Help brewing a Lambic

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Yeastboy, Aug 4, 2018.

  1. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

    I’m not quite sure how I would control the rising temperature..

    A good start could be meaningless if acetic acid takes over everything afterwards.
    Our summer is pretty hot. I’m checking my room temp now(it’s 32’c/28’c while outside is 39’c/28’c)

    Any suggestion? or is it too big of a concern?(during cooler months the inoculated amount of brett and pedio would possibly beat the sheee out of acetic acid bacteria and thermophile even if the temp gets very high? Making a good balance of taste?)

    If I have a good even temp storage, I would not worry about this. But for such a poor homebrewer like me...

    I can think of an option that ferment lambic in a barrel till next May then rack the beer to a carboy and put that in a temp-controlled fridge and ferment another year. Not sure this would show a good result.

    Any help would be great. Thank you.
  2. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    First of all, you're not in the Pajottenland, so stop calling it lambic. Even if you're planning on using the Methode Traditionelle, this isn't appropriate.

    Secondly, you're operating under some rather erroneous assumptions. In lieu of expounding upon them, I'd encourage you to read some, if not all, of the Milk the Funk wiki. It will answer a lot of your questions. If you still have them afterwards, please feel free to ask.
    NeroFiddled, NorCalKid and MrOH like this.
  3. NorCalKid

    NorCalKid Initiate (99) Jan 10, 2018 California

    This might help. Always best to study up before a huge task ahead like diving into that realm of brewing. Good luck and have fun. This is a never ending hole of a hobby!
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  4. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

  5. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

    Nice joke!
  6. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

    You don’t call that Lambic. OK.
    Milk the funk didn’t help to clear up my curiosity. If Milkthefunk/brulosophy/scott’s blog/wildbrew/americansourbeer had helped me for this, I wouldn’t even have come to this site to post this thread.

    I wonder if my thread is misleading. Was my question not clear? Please link the right quote if you found any specific article for my question. Thank you.
  7. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (98) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    Without regard to whether your thread is misleading, what's not clear is:
    A) what you're starting with,
    C) what you want the end result to be, and
    B) anything between A) & C) that presents a challenge to arrive at C).

    There is a slew of inordinately experienced home brewers on this forum, and pretty much any question can be answered by one or more of them. Unfortunately I'm not one of those inordinately experienced home brewers, but I am experienced in asking questions and I can't think of one I've asked that didn't get an answer as long as I gave enough info for someone with more experience to appropriately assess my situation and address my concern.

    btw, I'm not convinced @NorCalKid was making a joke.....just sayin'
    donspublic and NorCalKid like this.
  8. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,260) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    Your question is confusing, and I'm guessing everyone else above may also be confused. It seems like your opening line of your post asks for help with temp control, but this paragraph above sounds like you have access to a temp-controlled fridge. What am I not understanding correctly?
    donspublic likes this.
  9. NorCalKid

    NorCalKid Initiate (99) Jan 10, 2018 California

    No joke. I’m trying to help.
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  10. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

    Right. Sorry about not being specific about the temp control. Well I’m going to start with 50% 2-row / 50% flaked wheat and making 250liter lambik style wild ale either in a barrel or a kvevry pot with few french cubes(most likely this than in an oak barrel) I’m ready to brew but waiting to brew in a right time and wanted to be very careful about every process since it will be a lot of beer. I dabbled brewing a couple of mixed ferment beer in small 1gallon glass carboys before but were only aged 8-12months and consumed before aging them further. Because they all ended up very roughly sour so I thought further aging would make them worse. Those beer were ok cause I can be happy if theres beer but far from where I was going. The first thing I really wanted to achieve for my future beer is to get rid of this very aggressive not aggressive but maybe very light and shallow sour note and My guess(just guessing) was that it could be all from acetic acid and ethyle acetate promoted from Acetobacter and thermophile bacteria. Maybe I don’t even know what else I could twick further to get the taste I eventually want but at least now the temp control would be the most important thing to me. I really hope to put all my vague ideas into my beer even though not being sure of its actual effect.

    The thing is that I don’t have a fridge that big to control the temp in all seasons. I hope to expect my beer to be clean that has a least acidic sour note but enough funk, more to be like pure unblended Lambik but with a bit more character.

    I researched about Lambik brewing process but mostly many books and documents have less detailed info about later fermenting process, for example, temp-control, lets say when topping the beer if some beer evaporated, do I need to just leave it at that temp and do nothing? Most documents I ran into just say, “some pro brewers top off the beer.” And no further info about that. Probably it could be very important than anything if you add obvious amount of beer for your aging beer! And obviously the amount of added beer could affect the taste cause when you top off at a year aged point then how much further beer should be left to be balanced or has anyone ever topped the beer with almost similar but slightly different wort?
    Anyway sorry this gets very long but yeah just wondering how other mixed fementation home brewers solve this temp control issue.
    Thank you.

