuative wort, so a standard 149F mash should be fine. Bonus points, it’s the rest temp that a turbid mash spends the most time at.

Now that I’ve covered the ways to emulate a turbid mash easily, what are we going to do about the complex fermentation and coolshipping?

Derek at Five Blades has a post about this. His theory is that after coolshipping the wort goes into a barrel with some primo bugs already in it. I like this theory. I especially like this theory after reading about so many failed spontaneous ferments, and the fact that even with some primo barrels and dregs lambic producers dump a lot of beer. Seems like cheap insurance to add some bugs of a known quality.

To emulate a coolship I’ll be using a round cooler or insulated kettle like Derek did, as an effort to slow cooling and have an ideal surface area to volume ratio. Milk the Funk has a great piece about this on their wiki.

I’ll be fermenting in a 12 gallon plastic bucket to allow for some oxygen ingress since my barrel is not ready for sours yet. After cooling I’ll pitch some dregs from my favorite gueuze: Drie Fonteinen.

See you next time for recipe formulation!

drie fonteinen photo
Photo by Jeff Alworth

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