A Belgian State of Mind

Blame the weather, blame the sun, blame… the Belgians! Anyway, two recent brews that have not yet been documented, for your consideration.

pLambic 2011
10 gallons, grain/extract with fruit

My annual batch of pLambics, aged on fruit. Soured with bacterial cultures and various Lambic dregs… This is a semi-complicated fermentation, although the brewing process itself is pretty straightforward. I try to time this brew to coincide with ripe fruit, although this year I am using last year’s harvest.

Ingredients:

  • 9 lbs. lager malt
  • 5 lbs. malted wheat
  • 1 lb. unmalted wheat
  • 1 lb. flaked wheat
  • 1/2 lb. carapils malt
  • 1 lb. extra-light dry malt extract (DME)
  • 1 lb. wheat dry malt extract (DME)
  • 1 oz. whole (stale) Chinook hops (home-grown)
  • 1 oz. whole (stale) Cluster hops (home-grown)
  • White Labs Belgian Ale Yeast Blend (WLP575)
  • 4 lbs. frozen cherries
  • 4 lbs. frozen blackberries and/or raspberries
  • 4 lbs. frozen black and/or red currants
  • 4 lbs. frozen blueberries
  • White Labs Belgian Sour Mix (WLP655)
  • Wyeast Lambic Blend (3278)
  • 2 cups corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure:
Crush grains. Heat 22 quarts water to 164°F. Mash in grains, hold at 150°F for 90 minutes. Heat another 22 quarts of water to 170°F, begin runoff and sparge. Collect 42 gallons QUARTS of sweet wort. Stir in the DME, bring wort to a boil, add Chinook hops. Boil 30 minutes. Add Cluster hops, boil another 30 minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour into sanitized fermenters, spalshing well to aerate, and pitch yeast. Seal and ferment 10 to 14 days at 70°F. Rack to separate carboys with each of the fruit (approximately 2.5 gallons each), add the Lambic cultures and age in carboys 4 to 6 weeks. Prime each small batch with 1/2 cup corn sugar, bottle and condition 6 to 8 weeks.

OG: unimportant
IBU’s: meaningless

Notes on style: True Lambics are produced in one very specific region of Belgium. These being produced in Vermont, I use the lower-case p to indicate that they are pseudo-Lambics. I’m sure that my land, my equipment and my process give mine a distinct “terroir”…

Notes on fermenters and kettles:My set-up is very convenient for 5-gallon batches. Brewing 10-gallons pushes the limits, hence it is rare that I brew this much at once. I needed three kettles to bring this all to a boil, and needed to add some DME because I could not get a high enough OG from a mash-only wort. The primary fermentation took place in two 6.5 gallon plastic buckets (pre-bacteria), and the secondary aging on fruit is taking place in 4 3-gallon glass carboys.

Left to right: kriek (cherries), cassis (currants), framboise (rasberries) and bleuets (blueberries).

Note on yeast and cultures: Some Lambic brewers will do the entire fermentation with a blend of ale yeast and bacteria. I prefer to ferment out the beer first with a straight yeast and add the Lambic cultures along with the fruit in the secondary. I get a milder sourness, overall, and I don’t ruin my fermenters :).

Note on fruit: Cherries and raspberries are traditional in Belgium (Kriek and Framboise, respectively); currants are found occasionally as well (Cassis). I have had marvelous results with my blueberries in the past, but there is probably no traditional Belgian Lambic with “bleuets”.

Note on hops: These beers really have no discernible hop flavor or aroma. Hops are used in Lambics basically for their preservative value. Many Lambic brewers will use stale hops, as I have in this batch, which will still contribute some preservative but very little bitterness.

 

Gargouille

5 gallons, all-grain

Another beer inspired by a mention in the Northern Brewer catalog, meant to be a highly hopped Belgian Strong Ale. Their name for it was in incorrect French, I fixed it and then decided to change it entirely. The result is basically a Belgian IPA, hence the new name which is a tribute to the one brewed by Stone.

Ingredients:

  • 10 lbs. Belgian pale malt
  • 1 lb. malted wheat
  • 2 lbs. cara-pils malt
  • 1/2 lb. light candi sugar
  • 1 oz. Perle hop pellets (@8% aa)
  • 1 oz. Saphir hop pellets (@5.6% aa)
  • 1 oz. Magnum hop pellets (@8.8 % aa)
  • 1 oz. Saaz hop pellets (@4% aa)
  • White Labs Trappist Ale yeast (WLP500)
  • 3/4 cup corn sugar (for priming)

Procedure:
Crush grains. Heat 15 quarts water to 168°F. Mash in grains and hold 60 minutes at 156°F. Heat another 15 quarts water to 170°F. Begin runoff and sparge, collecting 27 quarts sweet wort. Add candi sugar, bring to a boil. Add Perle hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Saphir hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Magnum hops, boil 15 minutes. Add Saaz hops, boil 15 more minutes (60 total), remove from heat. Chill to 80°F, take a hydrometer reading. Pour into a sanitized fermenter, splashing well to aerate. Pitch yeast, seal and ferment 8 to 10 days at 68 – 70°F. Rack to secondary, age two to three weeks at 65°F. Prime with corn sugar, bottle and condition three to four weeks.

OG: 1080
IBU’s: 90

3 Replies to “A Belgian State of Mind”

  1. In your Lambic procedure, you state “Collect 42 gallons of sweet wort.” That’s alot. Do you mean 42 quarts? Also, I’ve hear that some lambics require 12 months in the secondary or bottle before they become drinkable. Does the late addition of Lambic blend cut the conditioning time to the 8 weeks you mention? I like the concept of fermenting out the beer then adding the fruit and lambic culture. This might be my next experimental batch in October!

    1. Yikes! 42 gallons, indeed! Thanks for catching that one, Michael!
      Because I don’t do the entire fermentation with the lambic cultures, I do think they are drinkable much earlier. Of course, mine are nowhere near as sour as, for instance, a Boon or Cantiilon… I had a taste of a 12-year-old oak-aged lambic this past weekend at the Vermont Brewers’ Festival, brewed by Glen Walter at the Three Needs Brewery in Burlington – outstanding!

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