Sour Solera

Discussion in 'Homebrewing' started by Supergenious, Feb 20, 2017.

  1. Supergenious

    Supergenious Disciple (364) May 9, 2011 Michigan

    Just curious as to what others are doing for a sour solera and if you could give a general idea of what your process is.

    I'm considering starting one. I was hoping to use a 5 gal glass carboy. And just bottle half of it every 6-12 months. Then top off carboy with a new brew.

    Thanks. Appreciate any advice.
    DrMindbender likes this.
  2. LakesideBrewing

    LakesideBrewing Initiate (178) Dec 1, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I have two soleras going at the moment, an 11 gallon and a 15 gallon. My process is the same for both: I first brewed a full batch of beer (11 or 15 gallons), and fermented it with Roesalare or Belgian Lambic Blend, and multiple dregs. I let it ferment for a full year, then I take five gallons out and replace with five gallons of 'young' beer. The 'young' beer is usually only a week old and is fermented with a pack of Roesalare or Belgian Lambic Blend. I ferment this in a separate 6.5 gallon carboy, then rack off the trub and into the solera. The five gallons I take out of the solera usually goes on fruit for another 3-4 months before bottling.

    My first solera is in its third year right now and I'm pulling out some fantastic beer! I realize that it really isn't a true solera, but it is still pretty fun to do and is a lot easier than an actual solera. Have fun!

  3. Hogue2112

    Hogue2112 Initiate (154) Apr 7, 2016 Ohio
    Beer Trader

    I'd love to do this... But not until I buy a house. Moving day would be very nerve-racking...
    JrGtr likes this.
  4. CarolusP

    CarolusP Initiate (71) Oct 22, 2015 Minnesota

    I'm curious about doing this as well. Would you mind sharing a bit of information about your recipe? Since the Belgian Lambic Blends contain lacto, I'm guessing you're probably not using much if any hops? Are you sticking to a simple Pilsner/Wheat type grist, or are using any character malts?
  5. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (184) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Not to be a killjoy, but I'd advise anyone that is thinking about doing a solera to reconsider. Better, IMHO, to brew one beer, empty the fermenter when it is ready, then brew another. You can always blend that beer with others or fruit portions of it, but keeping oxygen away from your beer should be of paramount concern and using the solera method does not accomplish this.
  6. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Defender (609) May 29, 2011 Florida
    Beer Trader

    Unless you have a little something like this..

    On a side note, I know Sante Adairius does solera out of a foeder and creates beautiful beers. I would imagine that there is some way of keeping O2 pickup down in their process.
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  7. LakesideBrewing

    LakesideBrewing Initiate (178) Dec 1, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    Not at all. My grist and procedure are very basic and traditional. 70% Belgian Pilsner malt and 30% wheat malt, usually a mix of white wheat and flaked wheat. I do a turbid mash, and extended boil. Around 5 ibu's from old hops.
  8. LakesideBrewing

    LakesideBrewing Initiate (178) Dec 1, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I agree keeping oxygen away from sour beers is very important.

    If you choose the right vessel to ferment in, and are careful during transfer, I don't see how a solera is more susceptible to oxygen than any other sour beer sitting in a carboy. Also, when adding 'young beer' into the solera, it's still fermenting, causing Co2 to dilute the oxygen (in theory, I know it's heavily debated).

    Anyway, I love brewing sour beers, solera, non solera, it's all good to me with the right procedures.

    EvenMoreJesus and hoptualBrew like this.
  9. hoptualBrew

    hoptualBrew Defender (609) May 29, 2011 Florida
    Beer Trader

    I like the idea of the 1/2 bbl keg that is modified with a port at the bottom of the vessel. Can transfer out of the bottom with CO2 push on top. Can replace volume through bottom again after you have your solera pull.
    SFACRKnight and EvenMoreJesus like this.
  10. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (184) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the solera method can't produce great beer. I'm simply saying that, on the homebrew scale especially, it is a technique that is full of variables and adding more variables to an already rather variable situation is never a good thing. I think that its popularity has more to do with The Mad Fermentationist using it and blogging about rather than it being a solid technique, though. There is a reason that commercial lambic producers don't use it. You have a beer that is aging and the only way that you can determine if that beer is mature is by tasting it. Once that beer is ready to bottle, why would one only pull off a fraction of it and then take the chance that they might have to dump the entire fermenter the next time around? Especially if there is little chance that the beer is going to improve with more time in the fermenter.

