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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Allagash Lambic

Doing a bit of research on the beers of the OBF, I came across an absolutely astounding story. Portland, Maine's Allagash, one of the first nouveau-Belgian breweries in America, has begun to make traditional lambics. As in, no yeast addition, waiting for funky nature to have her way with cooling wort.
After boiling, rather than cooling the beer in a sterile environment and adding a brewer’s yeast culture, the hot wort is pumped to a cool ship in a special room designed specifically to make these beers. The cool ship is a commonly used tool in Belgium, but is rarely seen beyond Belgium’s borders, if at all. It is a large, open tray that is 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 1 foot deep. Once in the cool ship the hot wort spends the night cooling from near boiling temperatures to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To facilitate the cooling process, windows in the cool ship room are left open overnight. The cool Maine air, containing natural bacteria and wild yeast, drifts in and cools the wort. As soon as the wort is cool enough, the natural airborne yeasts and bacteria are able to survive in what will eventually be the spontaneously fermented beer (it is these natural yeasts and bacteria which will ferment the beer, rather than a yeast added by the brewer). Next, the wort is pumped back into a brewery tank, where it will spend one further day before it is pumped into special French oak barrels. Within one to three weeks, spontaneous fermentation begins in the oak and will continue for over one year. After the yearlong fermentation this traditional beer will age in French oak for at least one more year, sometimes with the addition of fruits, before it is finally bottled.
I've been waiting fifteen years to see if a brewery would actually invest the money, time, and equipment to this radical experiment. I bow in obeisance to Allagash's courage. It's absolutely amazing and cool. As a super bonus treat, there's video:


  1. I wonder what sort of wild yeasts they have in the region… I wouldn't expect quite the same results as a traditional lambic, but I'm extremely interested what does become of it, regardless…

    …and probably a good idea not to do a blueberry lambic, but framboise and kreik are prerequisites.

  2. Wow, amazing - what an astounding effort! Kudos to Allagash.

    I think I am starting with Boundary Bay - my new favorite brewery (based on only one beer) - here's hoping they can keep it up.

    Also looking forward to the offerings from Pelican, Rock Bottom, Bison, Green Flash.....

    Hmmm, may have to go twice.