You love the blog, so subscribe to the Beervana Podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud today!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Apple Lambic

This weekend, as I was brewing a batch of beer so secretive no more can be said about it, I cracked a bottle of my apple lambic. It was a beer I brewed up over a year ago, and to which I added, months later, apples from my front yard. It was remarkably good--the apples were evident in the nose, though subtle, and they drew out the tart wild yeasts. One might mistake the note they contribute for a fermentation characteristic.

Another note: this beer was wildly effervescent. I used the Wyeast lambic blend (great yeast, I highly recommend it), and in past batches, the liveliness oscillates between almost nearly still and slightly fizzy. Rarely have I gotten a sustained head. (The age of the beer seems to have nothingn to do with it--one month it's fizzy, the next still.) This one piled up a two-inch head, and it lingered. It sported a roiling bead, also unprecedented. Wild yeasts are so ... wild.


  1. Jeff,

    Sounds great, how long did it age for before bottling and how long has it been in the bottles?

    I'm just getting started on some home brewed sours and will be trying out that blend soon. Do you need to repitch new yeast with sugar to carbonate the bottles? or are the old ones still active enough?

  2. I don't think you have to age lambics that use the Wyeast particularly long, but I generally leave a batch in there a few months. It's been in the bottle since January.

    BTW, I will one day use that yeast in secondary fermentation to provide a milder sour note--it's very complex but not harshly sour. I think you could use it in a lot of beers.

  3. Yah, I just brewed my first up with the Roselare blend. I've been told to let that go for over a year.

    Maybe I will try the Wyest blend to get some quicker results. What was your final gravity? Since I'm assuming the Wyest blend contains Brett did you have any worries about bottle bombs with the brett continuing to chomp away?

  4. I brew low-gravity lambics--OGs of 1.040 or so. There is brett in there, and I do think it eats its way down to 1.000 eventually, but since I leave it in the carboy so long, there's just not enough sugar left over to make a bomb. Your results may vary...

  5. Yah, I'm just not sure what drop in gravity constitutes a bottle bomb. If you bottled it at 1.005 or so and it drops to 1.000 will I have glass shrapnel in my walls? Guess I just need to try it out.

  6. I hate to rain on your parade Jeff, but as a compulsive, bordering on lunatic, lambic homebrewer, you do need to let them sit. I use Wyeast and White Labs and the bugs have different characters, but they both need time. I wouldn't add fruit to one until it was at least a year old, and I won't drink or even blend most of them until they're 2-3 years old. Yes, they have good character when they're young, but often miss the real complexity at a young age. Most will get tarter and steelier with age. Also, blending is key to developing complexity. I age all of mine in 5 gallon carboys and they all end up different. So blending gives you more than the individual parts. We do use about 25% 1 year old however to give the older lots some freshness. If you don't blend, your results are a crap shoot.

    The carbonation levels can be tempermental. We prime and add yeast when we bottle but it can take months (sometimes like 6-8 months) to build up good carbonation. We blended a batch yesterday and actually added more brett at bottling hoping that this will build better carbonation since saccharomyces likely dies off pretty quickly at the pH of most lambic. I'll keep you posted. Let me know if you come to another OBC meeting and I'll bring some for you.

  7. Bill, that's good info--thanks. To be on the safe side, I have let them sit in the past. I let my first batch sit for the better part of a year (after a certain point, I'd have to admit to forgetfulness more than patience). It was a straight lambic. It's been in the bottle for probably 3-4 years, and it's been a fascinating study in biotics. At first, it was pretty sour and a bit effervescent. After a few months it became almost still and developed a drier quality, more refined, less sour. Then it got milder and less sour--and a bit more effervescent. And so it has gone, shifting and changing as it ages.

    I completely forgot to make notes on the apple--but fortunately, I blog. Apparently I brewed it on August 4, my mother's birthday. The apples went in pretty soon thereafter, and then when they started to look tired, I dumped it into another carboy and left it there for nearly six months, bottling in January.

    So far, the bottles look fine, but you have me worried. Maybe it wasn't long enough. And, it would account for that vibrant effervescent. Well, worse comes to worst, I'll just have to drink it all down. And that ain't bad at all.

  8. Bill,

    Great info. Any info on fermentation temps? Lets say I don't have a lot of room to store carboys, will a hot and cold fluctuating attic be ok for long term storage (after most fermentation is done)? Can brett and pedio (probably the two long term workers) survive in the 90s without adverse effects?

  9. I age most of mine in the garage and the temperatures range form about 40 in the dead of winter to about 75-80 in the summer, but most of the time it's between about 55 and 70 and they seemt o do fine. I also do stash a few carboys in other places in the house that are warmer and yes, they age differently. The warmer ones tend to sour faster and also get more acidic than their garage stored brethren. I'm sure it's a temperature thing.

    I would think they could survive and work in the 90 zone, but I can't tell you what it would taste like and I don't know if they'd like it long term. You may get increased sourness but I don't know what else (not sure if you get the same off flavors from hot brett ferment as from hot saccharomyces ferment). All I can say is try it and see.

    If they fermet at least 6-9 months, I don't see bottle bombs as that much of a problem (but it can happen). Most of the extract should be gone, but the flavors are still young at that point. We age them primarily for flavor complexity, not because of bottle bombs, but they generally need 6 months or so of average temps (mid-60's) to complete enough brett fermentation to minimize the possibility.

    Quote honestly, we do the utmost we can to make every single carboy different (different strains of bugs, different amounts, etc.) because we view all of them as blending stock and want a wider variety to choose from. We try to keep it to about 100 gallons total between 1 and 3-4 years old. Yes it's obsessive, but we readily admit that. Although we model them after lambic, we like to call them Oregon Sours. (And yes we claim credit for the style name). Tell the BA to create another category.