Starting a Sour/Lambic Pipeline

Over the past few years I’ve become a big fan of sour/lambic beers. I finally tried one of my own about 3 months ago using the Dawson’s Kriek extract kit from Northern Brewer. There seems to be a range of opinions on how to use this kit. The instructions it comes with say it can be ready to drink within 2-3 months but that it will gain more sour/funky character if you give it more time. Some people say it needs a year or more until it really starts getting good.

I was originally planning on letting it sit for 9-12 months and then adding the cherry purée for another month or two but that’s a pretty long time to wait for my first sour beer. If I had the patience, it would probably be worth it but I decided to take a different approach and hopefully get a sour/lambic pipeline going in the process.

The kriek has sat in the primary fermentor for about 3 months now. I sampled it earlier in the week and it’s definitely starting to get sour but I can see why people say it needs a year or more before it gets good. I just can’t wait that long. I can always do another batch in the next few months and let that one sit for a year and be drinking this one in the meantime.

Today I racked it to a secondary fermentor on top of 6 lbs of cherry purée and then brewed up another beer (a blonde ale) and added that to the primary with the leftover yeast cake (and bugs) from the kriek. I originally pitched the Wyeast Lambic Blend so that yeast cake is a combination of saccharomyces (brewer’s yeast), brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus. With 5+ gallons of fresh wort to chew on, all those bugs should be getting back to work very soon.

I’m planning on letting the Kriek sit on the cherry puree for about a month and then bottling in Belgian-style 750ml bottles with corks and cages. Typically you would want to let it sit longer to make sure any secondary fermentation due to the added sugars from the cherries is complete, but I want to have this ready for the First Annual Triple Lindy Beer Fest in October. More about that later. Anyway, the stronger Belgian bottles should be able to withstand the additional pressure that comes along with the continued fermentation after bottling. I’ll probably also use a little less priming sugar than I normally would, but not too much less because I want to have a decent amount of carbonation in time for the beer fest. The wild yeast and bacteria in this beer will continue to consume any residual sugar left in the beer even after the priming sugar is used up so I don’t want to overdo it, even with the stronger bottles.

Blonde Lambic

Batch Size (Gal): 5.25
Total Grain (Lbs): 10.50
Estimated OG: 1.054
Estimated SRM: 4.9
Estimated IBU: 6.7
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70%
Wort Boil Time: 60 Minutes

47.6% - 5.00 lbs. American Pale 2 Row
38.1% - 4.00 lbs. White Wheat
4.8% - 0.50 lbs. Crystal Malt 20L
4.8% - 0.50 lbs. Flaked Wheat
4.8% - 0.50 lbs. CaraPils

1 oz. Saaz (aged) - 60.0 min

Wyeast Lambic Blend yeast cake from Kriek

Mash Schedule
Sacch Rest - 60 min @ 152 F

Brewed 8/11/12

Used 7 gallons of bottled spring water. 
Haven't used much of the water in the new house yet 
because I want to get a water report first.

Heated strike water to 170 F. 
Added strike water to empty mash tun to preheat. 
When strike water reached 162 F, added grains.

Mashed with 3.5 gallons @ 152 F for 60 min

1st runnings - collected 2.67 gallons of 1.085 wort

Sparged with 3.5 gallons @ 170 F for 15 min

2nd runnings - collected 3.58 gallons of wort for a pre boil volume of 6.25 gallons

Pre-boil OG: 1.048

After 60 min boil, chilled to around 80 F and then racked onto the Kriek yeast cake.

Rocked carboy to get yeast into suspension but no aeration other than that.

Here’s a shot of the fruits of today’s labor. The blonde lambic is on the left and the Kriek is on the right.

Blonde Lambic and Kriek
Blonde Lambic and Kriek

8/16/12 – Update: It took about 3 days after pitching on the lambic yeast cake to see any signs of life. I’m usually pretty good at RDWHAHBing but on day 2 I was starting to think about pitching some more yeast to get things going. Luckily I decided to wait it out and on day 3 I saw this:

Signs of life

Only a day later it was in full on fermentation mode: