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General Category => General Homebrew Discussion => Topic started by: boulderbrewer on January 02, 2010, 05:46:38 AM

Title: Solera beers
Post by: boulderbrewer on January 02, 2010, 05:46:38 AM
What are you thoughts, What do you have going? How long?

What are the beer styles that lend themselves to this? Hints or tricks for this type of brewing and bottling.
 
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: bo_gator on January 02, 2010, 06:31:03 AM
What are you thoughts, What do you have going? How long?

What are the beer styles that lend themselves to this? Hints or tricks for this type of brewing and bottling.
 
WTF amigo
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: boulderbrewer on January 02, 2010, 06:41:16 AM
I'm thinking of doing a solera beer instead of a doing yearly BW
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: bluesman on January 02, 2010, 02:51:29 PM
Pretty interesting method. Probably been around for a long time. I have never tried it. A barley wine sounds like a good candidate for trying this. It reminds me of Freindship bread that the Amish have employed for years.

Here's a link on basic brewing.

http://odeo.com/episodes/25250569-10-08-09-Solera-Brewing-and-Barrel-Aging-Basic-Brewing-Radio

Basically it's a blending process that they used in Spain with brandy that has evolved into beer and wine.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: hopfenundmalz on January 02, 2010, 03:43:06 PM
Jeff Renner wrote a story on this in Zymurgy some time ago.  It is used for Sherry, where the old Sherry left in the barrel "teaches" the new Sherry.  Jeff had a corny he would refill using this methed.

Since then the club has done a project with a Bourbon Barrel.  Will be 4 years old in April.   If you put some in, you can take some out latter.  The beer is always changing, as it ages, and then as new is added.

http://aabg.org/2007/10/10/bourbon-barrel-barleywine/
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: Thirsty_Monk on January 02, 2010, 04:43:54 PM
I also heard about this on Basic Brewing but I do not have any experience with this on my own.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: The Professor on January 02, 2010, 05:48:54 PM
I'm thinking of doing a solera beer instead of a doing yearly BW


My yearly Xmas beer is a barleywine/old ale...and a solera of sorts.  I brew it every year, usually sometime between April and June, and add some reserved beer from the previous year's brew.   Each year's batch has at least 10% (sometimes a bit more)  of the prior year's batch added to it;  I've been doing it since 1989, so that means that as a result of the yearly additions,  this year's has a trace amount of that first 1989 batch in it!. 
I have also had success doing this with Sack Mead.

The idea to try it came from something in Fred Eckhart's old book.  It wasn't until later that I found out that Ballantine's Burton ale was also made by  a yearly topping up of well aged beer (a slightly ramped up version of their IPA)  that had been maturing in wood for anywhere from 10 to 20 years.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: hopfenundmalz on January 02, 2010, 07:21:25 PM
And as I see that you have a Ballantines logo as your picture, is your IPA recipe a Ballantines clone?
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: The Professor on January 02, 2010, 09:58:11 PM
And as I see that you have a Ballantines logo as your picture, is your IPA recipe a Ballantines clone?

Long answer, probably belongs in a thread of it's own (your call, Denny!!... Let me know if it gets moved to a new thread.  I could write a whole book about Bally IPA)
In any case...
I have indeed experimented a lot coming up with a clone of the Ballantine IPA (still the definitive IPA  as far as I'm concerned).  I have tried several recipes from other sources but none seem to capture the intense but clean bitterness of the original...I suspect that some of the recipes out there were made by people who never really tasted the original (it was only brewed to the original recipe until the early-to-mid 1980's...it was thinned down after that, and disappeared altogether not too long after that). 
Most clones I've tasted weren't bitter enough or aromatic enough, and none of them had the full year of aging that is essential to the character of the original brew.

I've come up with two variations that come pretty darned close, except for the elusive,  intense aroma of the original...literally like sticking your head in a bag of fresh hops.    I've yet to have any other beer --commercial or otherwise-- that smelled so richly of hops.   According to those who brewed the original (40+ years ago), the brew was both dry hopped and dosed with a mighty helping of home-made (distilled at the brewery) aromatic hop oil.

