Solera 2014 Review & 2015 Solera Recipe

2014 SoleraAfter slightly more than a year in a corny keg in the corner of my living room, my 2014 Solera beer was ready to produce its first round of finished beer. From the 5-gallon corny, I bottle conditioned 2.5 gallons of aged sour beer. On the same day, I topped the corny keg back up with 2.5 gallons of another batch which had already gone through its primary fermentation (recipe below). With this round of top-up beer, my goal was to steer the Solera towards a more traditional lambic-style wort while also inoculating the Solera with a more diverse culture that includes Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend as well as microbes grown up from Sante Adairius Cellarman. My goal is to produce more acidity in future pulls from the Solera.

2015 Solera Recipe:

Size: 3.25 gal
Efficiency: 74%
Attenuation: TBD (am expecting 90% +)

Original Gravity: 1.051
Terminal Gravity: 1.003 (projected)
Color: 4.06 SRM
Alcohol: 6.32% ABV (projected)
Bitterness: 0.0 IBUs

Malt Bill:
4 lb (61.5%) Dingemans Pilsner Malt
2.5 lb (38.5%) Briess Raw Wheat

Mash Profile:
With this recipe I completed a fairly complex turbid mash routine that involved taking the mash through a number of temperature steps. To get from 113 °F to 136 °F I used a simple hot water infusion. To get between the other steps, I pulled varying amounts of the thin portion of the mash, heated it to 185 °F, and then returned it back to the mash. The goal was to create a dextrinous wort that can provide abundant complex carbohydrates for an extended mixed-culture fermentation.

113 °F – 20m
136 °F – 5m
150 °F – 30m
162 °F – 5m
170 °F – 5m

Water Treatment:
Extremely Soft NYC Water
4g Gypsum (to mash)
2g Calcium Chloride (to mash)

2oz Aged Hops (0% AA) – 90 m

Kettle Additions:
0.5 ea Whirlfloc Tablets (Irish moss) – 15 m
0.5 tsp Wyeast Nutrient – 10 m

1 Pack – WYeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend™
500 ml – Sante Adairius Grown up Culture

2014 Tasting Notes:

Judged as 2015 BJCP Category 28B. Mixed-Fermentation Sour Beer

Aroma (6/12):
Low to moderate lactic tartness on the nose, no real perception of acetic or other acids. There is a medium to medium-high peppery phenol accompanied by medium Brett aromatics reminiscent of hay, earth, and leather. There is a relatively strong, tart pie cherry Brett character, which is pretty nice. Some toasty malt hides behind the fermentation aromatics and features a touch of honey-like malt sweetness. At the very end there is a bit of rubbery phenol that isn’t particularly pleasant.

Appearance (0/3):
Deep gold with a light haze. No head whatsoever, although abundant fine bubbles rise from the glass. The head appears to be a casualty of the proteolytic lactic acid bacteria in the mixed culture.

Flavor (10/20):
The beer approaches the palate with a very lean and slightly toasty malt profile. Despite using aged hops that were labeled with 0% alpha acid, there is some definite low to medium hop bitterness that feels a bit out of place in the beer. Acid levels in the beer feel quite low compared to most commercial beers, exhibiting only a mildly acidic lactic tang. Overall the beers is quite mellow and austere. There are some biting phenolics on the finish that are a bit harsh.

Mouthfeel (1/5):
Very low body with a sharp carbonic bite. There are some tea-like astringent components that do not pair well with the sharp carbonation. The carbonation comes off almost soda-like.

Overall Impression (7/10):
In general, this beer comes off quite simplistic, especially considering the complexity of its fermentation and aging. The overall acidity levels could certainly be increased to round out the mouthfeel and bring another layer of complexity to the beer. As it sits now, it is primarily a showcase for Brettanomyces in both a pleasant sense (pie cherries) and negative sense (harsh phenolics).

Good (24/50)

Grow Your Own – Sante Adairius Cellarman

cellarmanWhy just drink sour beer, when you can also grow up the dregs in the bottles, propagate the sour cultures, and then use them in your own beers? This is the premise of my new ‘Grow Your Own’ series. The idea is simple. I’ll be propagating the dregs from some of America’s best sour beers and then do some basic analytic and sensory analysis on the resulting starter beer. My goal is to eventually maintain a library of unique mixed cultures that have data associated with them which can aid in their selection for future beers. I have created an evaluation form for each culture that captures analytic facts such as pH and specific gravity, while also allowing space for notes and sensory data via a spidergraph chart.

Procedure for Sour Dreg Propagation

1. Spray the cap and a portion of the neck of the beer you’re culturing with isopropyl alcohol. Light it on fire and let the flame burn out.

2. Open up the beer and carefully decant into a glass. Save approximately a 1/2″ of beer in the bottom of the bottle.

3. Pour into the beer bottle approximately 200ml of sanitary 1.030 specific gravity wort. Place a sanitized stopper and airlock on the bottle.

4. Let the dregs begin fermenting at room temperature. It may take up to 3-4 days to see much activity. Let the culture do it’s thing for about 1.5 weeks.

5. Prepare 200ml of sanitary 1.060 wort in a 500ml Erlenmeyer flask. Cool and pour all contents from the bottle into the flask. I am starting with a high gravity wort at this point, as I am counting on the contents of the bottle it is combining with to dilute the sugar content. Let the culture ferment out 2 weeks.

5. Prepare 1000ml of sanitary 1.040 wort in an Erlenmeyer flask. Decant the spent beer off the culture and pour into the new starter wort. Let this ferment for a couple days at which time it is ready to be used in a beer.

Sante Adairius – Cellarman

Sensory and analytic analysis form completed for the Sante Adairius culture.

Sensory and analytic analysis form completed for the Sante Adairius culture.

To begin this project, I started with a phenomenal beer call Cellarman from Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola, California. This was one of my beer highlights of 2015 (thus far), and I’m really stoked to have their culture in my micro-library. The culture was very fresh and took off quickly. While fresh, the beer was able to develop some mild acidity, and lots of spicy and slightly funky Brett notes.

In terms of fermentation, the culture performed well:

Starting Gravity: 1.040
Terminal Gravity: 1.008
Apparent Attenuation: 80%
pH 3.78

You can read the full analytic and sensory analysis for this culture, here.