    Btw I love to read ‘how to brew’ but that sounded more like “study harder if you don’t know”. No hard feelings
  11. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    If the ambient temperature in your house ranges in the 80s, you should not be fermenting beer in it without a temperature controlled fermentation chamber.

    This statement right here shows me that you don't know a damn thing about mixed microbe fermentations. From where, exactly, are you getting acetic acid bacteria and thermophiles and how would they be active in a micro-oxygenated environment at relatively low temperatures?

    Firstly, this grist is not traditional for lambic brewers. Secondly, you mention nothing about ambient inoculation, which, again, is necessary for lambic fermentation.

    If you're getting above threshold acetic acid and ethyl acetate in your beers, you need to work on your fermentation techniques, because the only way you get those things is by allowing too much oxygen into fermentations that include Brettanomyces sp.. This problem is decidedly not the fault of the microbes, it is your fault for having shoddy technique.

    With your techniques, the only way that you will get that is luck.

    Top-offs won't solve your problem. You need to read more of the right information. You came here with a know-it-all attitude, yet you demonstrably know very little. You won't get any help from anyone that way. You can either read and listen to people who know what they're doing or you can continuously make the same mistakes and continue to make the horrible beer that you are obviously making.

    Get an air conditioner, moron.
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  12. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,260) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I still don't understand why your fridge is big enough to contain your beer in some seasons and not others. How big is your batch, and why can't you keep it in there as long as you need? Or if your ambient room temp is too warm, do like @EvenMoreJesus suggests and use an air conditioner to cool the room where your beer is located.

    I'm not a brewer of wild/sour beers, so I'm not going to make any comments about your brewing procedures. However, it seems to me that you are concerned about top-off and what beer to use and at what temp to add it, etc. and how to achieve the taste that you want it to be. I really doubt that your batch is big enough to lose much liquid to evaporation so that you don't need to worry about top-off. And I'm pretty sure that I've read that blending occurs in most successful Lambic-like styles to attain a desired taste, and I have to guess that it takes a very trained brewer to be able to do this. You may know what your desired final beer should taste like, but you don't have the selection of other beers available to you to experiment by adding this one or that one. I think that you're stuck with accepting what you get from your beer whether you top-off or not.
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  13. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

    Right. I wish I had a temp controlled fermentation chamber. That’s why I came here to ask other solutions. Or possibly to hear some defense to make beer turn out nice not having a chamber.

    How would you be sure that those other micro bacterias won’t be active at relatively high temperatures? The vessel is breathing.

    Well, once in a while do you bring air from the Zenne valley? Try harder.

    I agree that It could be from too much oxygen present in the wort. But I do believe temperature floctuations could be more of a culprit.

    I think brewing wild beer needs luck. Maybe you don’t need it.

    When did I say that top-offs would solve my issue? Don’t make that up. You are exactly showing a know-it-all attitude. Is your family from Belgium?
    Right. I already have an ac but pay the electric bill for me, Jesus.
  14. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    And you couldn't find this very simple answer in all the extensive reading you've done?

    The vessel is breathing? Please. Although gas exchange does happen, primarily through the spaces in between the staves and the croze, if we're talking about wooden barrelage, this is at the molecular level. Microbes are far to large for this to happen. In comparison, in the less porous environment of a glass carboy, the only diffusion points are at the bung and airlock.

    Again, you're demonstrating your vast lack of understanding. Lambic style beer can be created anywhere, it just shouldn't be called that unless it is made in Belgium. Couple that with the fact that microbial populations are similar at similar latitudes, and you have your answer.

    Although high temperatures will cause increased ester formation, what they won't cause is acetic acid formation. Time for you to try harder.

    Luck has no part in it. Time tested technique does.

    I like this little back and forth we're having. The more you post, the deeper of a hole that you dig for yourself. Like I said, good luck getting information from anyone. The only advice that I'll give you is quit while you're ahead.
  15. riptorn

    riptorn Initiate (98) Apr 26, 2018 North Carolina

    It might be related to size/shape of the barrel versus a carboy.

    Quick googling for kvevry (aka kevri or qvevri) indicates in a rather large terra cotta vessel. If that's what you're talking about you're probably out of luck with that until you have some genuine, heavy-duty temperature control. I suppose you could dig a big hole outside until you reach a lower and more stable temperature and put the container underground. But that would probably be more than 5' deep in your climate and it wouldn't let you actually you actually control the, it'd be really difficult to remove it (or the contents) from 5'+ below grade.

