Sunday, December 14, 2014

PhiLambic Solera Year Two: Top off wort

Lots of wheat.
Bottling the first pull of the Solera prior to brewing the top off batch gave me the flexibility to make some changes to the wort composition based on the flavors and aromas I was getting from the beer. I did however brew this prior to tasting a finished bottle but my overall impressions did not change much. As I lamented in more detail in both tasting notes posts the beer was a little one dimensional, tasting nice but may have been better served as a blending component then bottling straight. I am very critical of my own beer, and sometimes it may sound like I do not like it, not the case here, I am just striving for perfection. I wanted to make sure I got to know my Solera from grain to unadulterated glass in year one so I knew what I will be working with and what I may or may not want to change.

I planned this top off batch with a few goals in mind, balance out the acidity, add some malt complexity, and increase the Brett funkiness. There is a local Philly funky brewer who uses 6-Row as the base malt in all of his wild ales and they always have a nice rustic malt backbone that seems to balance the acidity really well. So I chose to pair 65% 6-Row with 35% un-malted Wheat for the grain bill and a boat load of aged hops to bitter. I know some folks don't agree but I feel that aged hops come through in the aroma of the finished beer, a character that is missing slightly in Pull #1.
Sacch rest.

In lieu of a Turbid Mash or the wort only decoction I utilized for the initial batch I decided to mash in at 113F for a Ferulic Acid rest then ramp up to 160F for conversion. The logic behind the Ferulic Acid rest is to promote the creation of spicy, clove (4 vinyl guiacol) like phenols which Brett can convert to 4 ethyl guiacol aka funky/horse blanket phenolics. I picked this info up on a post on where Mike goes into a little more detail. This method seemed perfect as its exactly what I am looking to add to the Solera, hopefully by using this mash schedule and a more funky Brett blend I can add some complexity.

I chose to start fermentation of the top off batch in a carboy before I racked it to the Solera. I pitched a single vial of WLP 530 and some slurry of TYB Brussels Brett Blend, which throws off more of the classic Barnyard/Horsey Brett Funkiness I am looking for. Once krausen dropped, but fermentation was still active, I racked right into the Sanke keg. I did this for a few reasons, mostly due to o2 exposure but also to minimize acidity of the top off batch. The active fermentation should blow off any o2 that got in the headspace since it sat between bottling day and racking day. But more importantly is that I moved two weeks after brew day and I wanted to move the Solera while there was still some active fermentation. I took other measures including purging and sealing the keg to minimize o2 pickup, lets see how that all works out.
A massive sack of aged hops.

One last change I made here is that I decided to scale back the size of this Solera from the Sanke keg to a 6 gallon Better Bottle filled to the very top. I added this top off batch to the Sanke, let it age for 2+ months and then racked it all into 3 separate carboys (a 6g Better Bottle and 2x 5g carboys). The other 2 carboys, nearly filled with Solera beer, was given to two friends of mine for a base to start their own Solera's with. I am actually excited for this because I will get to taste the results of how they maintain their Soleras and see how it differs from mine despite the base all originating here. 

A 6+ gallon Solera for myself seemed like plenty as I plan to only remove 2-3 gallons on each pull, plus I can do a smaller quicker brewday for top off batches. This also gives me the ability to start another Solera if I decide to, where I can stagger the timeline and use each for blending and not worry about having too much beer (if such a thing exists).

Aside from that, nothing has changed, it now rests in my crawlspace at a consistent 58-64f. Its dark and dingy down there, I think Jean Van Roy would be pleased. 

PhiLambic Solera Year 2

Brew day: 9/28/2014

Recipe Specifications
The 6 gallon Better Bottle Solera,
which originated in the Sanke.
Boil Size: 14.25 gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Measured OG: 1.045 SG
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: Pfft, who knows?
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes

65.9% - 13lbs 8oz - CMC Superior Pilsen (1.5 SRM)
 34.1% - 7lbs - Unmalted Wheat from Whole Foods (~3.0 SRM)

Boil: 75min - 1lb aged hops via HopsDirect
Boil: 15min - 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient

5 gallons got WLP 530 and TYB Brussels Brett Blend slurry prior to racking into the Solera. Remaining wort got ECY Bugfarm.

Ferulic Acid Rest - 15 min @ 113FSacch rest - 60 min @ 161.0 F 

Fly Sparge 5.75 gallons 170f

Misc: Filtered Philadelphia Tap water, Baxter Plant, no salts. 

Notes: The other half of this batch was fermented out with ECY BugFarm slurry, that will age as an unblended Lambic to be used for blending for next years Gueuze. This was the final beer brewed and fermented in Fishtown Philadelphia prior to my move to dirty Jerz.


  1. Interesting stuff. I am looking forward to your results in 6 months (or whenever you will take another pull). How feety were those aged hops?

    1. Parmesean cheese is the best description, not feety really. The aroma was identical to the bales of hops sitting in the rafters at Brasserie Cantillon. As soon as I opened the bag it reminded me of sitting in the tasting room sipping on an unlabeled bottle of Zwanze 2013 (I think that was the year, the rhubard one).

  2. Hey Ed,

    Did you notice any off flavors or issues caused by leaving the yeast cake from the first batch in the solera vessel for aging? Do you think over time there would be any issues. Just trying to figure out for my first batch if I want to ferment the base beer in a vessel and rack to a new one for long term aging and adding of the bugs or do it all in one vessel. I plan to leave mine in the 15 gallon sanke until it becomes undrinkable.

  3. Sorry for the slow reply. No off flavors at all so far, Brett seems to do a good job of feeding on autolysing sacch cells and creating some really beautiful flavors\aromas. My biggest concern is going to be the sheer mass of the cake as I top off over the years.