So I'm still tweaking my recipe and have come close enough to make me want to continue the quest. 
I have found one thing for certain though...that year-long aging is a non-negotiable requirement.  It is definitely essential to the brew and makes a big difference in the bitterness factor...it is still intensely bitter after the year long aging, but without harsh 'green' notes common to most of the commercial IPAs out these these days. 
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: Jeff Renner on January 05, 2010, 11:50:17 PM
As Jeff Rankert wrote above, I wrote an article in Zymurgy on this technique, and I believe I was the one to introduce the term "solera" for it.  So far as I know, the term traditionally refers only to the blending of sherry in Jerez, Spain.  That technique is somewhat different in that it uses many vessels.

My solera is simply a dedicated corney keg.  I started it about 15 years ago simply to improve a flabby, all-pale malt strong ale with some dark old ale to give the blend some needed "bite" from higher bitterness and dark malts.  I had no thought of continuing it.  It worked, and over the next year or two (as I recall, I suppose I should dig out the article), I blended in other strong ales to keep it going.

After perhaps two years, it developed a nice sour tang, so I brewed new beers to capitalize on that - more or less in the old ale style - 1.065 or so, dark but not a porter, moderately hopped, maybe 45 IBU.  At this point, I was thinking of Greene King's Olde Suffolk, which apparently has Walloon origins http://www.beerhunter.com/documents/19133-000646.html

When newly filled on top of perhaps a gallon or so of the old blend, this beer had a nice, mellow tang, and this increased over time.  At its best, it had a wonderful winey character.

This article, and previous posts in HomeBrew Digest, inspired homebrewers and homebrew clubs to try it.  At some point, clubs and commercial brewers started doing this in oak barrels.  As Jeff wrote, our club began one four years ago with an English-style barleywine.

Regarding what style to use - I would suggest a minimum of OG 1.060, but beyond that, experiment.

My own solera has been rather neglected of late with about two quarts left untouched for maybe two years.  I wonder if the microbes in it are still viable.  I will brew an old ale this spring and top it up.

One of the homebrewers who read my article lives in Sweden, and sent me the following article, showing that this technique has migrated beyond its presumed Walloon roots.

Jeff

OLD WALLOON ALE
A ’CENTENARY ALE’, NOW TWO-HUNDRED YEARS OLD

THE OLD ALE IS:
-sour, with a rich aroma all its own
-non-carbonated
-of a reddish brown hue
-top-fermented
-unfiltered and live
THE ALE IS BREWED WITH:
-a generous measure of Vienna malt
-wort that has simmered a good long while
--relatively little bitterness and hops aroma
OLD WALLOON ALE IS AGED IN OAK
CASKS:
-about two years
-in a temperate cellar(>14oC/66°F)
-and then tapped and replenished in a special way

HISTORY

Old Ale was brought to Sweden by Walloon immigrants recruited under royal privilege to develop the budding Swedish iron and steel industry. The first ”French”brewers to receive royal permission to brew ale in Sweden were Willem and  Gillis DeBesche.  That was during the reign of King Carl IX in the early 1600s. The tradition of brewing was carefully nurtured by the families who owned (virtually reigned) Sweden’s rural iron foundry estates until the time of the Great War, 1914-1918. Among the estates known for their quality Centenary Ales were Söderfors, Gysinge and Österbybruk. On display in the entry to the Gammel Tammen restaurant at Österbybruk is a hand-made bottle found in a cellar on the premises that bears the legend, ”Old Ale”.
 
Perhaps the most famous of these Old Ales was that brewed at Söderfors. The brew was started in 1794, but unfortunately has died out. An article in an Uppsala newspaper from the mid-1960s notes that a local brewery, BayerskaBryggeriet, maintained a handful of family casks at that time. The Geddacaskwould seem to be the last of these that is still going strong. The unique assortment of micro-organisms inside the cask has been the object of the Geddas’ tender care since 1860, when the cask
came into their possession. The brew dates back to 1806 and may, via the af Klercker and LeFeburefamilies, be traced to foundry estates at Gimoand Rånäs(both east of Uppsala).  Jeanette LeFebure, grand-daughter of Jean LeFebure, owner of the two estates, married Fredrik af Klercker, who in 1860 gave the cask to GudeAdolf Gedda, his fellow officer in the regiment at Västerås.

