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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 12:12:47 AM

Title: First Pull Off My Solera - Pull #4 Update
Post by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 12:12:47 AM
Last March I bottled a zin wine that I had in an 11gal Hungarian oak barrel, and decided that I'd try to make this into a solera.  I added some fresh-brewed wort, some lambic blend, and periodically added some dregs from a few commercial lambics/krieks.  Today I pulled 3gal out of this barrel.  Its just 9 months old but the beer has some complexity and no major flaws.  Some tartness, a nice funk and a distinct sherry note that is obviously from the wine residue.  I'll bottle the beer tomorrow using champagne style bottles and corks.  I refilled the barrel with some beer newly fermented with Roeselare and topped it up with a 3mth-old lambic brewed from a Boon Oude Kriek dregs that was already quite tart.

This pull was bound to be good, as time goes on it'll be an open question whether this method produces an interesting and tasty wild brew.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: oscarvan on December 23, 2010, 12:22:16 AM
That all sounds most adventurous and yummy. One question... How do you have any idea what the ABV is, other than having three 16 ouncers in an hour and trying to stand on one leg?
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: majorvices on December 23, 2010, 01:35:25 PM
Very cool. I've been wanting to do something like this for years.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: jeffy on December 23, 2010, 02:02:36 PM
My solara project is several years old now and has some fusel notes.  What I did not consider when I was adding beer to the vessel (it's in a carboy) was that adding wort to it would keep increasing the alcohol of the main batch.  I've learned now to add fermented beer instead.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: richardt on December 23, 2010, 02:09:55 PM
Good point.  It would make more sense to ferment in a separate vessel and add the finished or nearly finished beer to the barrel for further conditioning and character development by the wild bugs.  I was wondering what the OP does to deal with the dead yeast in the barrel if he kept adding wort.  It would also seem that restarting an active fermentation periodically within the barrel would potentially drive out a lot of the desirable aromatics (esters, phenols, the Brett character).

Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: majorvices on December 23, 2010, 02:21:32 PM
I had thought about doing mine in an old plastic 12 gallon conical I never really used. That way you could dump the yeast. But the bbl idea is intriguing. Seems like you would wand to start over again every couple of 3 years or so to take care of dead yeast, etc. Also, if I did do something like this I would start experimenting with heavy blending.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 02:26:16 PM
My solara project is several years old now and has some fusel notes.  What I did not consider when I was adding beer to the vessel (it's in a carboy) was that adding wort to it would keep increasing the alcohol of the main batch.  I've learned now to add fermented beer instead.

How would this be the case?  Wort or beer, its all going to depend on sugar and volume.  Although there is some concentration during aging, my wine needed about a 500ml addition per  month.  I didn't top up this barrel, I fermented a batch in it then filled it with fermented beer a couple weeks later.

That all sounds most adventurous and yummy. One question... How do you have any idea what the ABV is, other than having three 16 ouncers in an hour and trying to stand on one leg?

I generally make those beers around 1.050 or a little higher, and you can bet the mix will ferment it down to 1.005 or thereabouts.  So its not terribly strong stuff, but quite flavorful.
Very cool. I've been wanting to do something like this for years.

Check out a barrel from Vadai World Trade Enterprises, just about the cheapest (around $200 shipped) and a decent quality.  Get a silicone bung to go with it, no fun to fight with wooden bungs.  A new barrel would produce a lot of oak flavor on the first batch, but be diluted as you pull and refill.  I had my zin in it for five months and thought it was adequately oaked, after a year of mellowing it could have used another months or two.

I'm on a lambic bottling kick right now, just bottled a 17mth kriek made with sour cherries from my own tree, and a small batch of young lambic (9mth) fermented with Oude Beersel dregs that has a wonderful pineapple aroma and a puckering tartness (maybe too much).  I'm bottling them all carbonated.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 02:34:34 PM
Good point.  It would make more sense to ferment in a separate vessel and add the finished or nearly finished beer to the barrel for further conditioning and character development by the wild bugs.  I was wondering what the OP does to deal with the dead yeast in the barrel if he kept adding wort.  It would also seem that restarting an active fermentation periodically within the barrel would potentially drive out a lot of the desirable aromatics (esters, phenols, the Brett character).

I've kept other lambics on yeast for 18mths and not noticed a problem.  This is another reason to add finished beer rather than wort though.  When I pulled this 3gal off I got some yeast and it settled quickly, so I suppose if I were to do this a couple of times I would reduce it adequately.  Once could alaways rack everything out and rinse the barrel, the microbes will remain in the oak.

As for blending, I think it'd be interesting to go from light to darker, and back.  I'd recommend the barrel just because I like them (I have four now).  It would be nice to have a spigot on this one, but I haven't looked into that.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: jeffy on December 23, 2010, 03:06:29 PM
My solara project is several years old now and has some fusel notes.  What I did not consider when I was adding beer to the vessel (it's in a carboy) was that adding wort to it would keep increasing the alcohol of the main batch.  I've learned now to add fermented beer instead.

How would this be the case?  Wort or beer, its all going to depend on sugar and volume.  Although there is some concentration during aging, my wine needed about a 500ml addition per  month.  I didn't top up this barrel, I fermented a batch in it then filled it with fermented beer a couple weeks later.