    Putting it underground or in a tub of ice water (continually monitored) would lessen any breathing capacity of the vessel, so if you desire any amount of breath-ability I don't see a way to control the temperature without using electricity......whether it's for an air conditioner or a larger and more effective ferm chamber.

    Would it be better to consider what flavors and other characteristics you're shooting for and then tailor a recipe that suits your environment and existing equipment, maybe with some relatively simplistic tweaks?

    That's more than 66 gallons and would take a HUGE qvevri :open_mouth: :grimacing:
  16. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

    Yeah unfortunately no.

    How can you be so confident about this part? I’m not really sure about this. Many variables exist here.

    had enough. You’re very strict about the term. I truly believe those microbial populations you have are nowhere similar to those in lambic area.

    I think you are getting me wrong. Btw most of the ester formation will happen in the early fermentaion. And in my case for the first 6 cooler months I would have no problem of that. Later months acetic acid formation is inevitable if not there’s absolutely no oxygen. I was just asking how I could keep down this to minimum.

    I’m obviously not a long-time lambic brewer. I need luck probably 30 more years from now on and So do you.

    Yeah obviously I didn’t get much solution from you. Very discouraging. And lastly what’s the point giving me such a negative and meaningless advice? It won’t go anywhere.
  17. Yeastboy

    Yeastboy Initiate (16) Aug 4, 2018 California

    Ahh Thank you for the advice. I just simplified my situations in an earlier post. I have several 43liter amphoras(kvevry), which is a more modern type of jar that I don’t need to put it underground. The wall is slightly thicker so its not as porous as an old kvevry. Still I need to control the tempature but wanted to ferment beer evenly in an oval shape pot. I won’t put it underground so the ambient temperature is very impprtant to me. That’s why i need a solution for summer months. I wonder if it would be better just bottling at that point and age in a bottle assuming that most key fermentation’s done and benefit from the pot is achieved.

  18. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Then you have terrible comprehension because this information is everywhere.

    I can show you source material, if you like. Again, it is all very easily found.

    Then you believe incorrectly. This is not me saying this. It is all there in the research.

    No, most ester formation happens in the log phase of the yeast's life cycle. Increased temperature during fermentation will produce off flavors, like fusels, depending on how temperature tolerant your microbes are.

    Acetic acid formation, on the other hand, is not inevitable. At least above threshold, that is. Brettanomyces sp. will produce acetic acid if allowed to ferment in an oxygen rich environment. If left long enough, Brett will esterify said acetic acid into ethyl acetate in the presence of ethyl alcohol.

    Wherever you're getting your information, you should stop getting it there.

    Been making sour beer for about 12 years. I think I'm doing OK.

    You come to a board and demand advice, all the while brushing off people who actually give you advice. I don't know, if that sounds like anything, it sounds like the very pinnacle of arrogance and I'm not in the business of pandering to arrogant people who are actually hiding their ignorance under a thin veil of confidence.
  19. NorCalKid

    NorCalKid Initiate (99) Jan 10, 2018 California


    Some men are of more consequence in their own eyes than in the eyes of their neighbors.

    No disrespect. Good luck in your home brewing endeavors!
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  20. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,351) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    I have brewed one spontaneously fermented ale so let me run down for you how that worked and how it turned out. I started with a basic grain bill, mashed it, sparged it, and somewhat cooled it and then put it out into the "wild" of the Philadelphia, PA suburbs in a 5 gal. plastic bucket to absorb the natural flora. I let it sit out overnight, and then moved it inside a screened in porch for roughly 24 hours - maybe 32 to 36 hours total after I had removed the leaves that had fallen into it ~ this was late summer/starting fall. I let it sit on the porch at ambient temperature of about 74F and then put a lid and blow-off on it. There was fermentation within a few hours. It was minimal but it was going. I gave it a day or so to get it going a bit fuller and them moved it to the basement and added an airlock. There was fermentation going still!!! It went for a few days fairly strong, and then slowed, and that's where it stayed for what seemed like years, but was actually about 6 months. I ignored it after that. When I eventually pulled the lid off to take a look there was a thick pellicle over it. I just put the lid back on and forgot about it. Keep in mind, being on the floor of the basement it was probably fairly cooled although it was a raised floor, etc. About a year later I looked at it, the pedicure had receded, and it tasted OK. It was sour but it didn't have much character. That's really where this story ends. I added cherry juice to it to give it some depth and it picked up and fermented again, but it wasn't a "lambic" by any means. If there was even Brettanomyces in there, and I assume there was, it didn't give much more than some "wet straw". It was surprisingly clean and BORING. The time spent was not worth it by any means, although the final beer was actually pretty good. I could have done better by pitching yeast though, and in less time.
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  21. Brewday

    Brewday Initiate (119) Dec 25, 2015 New York

  22. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    I think this is a good teaching scenario. I hope you don't mind if I dissect your procedure a bit.