Notes on the CARE AND FEEDING OF OLD ALE

The traditional Belgian brewing technique, introduced into Sweden by Walloon mining engineers and metallurgists in the 17th century has been preserved by the Gedda family in the family cask (photo above) through the years. The closest ’cousins’ to the Old Ale today are Belgian Oud Bruin (brown) and the West Flemish Red Ales. Mashing is performed in the usual way using Vienna malt, which lends the wort a reddish tone, accentuated by the long boil. OG varies between 1.055 and 1.060, with an FG of about 1.012, which yields an ABV of 6%. Newly brewed, the ale has a normal pH, but after two years in the oak the pHwill be 3.1.

Together, the long months in the oak and the special procedure for tapping and replenishing the cask with fresh brew preserve a unique flora of micro-organisms that give the ale its very special wine-like character.  After two years’ ageing the brew is drawn off and bottled – preferably burgundy bottles (photo) –for distribution, enjoyment or, perhaps, further ageing. The cask, now half-empty, is replenished with new, primary ferment ale. Whereupon it is left to rest another two years until, once again, the procedure is repeated. This routine has been faithfully observed since 1806, a full 200 years!
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: bluesman on January 06, 2010, 02:30:28 AM
That is an amazing story and piece of brewing history. I had never heard of this process until this thread was started. There may be other undocumented cases of Solera beers still in exsitence today. I'm not quite sure I understand the aging process and how the micro-organisms interact to produce the qualities in this beer as I have never had an opportunity to try this unique beer.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: boulderbrewer on January 06, 2010, 03:39:08 AM
Thank you very much Jeff !!!!!.  I will start in a corney but plan to move to oak at some time. I'll probably start with Old Stoner and head on from there.

Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: Jeff Renner on January 06, 2010, 04:16:26 AM
If you don't want to wait for chance to introduce interesting microbes, you might consider inoculating the keg with Brettanomyces claussenii, which was isolated from British beers a century ago and was considered to be responsible for the characteristic flavor of English stock (aged) ales of the time  (and, I suspect, "stale" porter as well).  This is different from the Brett species of Belgian beers.  For one thing, in my experience, it is far milder.

After reading an abstract (sadly no longer available online) of a 1997 article "What is "Brett" (Brettanomyces) Flavor?
A Preliminary Investigation" by J. L. Licker, T. E. Acree, and T. Henick-Kling (excerpted below), I asked Chris White of WhiteLabs to add B. claussenii to their lineup and have been playing with it a bit.  I think I have stronger bugs in my solera that this alone (I didn't inoculate it at all but it might be there by happenstance), based on the higher level of acidity, but I think it would be a good inoculant while waiting for others to develop.  (this will happen faster in oak, BTW.).  Be sure to vent the keg occasionally regardless as the pressure can really build up as various critters eat what brewers yeast left.

But don't expect results in weeks.  It takes some months, at least in the beers I have bottled with it.  And don't use any priming sugar whether you bottle or keg.

Jeff

Relevant excerpt from Llicker et al:

I.  LITERATURE REVIEW
 
A.  The Beginning of "Brettanomyces"
 
N. Hjelte Claussen, then director of the Laboratory of the New Carlsberg Brewery, in
Copenhagen, Denmark, introduced the word "Brettanomyces" at a special meeting of the
Institute of Brewing in April 1904 (1).  Claussen proved that a type of English beer known
as stock beer underwent a slow secondary fermentation after the completion of the primary
fermentation.  The secondary fermentation was induced by inoculating the wort with a pure
strain of Brettanomyces:  a non-Saccharomyces, Torula-like asporogeneous (non-spore
forming) yeast.  The flavors produced during the secondary fermentation were
characteristic of the strong British beers of that time.  Claussen chose the name
"Brettanomyces" for the close connection between the yeast and the British brewing
industry.

