Russian River Supplication was my first-ever wild ale experience. I remember that first sip like it was yesterday – waves of tart cherry and pinot noir with a musty, oaky finish. It was unlike any beer (or wine!) I had ever tasted before. Years later, I would acquire a bottle of Russian River Beatification Batch 006, which would serve as my first-ever American spontaneous beer experience. I cracked open that bottle on my 26th birthday and it instantly became my favorite beer of all-time. It tasted as if you left a bag full of lemons in a horse stable for a year – simply amazing! Those two experiences largely shaped my appreciation and fondness for wild and spontaneous ales.
A few weeks after tasting Beatification, I decided to brew my own spontaneous ale. I wanted to replicate the Beatification process as a way to pay homage to my favorite wild ale brewery but also to try to ensure that my spontaneous ale would come out drinkable (and maybe even enjoyable). Fortunately, American Sour Beers detailed the brewing process for Russian River’s spontaneous beer Sonambic (which is ultimately blended to become Beatification). The process is as follows:
- 60% pale/40% unmalted wheat
- Complex step mash
- Sour mash overnight
- Sparge the next morning
- 3-4 hour boil with 10 year aged Hallertau hops
- Empty and rinse mash tun (but do not clean/sanitize)
- Pump wort back into mash tun at 60°F
- Move to barrels the next day
- Peak fermentation delayed ~2 weeks
I followed Russian River’s process fairly closely, with some tweaks. First, instead of a 60/40 ratio of pilsner/wheat, I used 70/30. I also swapped the unmalted wheat for malted red wheat, since I had no intentions of performing a complex step or turbid mash. Instead, I bumped up my regular infusion mash temperature from 152 to 158°F, to create more dextrins for the bugs. Like Russian River, I sour mashed overnight. At 7AM the next morning, I performed the sparge, just over 11 hours after initially mashing in. Once transferred to the boil kettle, I emptied and rinsed the mash tun, making sure to leave it uncleaned and unsanitized. After a 60 minute boil (in which I used no hops), I cooled the wort to 90°F and transferred it back into the mash tun, in hopes of favoring lactic acid bacteria to ensure a tart finished product. By nightfall, the wort had dropped to 60°F and the next morning I moved it into a 6.5 gallon Better Bottle. Eight days later the beer was happily fermenting away with a full krausen.
Style: 23D – Lambic
Description: My interpretation of a traditional Belgian lambic – a crisp wheat beer featuring a unique tartness and funkiness from wild microbes that lend way to complex hard cider and white wine characteristics.
Batch size: 5.0 gallons
FG: 1.005 (est.)
ABV: 6.3% (est.)
70% Domestic pale (Great Western) @ Mash
30% Domestic (malted) red wheat @ Mash
Water treatment: Untreated Holland, MA water
Mash technique: Infusion @ 158°F for 60 minutes
Kettle volume: 6.5 gallons
Boil duration: 60 minutes
Final volume: 5 gallons
Fermentation temp: 68°F
Notes: Brewed solo on 1/27/2015.
Started mash at 8PM on 1/27/2015. Initial mash pH was 5.7. Sour mashed overnight at 158°F. pH was down to 5.0.
Mashed out at 7AM on 1/28/2015. Boiled for 1 hour and then returned to a rinsed MLT at 9AM on 1/28/2015.
Postboil pH was 5.0 during transfer to fermentor. Only got wort down to 90°F, but left lid off MLT and the wort was down to 60°F by nightfall. Left the window open above the MLT. No oxygen.
Small bubbles on surface of the beer on 2/2/2015. Full krausen by 2/4/2015. pH reading on 3/11/2015 was 3.66.