Author Topic: Solera beers  (Read 6051 times)

boulderbrewer

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Solera beers
« on: January 01, 2010, 10:46:38 PM »
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.
 

Offline bo_gator

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2010, 11:31:03 PM »
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.
 
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boulderbrewer

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2010, 11:41:16 PM »
I'm thinking of doing a solera beer instead of a doing yearly BW

Offline bluesman

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #3 on: January 02, 2010, 07:51:29 AM »
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.
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #4 on: January 02, 2010, 08:43:06 AM »
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/
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Offline Thirsty_Monk

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #5 on: January 02, 2010, 09:43:54 AM »
I also heard about this on Basic Brewing but I do not have any experience with this on my own.
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Offline The Professor

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #6 on: January 02, 2010, 10:48:54 AM »
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.
AL
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Offline hopfenundmalz

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #7 on: January 02, 2010, 12:21:25 PM »
And as I see that you have a Ballantines logo as your picture, is your IPA recipe a Ballantines clone?
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Offline The Professor

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #8 on: January 02, 2010, 02:58:11 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. 
AL
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Offline Jeff Renner

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2010, 04:50:17 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!
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Offline bluesman

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2010, 07:30:28 PM »
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.
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boulderbrewer

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2010, 08:39:08 PM »
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.


Offline Jeff Renner

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2010, 09:16:26 PM »
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".


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boulderbrewer

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2010, 09:31:04 PM »
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!

Offline karlh

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Re: Solera beers
« Reply #14 on: January 05, 2010, 09:56:14 PM »
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...
Karl
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