I’ve been brewing for over two years, and I’ve made everything from Pale Ales to Stouts, Red Ales to Belgian beers. I felt it was time for a challenge, so I decided to create a spontaneously fermented ale, similar to a Belgian Lambic beer.
It started yesterday, when I brewed a very light beer, with a bit of organic wheat from the local co-op. The wheat, which has not been malted, is used for the long fermentation by the natural yeasts. Since lambics do not have any hop profile (bitterness, flavor, or aroma), low amounts of aged hops are added only for antiseptic properties. I decided to use what was left of my homegrown hops, dried and aged to reduce the amount of bitterness displayed in the beer.
After the beer had been brewed, I poured it into several aluminum roaster pans on our three-season porch. Then I opened the windows, and let the breeze in. This is similar to the Belgian brewers, who pump the boiling hot wort into a device called a coolship (the Americanized way to spell it). The liquid is allowed to cool overnight, then placed in a fermenter, usually oak barrels.
Spontaneously fermented beers take at least one year to mature, because the wild yeasts and bacteria take a very long time to do their thing.
Have you ever tried to make a Lambic or a spontaneously fermented beer? What was your result?
EDIT: This beer and the technique used were featured on the October 20, 2011 episode of Basic Brewing Radio.