    Do you remember what your grist was? You don't mention a boil, so I'm assuming that you didn't boil or use hops. Would that be correct? If that is correct, they are a major source of phenolic precursors needed to make the end product "interesting", so leaving them out probably lead to the boring nature of your beer, but there certainly could have been other reasons.

    There are a couple things here that are quite important. The ideal temperature for ambient inoculation is between 30 and 40 degrees F. That has to do with two reasons: 1) ambient microflora and 2) and more importantly time of cooling, with the time between 120F and 80F being the most important. A lot of breweries simply cool overnight, but I find that a time period of between 4 and 8 hours is sufficient, if you allow the beer to free fall from the boil.

    I always find it interesting how quickly these fermentations can kick off with no lab microbes pitched. Just goes to show how surrounded we are with microbes, both wanted and unwanted.

    As you've noted, it's important to be patient with these beers. That said, they can finish in a lot less time than this.

    Again, I would wager that this reflects more on your recipe construction than anything else.

    There really is no way to figure out if you have Brett in a beer outside of microscopic examination, but since your beer was POF-, I would actually assume that you didn't capture any Brettanomyces sp. in your effort. This, however, demonstrates the wisdom of traditional lambic brewers and the Methode Traditionelle. You only had one beer to sample. A beer that was inoculated and aged in plastic. If you had dozens of beers, that were all inoculated in a coolship and that were aged in wood and you could blend them, I'd bet dollars to donuts that your end product would have been a less boring one.
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  23. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Oh . . . almost forgot, if you're using a brewpot or a bucket as a coolship, you can just put a muslin hopsock/grainbag over the vessel to keep stuff from falling into or flying into your wort.
  24. NeroFiddled

    NeroFiddled Poo-Bah (10,351) Jul 8, 2002 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    I don't mind discussing this at all, that's why I posted it, to help others learn.

    So, I don't remember the exact grain bill but I'm guessing it was mainly German Pilsner with a small amount of Munich thrown in. I may have had some Vienna malt in there as well, but as noted it was pretty basic. I generally try to keep things simple.

    I did boil it, and I did hop it using some dried out old hops that were probably about 4 years old (Styrian Goldings if I recall correctly but they might have been EKGs). It was simply a first-wort boil addition to help coagulate proteins and what not. There would have been some bitterness coming out of it but not much. I don't recall the quantity or original alpha acids.

    As for cooling, I cooled it to roughly 90-100F by whirlpooling it with the bucket in a cold water bath, and then placed it outside. It would have gotten colder at night but I'm not sure how close to 30 - 40 it would have gotten. Somewhere between 40 - 50 is more likely.

    Brettanomyces - no, I don't believe I collected any. That, in my opinion, is what left the beer boring. It was soured but without character, similar to many of today's kettle-soured beers. I took a chance but it didn't work. Of course today you can simply buy and pitch what you want which makes it much easier.

    And yes, I only had one beer to work with. I should probably have done more but it was at the time, around '95, still an experiment for me.This, however, is also an issue just for smaller breweries that only have a few barrels to age their beers in even when not souring. If they've only got a handful of barrels and they're not blending them off you tend to get a more simplistic beer that's not really that exciting. But with space and cost and everything else I completely understand it and applaud them for even trying.
  25. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (795) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

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  26. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
    Premium Trader

    Cool, man. Glad you're game.

    Not a bad grist, at all. Munich usually adds to the phenolic nature of the beer, as well.

    OK, cool. The hops, even though they were old, probably imparted enough hop related compounds to inhibit some unwanted microbes, like enterobacteriaceae, but weren't enough to impart a solid bitterness, which is a good thing. The inclusion of hops without a lot of phenolics in the finished beer is another reason to suspect that you didn't capture any Brettanomyces.

    This is another pitfall. Cooling too quickly will result in less time in the optimum temperatures to collect microbes. Not saying this was THE issue with your beer, but it was probably one of them.

    Better than taking no chance at all. The last sentence is important, though. Although you can certainly use ambient inoculation as the sole source of microbes, you can also use it to increase your microbial diversity by adding lab cultures to your wort after you've cooled it outside.

    Agreed. That said, there are ways to get good complexity even in small programs. The issue, in my eyes, is that a lot of brewers think "This stuff isn't that hard. I can do this by myself." and don't consult other brewers who are in the know or even read enough source material to realize that they could do a lot better.