A friend came to visit us at the end of last year and we hung out on New Year’s Eve. I brought over some of my beers and we tasted them. He commented, “Don’t you have anything sour?”
I laughed. When he and I were in Zurich a couple of months prior, I bought a few lambic style beers while we were eating dinner.
Brewing an excellent lambic at home is a mighty challenge. These are complex beers that have been brewed in Belgium for centuries using a spontaneous fermentation and wooden barrels for conditioning.
Since I don’t live in Belgium or have a wooden barrel, I’d say I am at a disadvantage. If you are reading this post, you are most likely in the same boat as me.
With some help from a fantastic article written by Steve Piatz, I put this recipe together with instructions on how you can brew this style at home too. Now I am not an expert, but I came up with this approach that I think will work.
This is an extract recipe for a five gallon batch.
One particular ingredient you will need for this recipe is aged hops. At the time I am writing this post, I did find them for sale if you are willing to buy a pound of them. If you are not willing to buy that much, you will need to make your own but it will take some time. To get hops properly aged, leave them in a paper bag in a dry, hot place like an attic for a few months until they turn yellow. Another way to get old hops (not aged) is to ask your local homebrew shop if there are some packets that have been on the shelves for too long and see if you can take them off your hands.
Now The Mad Fermentationist has written that he has made many beers without aged hops. You may skip the aging process but I would use low alpha hops like Saaz and use an ounce, add for the full boil time. The style should not have any hop aroma or flavor so keep that in mind.
Getting oxygen into the beer during the fermentation phase is important. Since plastic is more permeable than glass, use a plastic bucket for the primary fermentation.
You can use dregs from bottles of commercially available lambic to ferment your beer but for your first time, try using a lambic blend that you can buy from one of the big yeast sellers.
4 pounds of extra light dry malt extract
2 pounds of dry wheat malt extract
Mr. Piatz calls for adding maltodextrin to the boil so there is something for the bacteria to eat after the initial sugars are fermented by the brewer’s yeast. I am going to follow his suggestion and add some to my recipe
4 ounces of maltodextrin
3 ounces of aged hops or 1 ounce of Saaz hops
1 vial of WLP001 yeast
1 vial of WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix
Add enough water for a 7 gallon volume. Boil the extract and the hops for 90 minutes. Cool wort and aerate. Pitch WLP001.
(If you want to be adventurous, you can let the wort sit with the lid cracked open to let the airborne yeast/bacteria to get at the wort before you pitch the yeast.)
After a week, pitch the mix and let the fun start. I am planning to keep it in the bucket for a year.
Once the year is over, I plan to taste it to see how it turned out.
From there, I bottle or let it sit longer. We’ll see. BREW ON!