Sunday, 22 February 2015

Lambic 2.0.1

Over the last while I've been brushing up on brewing lambics at home primarily as we'll soon be emptying our lambic barrel (currently resident in my garden shed) but also because I want to get a few other lambic projects on the go myself.

So to start with I've decided to brew what's broadly a combination of Michael Tonsmeire's Lambic 2.0 but adapted to my target ABV, plus a recipe that was devised for the first filling of our barrel which I have slightly simplified.

Grist & Mash

Grist: 3kg pilsner malt, 2kg whole wheat
25L / 2 hour mash / 2 hour boil

  1. Add 2kg wheat + 0.6kg malt to a pot with 15L water heated to around 62°C
  2. Bring to gentle boil for 30 mins
  3. Let cool to normal strike temp for your gear, plus 3 or 4°C (as you want to mash at 70°C)
  4. Add to remaining 2.4kg malt, in mash tun
  5. Hold at 70°C for 2 hours
  6. Sparge with 92°C water for until 32L collected
  7. Boil for 2 hours, add 3-7 IBU shitty hops at 120 mins
  8. Collect around 25L in the fermenter



Whole wheat from the Glanbia Farm Shop. UFAS code is for Ketripack Ltd, Longford.
My Crankandstein 2S on its
plywood base

Milling wheat

First off, it had been a while since I crushed whole wheat and I had forgotten how difficult it is. My Crankandstein 2S is the basic model and not really adjustable. It has a preset gap of around 1mm which is perfect for crushing barley malt, but even if this was adjustable I suspect there's a better mill for cracking wheat.

Initially the mill wouldn't grind any wheat at all, the kernels just sat there and spun on the roller. Much to my frustration even tamping them down didn't help and adding a large or a small quantity to the hopper made no difference, it just wouldn't go through. My mill is bolted to a base made of half inch plywood and on closer examination I noticed that plywood base is starting to warp. Looking over the mill I couldn't really tell if it was still "square" but I decided to back off the holding bolts and see what happened. Behold! I was back crushing wheat again. Moral of the story: if your mill isn't milling, make sure it's all square.

Heavy Water

Leixlip water is infamously hard. It's the "Dublin" profile in most brewing books and brewing software as Dublin has a variety of supplies, some very soft, almost Pilsen like, but the Leixlip supply is the hard supply always quoted. Water is extracted from the Liffey at the purification plant behind the Salmon Leap Inn (where Arthur Guinness's brother, Richard, was once landlord) after it has run over maybe 10 miles of limestone, starting near Clane. The bedrock prior to Clane varies but doesn't contain any real quantities of limestone, and this is why the water extracted from the same river at Ballymore Eustace is quite a lot softer. The Leixlip plant supplies probably a third of greater Dublin, but ironically not the Guinness brewery. They use soft water from the municipal supply.

As my recent sour beer experiments have struggled to get below a pH of 4.1 I'm forming a theory that my hard water has a part to play in that. This time around I decided I would begin with softer water so I tipped over to the good people in the Lucan County Bar with some jerry cans and filled up from their tap. They're on the Lucan supply by the looks of their hardness of around 120ppm; not Ballymore Eustace soft, but not Leixlip hard either, instead somewhere in the middle. Indeed it's probable their water is a mix of both supplies. Hopefully with this water I should see some lower pH readings later on.

The brew

 I started with a simple serial mash of 2kg wheat and 600g of the pilsner malt added to 15 litres of water at ~62°C, brought to a boil and simmered for 30 minutes. This is for the purposes of gelatinisation. One thing about wheat is that it's quite dense and sinks to the bottom of the pot, meaning constant stirring is required. I did this on the 3kw ring on my gas cooker. Gas cooking is reckoned only to be about 50% efficient and the time taken would reflect this! Next time I might use my induction hob. After the mash had boiled for 30 minutes I turned off the heat and let it cool to 80°C. Typically when I'm brewing I need to heat my strike water to 10°C above my mash temperature, I've learned this from experience, so 80°C strike should give me 70°C mash.

T1: Mash temperature
So why 70°C? That's the sweet spot for alpha-amylase, and is essentially a dextrinisation rest. It will break down starches into complex sugars including maltose, oligosaccharides, and dextrins. Yeast requires simple sugars, so it cannot metabolise a lot of these and they will serve as food for the lactobacillus and pediococcus later on. It is important to not have the wort too fermentable in the traditional sense.

Striking in with the pot full of hot water was a little awkward from a physical perspective, but the temperature landed at 70°C bang on. I closed it up and left it for two hours.

When it came to sparging I kind of regretted having milled the wheat twice. I think if I had milled it once the bigger husks would have resulted in a less caked mash, that was bordering on stuck. But I was able to get through it at 92°C by stirring and turning the grain constantly. Once I had 25 litres collected in my kettle I started into the boil. Ideally I should have 32 litres in the kettle, losing 7 litres to boil off, but my kettle isn't big enough. Hence I started boiling 25 litres and topped it up with water regularly to keep it at 25 litres.

My brew controller - 6 amps
keeps a nice rolling boil
Once the boil started in went 10g of Saaz at 3% AA. I had planned on mash hopping just for simplicity, but between one thing and another I simply forgot. 10g would yield very little bittering, which is intentional. Hops don't really play any part in the flavours or aromas of a lambic, and too much will inhibit the growth of essential bacteria.

120 minutes later off went the kettle and the almost boiling wort siphoned into a 25 litre jerry can that I had previously purchased cider apple juice in. There is no need to crash cool when brewing a lambic - in Belgium it would have been left in a coolship overnight to cool, picking up airborne bugs at the same time.

Siphoning into the jerry can
Next day when the brew had cooled down I pitched about 200ml of starter that I had cultured up from the dregs of a lovely bottle of Framboise that Nigel Comerford gave me over a few pints in Kenny's of Lucan. Nigel has been brewing great beers for a long time and is one the most versatile and talented home brewers on the Irish scene. He's also understated, brewing for pleasure rather than glory. Anyway he had used WLP655, a mix of saccharomyces, brettanomyces, lactobacillus and pediococcus. As saccharomyces and to a lesser extent brettanomyces are quick to get moving, the starter will be predominantly these two, but that doesn't matter too much as they will go to work on the simple sugars in the main brew and be finished relatively quickly leaving the rest of the year to the lactobacillus and pediococcus to metabolise the complex sugars and dextrins. I don't know what lineage the saccharomyces is from but that starter smells quite phenolic so it's probably Belgian.

Just before pitching the starter I took the gravity, 1.042, very slightly off target. I'm not too concerned as this should still ferment out to slightly over 5% abv. By day 2 it was fermenting nicely in the warmth of my kitchen.

Oak no oak

One thing I have omitted so far is oak, and this is something I plan to rectify in the coming days. When done it will be joining the other great lambic in my shed to spend at least a year achieving greatness! Watch out for an oak update!


Son number 1. Who would have guessed a bucket of wheat
could provide so much entertainment for a ten year old!



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