pLambic - Turbid Mash brewing!

“The lambic family are not everybody’s glass of beer, but no one with a keen interest in alcoholic drink would find them anything less than fascinating. In their “wildness” and unpredictability, these are exciting brews. At their best, they are the meeting point between beer and wine. At their worst, they offer a taste of history.”  quote by Michael Jackson (the beer hunter/writer)

I did it!  I finally brewed a Lambic style beer!  The majority of people have never tried nor even heard of a Lambic.  This is because the style is practically extinct.  There are a handful of breweries in the Lambic(Lembeek) region of Belgium which is the only region that you can actually brew a beer of this style and call it a Lambic.  It's kind of like how you can't call Sparkling wine made in California Champagne.  To be called Champagne it needs to be from that region of France.  This style is essentially being resurrected by homebrewers and and a handful of US micro-breweries who have patients enough to age beer for 2+ years and then eventually blend the aged beer with younger beer.

There are a lot of crazy weird practices for making a traditional Lambic beer that go against everything I've learned about brewing.
  1. Turbid mash (purpose is to create wort that normal brewing yeast has trouble fermenting on it's own so that that various Brett and Bacteria have something to chew on over the long fermentation)
  2. Hot sparge (over 170 degrees) to extract tannins(?)
  3. Super long boil
  4. Usage of old aged hops
  5. Traditionally left out to cool overnight in a cool ship so that it takes on wild yeast and bacteria.
  6. Fermented in an old wine barrel that harbors yeast, and bacteria
  7. Left in primary fermentation on the dead yeast for 2-3 years. (dead yeast is food for the funk!)
  8. Finished beer is typically blended with younger less sour versions or aged on various fruits.

malt & fermentables

Malt or Fermentable
Belgian Pils
Wheat, Unmalted (Wheat Berries)


Original Gravity
Final Gravity
5° SRM
Mash Efficiency
hops(three year old Celeia hops)
240 mins

I'm extremely excited about this yeast.   I acquired it from Princeton Homebrew Supply where the owner Joe Bair has hooked up with a bona fide yeast wranglers named Al Buck.  Here is Al Buck, talking about the yeast he cultures.
ECY01 BugFarm 5 - Lambic Blend
A large complex blend of cultures to emulate sour beers such as lambic style ales. Over time displays a citrus sourness and large barnyard profile. Contains yeast (S. cerevisiae and S. fermentati), several Brettanomyces strains, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. The BugFarm blend changes every year and can be added at any stage of fermentation. Now producing Bugfarm 5 for 2011 (includes a newcomer – Brettanomyces nanus & naardenensis). Also, B. lambicus/Dekkera bruxellensis known to produce citric acid.

Turbid Mash -
Here is the process I went through for doing the Turbid Mash.  I found that the most comprehensive information on traditional Lambic production was written by Jim Liddel here who based his turbid mash schedule on the way Cantillon still brews their fantastic beer today. I also referenced The Mad Fermentationist blog who put together a great step by step Turbid Mash brew day with pictures!

I simply followed these 8 steps and used about every pot and pan I had in my house! The good news is that I hit all of my temperatures within 1 or 2 degrees!  

1.) In kettle #1 add water at 144 F(62 C) to the crushed grain to achieve a temperature of 113 F (45 C) (about 2.4 quarts of water). Mix grain and water thoroughly and allow to rest at 113 F for 10 minutes. This amount of water is enough to just wet all the grain and flour. The mash needs to be stirred very well to make sure all the grain is wetted and no clumps of flour are present. Total time for this step is about 20 minutes, with the temperature rest included.

2.) Next, add 3.5-4.5 quarts boiling water (212 F)(100 C) to the mash to bring the temperature to 136 F (58 C). Do this over the course of 5 minutes making sure to mix thoroughly. Allow the mash to rest for 5 minutes at this temperature. Remove about a quart of liquid from the mash and add to kettle #2 and heat to 176 F (80 C). It will take about 3.5 quarts of water to raise the temperature to 136 F and you will end up with a very soupy mash with plenty of excess liquid. The liquid taken off should have the appearance of milk. Once heated it will clear up and large particles of hot break will form.

3.) Add 5-6 quarts water at 212 F (100 C) to the mash over the course of 10 minutes to bring the temperature to 150 F (65 C), again with constant mixing. It will take about 5 quarts of water to achieve this temperature. Allow the mash to rest for 30 minutes at 150 F (65 C). At this point the mash will be very soupy and the liquid much less milky in appearance.

4.) Next remove 4 quarts of liquid from kettle #1 and add to kettle #2. Continue to heat kettle #2 at 176 F (80 C). The liquid removed from kettle #1 will be very cloudy but not quite as milky as the liquid previously removed.

5.) Add 5 quarts of water 212 F (100 C)water to kettle #1 to bring the temperature to 162 F (72 C) and allow to remain at 162 F for 20 minutes. Again it will take about 5 quarts of water to reach the rest temperature. The mash should be very thin and soupy with a great deal of small particulate matter in the liquid portion of the mash.

6.) After the 20 minute rest the liquid in kettle #1 is run off and brought to a boil in a 3rd kettle (#3). Enough of the liquid in kettle #2, at 176 F, is added back to the mash in kettle #1 to bring the mash to a temperature of ~167 F (75 C). The mash is allowed to rest at 167 F for 20 minutes. Any liquid left in kettle #2 can be added to the previously collected run off in kettle #3. It will take most all the liquid in kettle #2 (~1.25 gallons) to raise the temp of the mash to 167 F.

7.) After 20 minutes the wort in kettle #1 is recirculated to clarify it and the sparging with 185 F (85 C) water is begun. Sparge until run off gravity has dropped to less than 1.008 and boil it with the previous run off from kettle #1. Boil the wort, now in kettle #3, until the volume is reduced to ~ 5 gallons.

8.) As the wort begins to boil it is hopped with approximately 4 ounces of aged hops as described in the Hops section. With all the water additions and sparging you will end up with about 9 gallons of wort. Total boiling time to reduce this volume to 5 gallons depends on your system.  It took me 4 hours to boil from 11 gallons to 5.5 gallons.

****My advice, have a trusty thermometer and a bunch of pots full of boiling water and you should be fine! There were a couple of instances where I had to add an extra few quarts of boiling water to bring the temp up to where I wanted it!
****Also, double check the day before you brew to make sure you have enough Propane! 
I plan on adding 1-1 1/2 oz o f French Oak cubes soon after the initial fermentation is done.   In about 8-12 months I'll sample the beer and most likely take a portion of it into another vessel and add 4 lbs of Wisconsin cranberries that I have in my freezer!  I'm hoping to have something similar to New Glarus - Cranbic at some point, but less sweet. 

I'll update this post as I see it progress over the next couple of years!  Should be drinking this one by 11/8/2013! 

1.29.12 - Sampled this with Kevin.  It smelled barnyardy.  Taste was just simply gross.   It tastes very similar to my Flanders Ale when it was young.   That Flanders is tasting amazing now at 1 year old.  

4.16.12 - Just read that New Glarus used 1200 lbs of cranberries for a 160 Barrel batch of Cranbic.  That's the equivalent of 4.13 lbs of cranberries per gallon of beer.  For a 5 gallon batch that's 0.25 lbs of Cranberries!

5.18.12 - Added 1/2 ounce Medium Toast French Cubes.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck with your lambic, it looks like you are off to a great start. I just brewed my first this past weekend as well. I went with the Wyeast Lambic Mash. I posted a little bit about it on my blog:



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