In 1903 Claussen obtained a patent in England for his process of adding
Brettanomyces yeast "to impart the characteristic flavour and condition of English beers to
bottom-fermentation beers and for improving English beers" (3).  At that time it was
unknown how the wine-like flavor developed in British beers.  Brewers used the method
developed by Hansen in 1883 for the inoculation of pure yeasts in bottom fermented beers;
however, they were unsuccessful in their attempts to use the method to recreate the flavors
of well-conditioned top fermented English stock beers.  These were stored in cask, vat or
bottle for more than a week after racking.

Unfortunately for Claussen's discovery, the strength of British beers began to
decline, in large part due to excise tax increases (4-7) .  Low attenuated beers that forgo
storage after racking (running beers) replaced the stock beers along with the associated
flavor characteristic of this British national beverage (7)   Claussen (1)  noted a beer must
reach a certain degree of attenuation to receive the benefits of a "pure flavoured product";
otherwise, the low attenuated beer "thus infected (with Brettanomyces) possesses a peculiar
impure and sweet mawkish taste, whilst at the same time an English character becomes
apparent to the nose and a very similar impure taste is the result" (1).

C.  Flavors Associated with Brettanomyces in Beer

"English character".  Claussen (1) stressed "a general rule cannot be given for all
cases, but the quality of Brettanomyces to be added must be regulated by local
circumstances, more especially by the time the beer has to be stored and by the temperature
of the storing room."  A Brettanomyces inoculation with a wort of 1055 specific gravity
and a room temperature of 24-27 °C would achieve the "English" character.
Schimwell confirmed these conditions:  a 1.060 specific gravity was essential to
achieve a "vinous" wine-like flavour (6); in contrast, a beer under 1.050 would produce an
unpalatable and turbid beer with an objectionable, insipid flavor and aroma (77).  As
Shimwell (6) noted, Brettanomyces can behave "as a desirable organism in one beer and an
undesirable one at one and the same brewery".

Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: boulderbrewer on January 06, 2010, 04:31:04 AM
I have a few in house "wild yeasts" that I may add to this. Maybe I'll go with one with and one without. Thank you again for a fascinating look in to history. Maybe a Balantine IPA(XXX) pure if professor will give out a recipe and Old Stoner with funk. This sounds like a life long obsession!
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: karlh on January 06, 2010, 04:56:14 AM
I have had a flanders red going in a sort of solera system since around June of 2008.  The vessel is a 10 gallon american oak barrel that saw about 3 batches of non-sour beer prior to being switched over to the wyeast roeselare strain.  Since then I rebrewed the base beer and (as with the original) fermented it initially with wyeast belgian wheat.  I then pulled 5 gallons of the sour beer and added the fresh beer to replace (Feb 2009, the beer received one ribbon in competition, and did not rate in a second due to the "strong oak character").  Since then, I rebrewed and pulled another 5 gallons (Oct or Nov 2009).  The sour character is a bit more assertive than February, and I am suspecting that the next pull may be more like 8 or 9 gallons.  I may have to re-pitch the roeselare strain again to bring things back into balance. 

That said, its a really fun experiment, and I always have a flanders red on tap now...
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: boulderbrewer on January 06, 2010, 04:58:30 AM
I think that may be the trick, is to keep things in balance. Especially a beer with bugs.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: onthekeg on January 06, 2010, 10:19:59 PM
Marc, as you know I too have one rolling in this fashion, I have been using my irish red, and have oak chips and dregs from La Roja rolling along in it.  I started it in May 09, and bottled some in Nov. 09, about a gallon and a half.  Added a few more boiled chips and more red into it then.  It is a glass carboy, the only one I have.

The beer is beautiful that I bottled, I just wish I would have remembered to add a little fresh yeast when I bottled...   Its not carbed up properly yet in 2 months..??? :'(
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: boulderbrewer on January 08, 2010, 03:24:23 AM
I know you got me thinking of doing this, by the way I'm still waiting for that beer! Is it carbed yet?
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: onthekeg on January 08, 2010, 04:10:15 AM
I know you got me thinking of doing this, by the way I'm still waiting for that beer! Is it carbed yet?

