|The barrels at Brasserie Cantillon.|
"I am a brewer naturally, but I am first a blender"
-Jean Van Roy - Brasserie Cantillon
The point can be argued that in order to craft a world class Lambic/sour beer you must blend, or add fruit, to get a complex well rounded product. We as brewers have very little control over the end result once we pitch our chosen microbes, or when left to the open air of your resident microflora. Stressing over ingredients, mashing regimes, yeast strains etc, is common, and all for good reason because once we add our chosen mixed culture of yeast and bacteria it is no longer under our control. Sure, we can manage fermentation temperatures, age in oak/stainless/or glass in hopes driving the beer in a certain direction, but ultimately every fermentation is different even if you're using the same cultures.
|Lambic in a Bladder, in a box, below a fox.|
Over my years of brewing I had always wanted to put a plan in place and build towards a Gueuze but I had hoped I could brew a great mixed fermentation (sour) beer without the need to blend. In part because of my naivety that I thought I could brew a great one without blending and because, well, I was not the best at planning long term aging beers and sticking to that plan but times have changed.
Despite my poor planning in the past, and with some exciting yet to be announced blending projects on the horizon, I wanted to get a jumpstart on building some Gueuze blending skills with a shortcut of not having to wait for multiple years of my own Lambic to mature. On hand I had a Turbid Mashed Lambic that I brewed on big brew day 2013 and my first Lambic that was about two and a half years old sitting in a 3 gallon carboy, but I felt that wasn't enough for a complex blend, I needed more mature Lambic. Then I stumbled across these beauties, could this be what I was looking for?! I really like the idea of using other Lambic to blend with my own, as a lot of traditional blenders do, for similar to Gueuzerie Tilquin who I beleive is solely a blender and not a brewer.
A friend (Kirk) and I reached out to Kurt (Kirk and Kurt, confusing I know.) from Belgium in a Box with a few questions. We were curious if these were pasteurized or not (This wasn't a deal breaker for me but I prefer living bugs!), and can we get a Cantillon bladder? He didn't seem to want to commit to the first question, but being that I visited some of these Lambic producers I am 99.9% sure they aren't pasteurizing anything. Lambic should always be alive and changing and those facilities are largely not equipped with modern tools, especially to pasteurize Lambic just for these bladders. As for the Cantillion, Kurt said that Jean no longer wanted him to ship the bladders because the product is so volatile that he fears the bag would burst in transport, right, so yea that ones not pasteurized.
|From Left: 2.5 yr old Homebrew, 1 yr Turbid mashed, Girardin, Beersel|
Individual tasting notes:
- Girardin- Amber, sweet, Carmel, unrefined, moderate tartness. No Gravity Taken
- Beersel- pale straw, sweaty, musty, mildew, drier than Girardin, tart, more refined. No Gravity Taken
- 2.5 yr Homebrew- Berliner like, lemony, citrus, bright acidity, light funk. FG: 1.004
- 1yr turbid Homebrew- aroma is very sweet, slight acetone, mild tartness. Lingering big residual sweetness. After taste is not pleasant, this needs more age. FG: 1.011
|Racking from the cut open |
I found the easiest way to empty the bladders was to put them in a 1 gallon bucket from Loews with the spout on top and then cut the bag open, removing the end with the spout. This left the bladder open to the elements sitting in the bucket and I was able to just use the autosiphon to empty it into my bottling bucket without losing more than an ounce or so. Trying to drain the bladder via the spout is going to oxidize the Lambic far too much, this ended up being a very gentle smooth transfer into a co2 purged bucket.
The final blend ratios:
- 1.25 gallons of Girardin %29.5
- 1.00 gallons of Beersel %23.5
- 1.25 gallons 2.5 yr old Homebrew %29.5
- 0.75 gallons 1yr Turbid Mashed Homebrew %17.5
- 4.25 gallons Blended Gueuze
|Sipping on a glass of the final blend.|
|Low PH be damned, Champagne Yeast.|
Until then its time to brew more Lambic, a turbid mashed brewday is coming up soon, I'm not even sure if I am excited about doing that again. For the love of Funk I suppose.
|The final product in heavy bottles with 29mm caps! See you in a few months/years, be cool my babies.|