Author Topic: First Pull Off My Solera  (Read 1149 times)

Offline tomsawyer

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First Pull Off My Solera
« on: December 22, 2010, 05:12:47 PM »
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.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline oscarvan

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2010, 05:22:16 PM »
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?
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Offline majorvices

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #2 on: December 23, 2010, 06:35:25 AM »
Very cool. I've been wanting to do something like this for years.
Keith Y.
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Offline jeffy

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2010, 07:02:36 AM »
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.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
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Offline richardt

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2010, 07:09:55 AM »
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).


Offline majorvices

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2010, 07:21:32 AM »
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.
Keith Y.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2010, 07:26:16 AM »
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.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #7 on: December 23, 2010, 07:34:34 AM »
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.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline jeffy

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #8 on: December 23, 2010, 08:06:29 AM »
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.
Jeff Gladish, Tampa (989.3, 175.1 Apparent Rennarian)
Homebrewing since 1990
AHA member since 1991, now a lifetime member
BJCP judge since 1995

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #9 on: December 23, 2010, 08:30:05 AM »
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.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline majorvices

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #10 on: December 23, 2010, 09:10:51 AM »
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
Keith Y.
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Offline tomsawyer

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2010, 10:19:59 AM »
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.
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline markaberrant

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2010, 10:22:40 AM »
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.

Offline tomsawyer

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2010, 12:31:56 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?
« Last Edit: December 23, 2010, 12:36:59 PM by tomsawyer »
Lennie
Hannibal, MO

Offline markaberrant

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Re: First Pull Off My Solera
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2010, 03:10:19 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.