Sort of.  I am drinking one tomorrow night.  Wanna stop by?
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: boulderbrewer on January 08, 2010, 04:17:48 AM
Yes
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: enso on February 15, 2010, 01:19:55 AM
Looks like I missed the discussion by a bit.  This idea has just started to bounce around in my head.  I figured it could be done in a corney keg, glad to find this thread.

A few questions.  When you remove some beer, how is it then treated?  Does it have to be force carbonated in a small keg or can you bottle condition?

What temp should it be stored at or can that change with the seasons (within reason, i.e. not too wild of fluctuations or extremes of temp)

Are their other styles of beer one can do this with or does everything end up being "old ale" in character no matter what you do.  Old ale is not a particular favorite by the way...   ;)

Something Belgianesque not necessarily wildly funky like a flanders red or a lambic?
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: 1vertical on February 03, 2013, 11:02:26 PM
Revival of an ole thread....Ron, have you sampled this style yet?
I missed this post somehow and want to contribute. I have a
good solera beer at last pull 1.5 year old cherry brett lambic in oak.
Still getting good reports after all this time.
It is now well over 2 years old and I need to soon make another pull
when I get 2 mt corny kegs.  I think I shall soon retire the oak......
I think I shall retire myself as well....half wages do not lend well to brewing costs.
 :-*
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on February 04, 2013, 12:53:35 PM
Sour/funky stuff is what gets my vote!

I have a similar method to Jeff's - I use a keg and keep refilling it with a new beer every year.

One has gone from a Flanders Red, to a blended Flanders Red, and now is a kriek (this year I just added tart cherry juice)

The other was a tripel, then I blended in some sour bugs. Now the keg has about 1 gallon left, I'll blend in more tripel or quad.

I actually just started the blog post on this project last week - I'll post it when I get it finished!
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: yugamrap on February 04, 2013, 05:55:40 PM
There's a member of our local club who has had a Solera going for several years.  His is a Flanders Red and each year's batch seems to get a little more character than the last.  It's good stuff, and he's won several medals with it in local and regional competitions.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: tomsawyer on February 04, 2013, 08:20:08 PM
I've had a Flanders red style beer in a 10gal oak cask for a couple of years now.  The cask first contained a Zinfandel I'd made.  The beer does change, and I will add lighter or darker new beer to it to further change character.  I was taking out every six months but I haven't done a pull in some time now.  In fact my last pull is in a corny keg.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: cdrsfrg on April 21, 2013, 03:50:55 PM
I started a Solera 11/2010. With 2 55 gal oak barrels used for whisky then a barleywine. Every few months I brew 10 gal lambic style with 60% Pilsner and 40% Torified Wheat and one oz old Saaz hops in 120 min boil. So far I have done 8, 10 batches, moving 5 gal to the second barrel each time. This year I will start doing some blending and carbonating to see what I get. What small tasting I have done seems to be working well. The Wyeast Lambic blend is fermenting out to 1.00 in the first barrel before I can move any to the second starting from 1.060.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: reverseapachemaster on April 22, 2013, 04:07:51 PM
I have something I've called a solera with lambic although it's not technically a solera because I'm only using one vessel. I think we've all adopted this same single vessel technique as a solera for beer terminology.

I'm using a six gallon better bottle. I have been running it since December 2010. Each December I pull out a portion and replace it with an equal amount of fresh wort. The first year I brewed a very basic and simple recipe with 60% pilsner malt and 40% red wheat malt, decoction mash and pitched the WY lambic blend plus the dregs of a Lindeman's Cuve Rene (the only non-pasteurized sour I could find at the time). In December 2011 I pulled four gallons, put one gallon aside in a separate jug, put one gallon on raspberries and aged it for six months before bottling, and bottled two gallons straight. The first refill I did the same recipe except I used white wheat malt and added a tablespoon of whole wheat flour near the end of the boil to add some starches into the wort. In December 2012 I pulled three gallons, bottled one gallon, put one gallon on blackberries which I will bottle in the next month or two, and put one gallon in reserve in a separate vessel. I replenished with three new gallons, this time using 60% pilsner malt, 40% unmalted wheat and a decoction mash. This coming December I am going to pull another three gallons and blend it with the separate gallons held back from year one and year two to make five gallons of gueuze. It will be a good time in my house next year.  :P