Hmm.  Rethinking this tells me that you're right, the alcohol % is not increasing unless the unfermented wort is increasingly higher in gravity.  Warm fermentations caused my fusel notes.  Sorry to sound stupid.
Unfermented wort added to the solara will take on the characteristics of whatever yeast or bacteria is already in the solara.
Mine has a huge layer of trub at the bottom, but there seem to be no notes of autolysis.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 03:30:05 PM
We all have the right to be incorrect on occasion, its in the AHA bylaws.  Glad to hear you aren't experiencing flavor problems relating to autolysis.  I'm pretty careful with my ferm temps, I made enough bad beer because of warm temps when I was first brewing.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: majorvices on December 23, 2010, 04:10:51 PM
Check out a barrel from Vadai World Trade Enterprises, just about the cheapest (around $200 shipped) and a decent quality.  Get a silicone bung to go with it, no fun to fight with wooden bungs.  A new barrel would produce a lot of oak flavor on the first batch, but be diluted as you pull and refill.  I had my zin in it for five months and thought it was adequately oaked, after a year of mellowing it could have used another months or two.

I'd have to do it with a couple 60 gal bbls. Been looking at some wine bbls for the brewery and I am really thinking about starting this up as a project. Would be fun as hell! ;D
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 05:19:59 PM
I think you could market a barrel-brewed wild beer that was six months old.  I'd worry about bottling it due to instability, but kegging would make it simple enough.  From what I hear about places like Avery that do these things, aging isn't a real issue since people lap it up as fast as they come out.

On the other hand, I've had some lambics that threw a heck of a lot of diacetyl at six months and didn't recover until the year mark, so it'd always be a bit of a crap shoot.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: markaberrant on December 23, 2010, 05:22:40 PM
I'm not sure what you would term my "solera," but I use 2 6-gallon Better Bottles.  I keep the newest batch in one, and the aged stuff in another.  Every 12 months, I combine both carboys, bottle half, and brew another batch using the dregs.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 07:31:56 PM
I'm not sure what you would term my "solera," but I use 2 6-gallon Better Bottles.  I keep the newest batch in one, and the aged stuff in another.  Every 12 months, I combine both carboys, bottle half, and brew another batch using the dregs.
That would be the equivalent of what I'm doing, possibly with some difference in "average age".  I was using the term for my container, but you are correct that it technically is blending products like sherry, pot or vinegar of different ages.  Since my container is integral to the process, I was calling it by the term "solera".

Do you use the same recipe or vary things a bit in terms of grist and/or bugs/yeast?
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: markaberrant on December 23, 2010, 10:10:19 PM
Do you use the same recipe or vary things a bit in terms of grist and/or bugs/yeast?

Recipe is pretty much the same, may make small substitutions based on availability (I think I used C60 this year instead of caramunich), but that is about it.  I started out with a Roeselare smack pack, and have added various dregs since then.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: oscarvan on December 23, 2010, 10:22:08 PM
To the noob this all sounds fascinating. Could someone in five easy steps explain the process?
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: jeffy on December 23, 2010, 11:04:41 PM
To the noob this all sounds fascinating. Could someone in five easy steps explain the process?
1) brew beer
2) put into a long term storage vessel (ltsv) (carboy, keg, barrel) and age
3) add bugs if desired
4) remove some for drinking
5) add some more beer or wort to the ltsv to top it off and age
repeat as necessary
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tomsawyer on December 23, 2010, 11:09:22 PM
To the noob this all sounds fascinating. Could someone in five easy steps explain the process?

1.  Make a beer using lambic blend, Roeselare blend, and/or bottle dregs.
2.  Add it to a barrel or other container.
3.  Periodically remove up to 50% of the beer in the container, replace it with newly brewed beer.

These beers can go two or three years to get really good, and traditionally have been blends of older and younger beers.  This technique just accomplishes the blending via the single container.  The advantage of using the wooden barrel, is that the microbes like the wood environment and the wood contributes some flavor early on.  Lambics can be made in glass though, I've done several now.

I suppose one could also do this with a Russian Imperial stout or Baltic porter.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tumarkin on December 24, 2010, 01:45:58 AM
solera is a system of aging by fractionally combining young & old beverages. take a look at the wiki entry for a fairly decent explanation of the process...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solera
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: markaberrant on December 24, 2010, 03:24:35 AM
I suppose one could also do this with a Russian Imperial stout or Baltic porter.

I am debating starting another one for Historical Imperial Stout with brett (no other bugs).  Can't decide whether to just make it an annual brew, or a solera project.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: oscarvan on December 25, 2010, 01:49:08 AM
Ah, very enlightening. Thanks!
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera
Post by: tomsawyer on April 19, 2014, 10:50:10 PM
Updating this thread.  I just made pull #4 from the 11gL barrel originally started March 2009.  I let time slip away, pull #3 was nearly two years prior.  This pull is a full four years from the time I started this project.  I still had some of pull 3 in a keg, so I decided to rack some pull 4 into this keg.  I tasted pull 4 and it was very nice!  Super tart and a real cherry flavor.  I also racked a few gallons into a carboy for bottling, then I replaced the missing beer with 6gal of new beer.  I made a brown ale using a generous portion of special B, choice debit termed hops and fermented with a British ale yeast.  I also added 2L of unfermented wort as an experiment to "feed the bugs".

No sign of problems, so on we go I guess.
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera - Pull #4 Update
Post by: gmac on April 20, 2014, 03:22:01 AM
Like!
Title: Re: First Pull Off My Solera - Pull #4 Update
Post by: tomsawyer on April 23, 2014, 03:11:06 PM
The unfermented wort was a bit of a mistake, next day I pulled the pressure relief plug on the silicone bung and yeasty goop shot out.  Probably shouldn't have filled it quite as full as I did.  It settled down by the following day at least.  I wasn't sure how active the Sacch yeast would be in the acidic environment, apparently they are just fine.