I have been toying with the idea of starting a solera project for some time! Inspired by the Mad Fermentationist blog, Wild Brews book and other resources, I really like the idea of an evolving, constantly ageing beer project.
“Solera is a process for aging liquids such as wine, beer, vinegar, and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years.”
Currently I do not have the space for a large (or even small for that matter) barrel. My little family is due to become slightly bigger in August so brewing has to be confined to the garden outhouse, which is in desperate need of a spring clear out. Not to be detered, and thinking long term (as most sour beer brewers must do) I have taken the plunge and started my own, albeit small, solera project.
In march last year I brewed a batch of my house saison recipe, a brew day that was blogged here. As mentioned at the time I took about a gallon of wort to make a starter of WLP670 American Farmhouse, a blend reportedly from Lost Abbey. This starter had since sat, undisturbed for nearly a year. Normally the only destination for this would have been the drain, but not for this brett laced beauty!
Having retrieved the demijohn from the brewshed to asses the possibility of using this beer as the start of my solera I was met by a beast of a pelicle that had formed on top of the resultant beer. After taking a sample to asses its viability the flavours were really good. A good horsey funk had taken over the beer with the farmhouse rustic saison bringing up the rear. A nice refreshing sourness was coming along as well which was a nice bonus!
Having recently transferred my New Years 2014 Flanders Oud Bruin to a better bottle, I had a small amount of unsoured beer that wouldn’t fit, as well as a bit too much of the Solaris Pale ale to fit into a corni keg! Perfect!
With them all blended together I now have a gallon of 50:25:25 brett saison, un-soured oud bruin, pale ale. I have added the dregs from a couple of bottles of Cantillon and the dregs from a packed of Wyeast 3763 Roeselare blend (that went into the Oud Bruin).
This has been sitting for about a month now. It underwent a period of active fermentation with a visible krausen, but this has fallen back in and a small pelicle seems to be forming.
Now…I know sour beers take time, however I wanted to take a little sample to get a feel of how it was getting on after a month.
All in all I am very happy with it so far! I love the colour. Just a touch darker than burnt orange. There is a subtle carbonation in the beer from the restarted fermentation. I can only assume that the brett and bugs have gone to work on the un-ferentables in the un-aged beer. The aroma is of horse blanket and farmhouse yeast with a top note of lactic acid. The flavour follows a similar course with a bit of malt following up the rear. I guess this will fade in time as the bugs et al get to work. I can’t wait for it to develop if this is how it tastes so young.
I will be leaving this alone now to do its thing. I think I will come back to it in 6 months time instead of a year as it is further along than I would have thought due to the pre ageing of the saison portion. I’ll then maybe step the remainder up to 2 gallons to get a bit more volume!