I have definitely noticed a difference between the two bottlings. Year one has a big cherry flavor and the acidity is sharper than the second year. The second year is more funky and leathery with very soft acidity. Other than age and some differences in the wheat, I think the absence of esters from saccharomyces in the second year deprived the beer of the typical cherry pie flavor I saw in year one. This last December when I refilled I added a very fruity Belgian sacc strain to see if the presence of new esters will produce a lambic with more cherry pie flavor. Not that the second year's leathery flavor isn't good but it was a good opportunity to test a hypothesis. Plus having three unique tasting lambic should make for a more interesting blend this winter.

If you want to read more of my ramblings about the solera you can see just the solera posts on my blog on this page: http://homebrewingfun.blogspot.com/p/lambic-solera.html

I think the solera process naturally lends itself to sour brewing because the solera works off time and time is naturally a key ingredient in sour beer. The same is true for brett beers because brett does some really interesting stuff over time with flavor and a combination of fresh and old, brett'd beers could produce some really complex and interesting flavors you may not be able to produce out of a single beer aged with brett.

I can also see it making an interesting beer out of a stronger beer, whether it was a barleywine, a quad, a scotch ale, etc. and then bottled by itself each year or blended with a young beer in the package. I wonder how long a clean beer, even a bigger beer, could last before brett, pedio and other critters showed up and took up residence. Not that it would necessarily be a bad thing.

I think of the solera process in the same vein as blending but you are letting nature decide some of the flavor elements rather than developing all of the flavors through your blending process. There's still control over the grist, hops and to an extent the fermentation products but the maturation and melding of flavors over time in the solera is mostly out of your hands. I don't see that as an excuse to just throw whatever beer into the solera, you should think about each beer you add based upon how the flavors in that beer change over time and how they might blend into the solera and how it is going to change the overall flavors in the solera. It's easier to predict the change in flavor and ensure a positive change with a repeated addition of the same beer or a similar beer. You can always blend the solera beer with a disparate beer in bottling but once a beer goes into the solera you can't take back those flavors or how they will mature.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: kylekohlmorgen on April 22, 2013, 05:31:04 PM
^ Excellent post. The blog is a great way to keep record, too.

I have two Solera-esque beers going. One 'light', one 'dark'. The light is currently a blend of 1 and 2-year old Flanders Red-ish beer and 3/4 gal tart cherry juice. The "dark" is an oatmeal brown ale that I've transferred into a keg that held a sour/funky tripel.

I can add that acid production will fade in subsequent batches, especially if you are just using lactobacillus and/or drop the temp of the solera vessel (putting keg in kegorator). Every once in awhile I'll add in some lacto/brett slurry for added complexity and assured continuation of the culture.

This is a great process for lambic because its another way to "set it and forget it".

I outlined my process and gave a case for using kegs here: http://southhousepilotbrewery.blogspot.com/2013/03/wild-yeast-culture-experiments-dregs-in.html

I'll also cover this method (as it applies to sour/funky beers) in my NHC presentation.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: tomsawyer on April 22, 2013, 07:33:58 PM
My experience with the cask is that the beer keeps getting more sour, or at least it certainly doens't fade.  Probably the result of microoxidation.
Title: Re: Solera beers
Post by: tomsawyer on April 22, 2013, 07:36:24 PM
I don't see that as an excuse to just throw whatever beer into the solera, you should think about each beer you add based upon how the flavors in that beer change over time and how they might blend into the solera and how it is going to change the overall flavors in the solera. It's easier to predict the change in flavor and ensure a positive change with a repeated addition of the same beer or a similar beer. You can always blend the solera beer with a disparate beer in bottling but once a beer goes into the solera you can't take back those flavors or how they will mature.
I have been steering my stuff one direction, then another as far as how dark and malty the beer is.