    Although the additional sugar in the newly added portion certainly helps scrub oxygen from solution, what it doesn't do is change the amount of oxygen that has already interacted with the constituent microbes. Oxygen, by itself, isn't the issue. Oxygen related byproducts of metabolism are, and the longer the beer is exposed, the more of those that are present. All the vessels that we use to age beer are permeable to some extent, so if you do a solera over a period of years, you will have more aerobic byproducts, like ethyl acetate, than you would have if you had just brewed successive beers. I know this is popular when homebrewers want to use commercial barrelage for aging, as 60 gallons is usually too much for one person to handle, but other than avoiding completely filling and emptying an oak barrel by yourself, I find little in this procedure that is technically patent.
    LakesideBrewing likes this.
  11. CarolusP

    CarolusP Initiate (71) Oct 22, 2015 Minnesota

    Why age a RIS for a year when it tastes perfectly good at 6 months?

    Your concerns aren't unwarranted, obviously, but the whole point of a project like this is to try to develop better and better character over time. You can also tweak the recipe of the beer that you top-up with to try to push the flavor in a new direction, all while maintaining the aged character of the existing beer. While oxidation is certainly something to be wary of, it's clear from reading many homebrewing forums that there are several homebrewers who are doing this, and they're doing it successfully.
    DrMindbender and EvenMoreJesus like this.
  12. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (184) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    'Cause it's more rare after a year, brah. :wink:

    Agreed. I'm not saying that it's not possible to produce great beer this way. I'm simply saying that it isn't the best procedure out there to do so.
  13. LakesideBrewing

    LakesideBrewing Initiate (178) Dec 1, 2013 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    I love a thoughtful discussion with varying opinions!
    Mullen2525 and EvenMoreJesus like this.
  14. DrMindbender

    DrMindbender Champion (893) Jul 13, 2014 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    I've done this method/mini-soleras for years, currently have 6 (7.5 gallon fermenters) going with 2 in (5 gallon) whiskey barrels and wouldn't have it any other way! I keg 1 at a time but with 6 going, I've always got one ready whenever I want to keg and then I brew the same day to refill it. I'll usually keg 4-4.5 gallons and brew enough to refill and reuse the bugs. I prefer no boil methods for faster brew day and it's always turned out excellent quality. I've kept a few going for 3-4 years but tend to cull the batches I dont like and replace them with a new mixed culture or a pitch from one of my other batches. I do the same thing with my Brett beers as well with great success.

    If you are unfamiliar with Milk The Funk on the web or Facebook, you should check it out...the wiki/website is an excellent place to start with sour and funky beer and answers most all simple questions and the Facebook group is a great place for more serious questions.
    EvenMoreJesus and Mullen2525 like this.
  15. DrMindbender

    DrMindbender Champion (893) Jul 13, 2014 South Carolina
    Beer Trader

    Have you tried both methods? What was your experience with both? I prefer a solera style to using fresh bugs every time personally...cheaper, easier, faster and more complex sour and much less labor intensive.
    EvenMoreJesus likes this.
  16. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (184) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I'll second, third, fourth, and fifth checking out MTF. The wiki is THE resource for brewing beer with non-sacch. microbes and the FB page is pretty damn informative as well. As long as you know how to use the search function, that is. :wink:

    Just make sure to READ THE WIKI first, before asking questions.
    DrMindbender likes this.
  17. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Initiate (184) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania

    I've never done a solera, per se, but I know quite a few people who have. What I've done is similar, but not the same as people have detailed here. Used to have a 5 and a 10 gallon oak barrel. Both of which I played around with for quite a while. Used them to both bulk age and simply inoculate batches. Instead of completely cleaning the barrels between fermentations, I would simply rack all but about a half gallon to a gallon of liquid out and then pour fresh wort onto that. Like I said, not a solera by any stretch of the imagination, but I did get to experience some drift in character of the beers that came out of those barrels.
    DrMindbender likes this.
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