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Big lambic batches

I’ve been batting an idea around with some friends.

With enough help, I have enough kettle and mash tun capacity to push two barrels in a day; it would take about 9 hours start to finish with some overlap and an extra burner.

We’re all fans of big sour beers, not the “bile” flavors as much as the strong sour, wood, and fruit interactions.

We thought, why not purchase a used European fortified wine or spirits cask (225 liters or so), pack it full of a base beer this summer, and then drop a very large amount of fruit in it next summer during early summer harvest? Between the four of us, this wouldn’t materially impact our brewing limits and would be a fun experiment. If it works out, this could become a yearly ritual. We would primary in the barrel.

What I’m wondering is the fruit addition in a year. Everything I’ve read indicates that you want the barrel to be full, but if I’m going to add fruit at 2#/gallon, I’m going to need a significant amount of head room to pull this off. For those of you who have done a fruit lambic in wood, how do you account for this? Pull some base beer out as a gueze base (the “brewers share” if you will) and top up with your fruit? Leave head space?


I have an 11gal barrel full of a Flanders red kind of thing. I’d used the barrel initially to age a zinfandel wine I made. I pull 5gal or so out of it every six months to a year and add more fresh beer. So far so good, although this reminds me its time for another pull. If I wanted to make a fruit lambic I’d pull some lambic out and add fruit in carboys. Do it this way and you can use different fruits and each person can have some to play with, plus you can keep the lambic barrel going longer and get a few pulls at least. But if you don’t want to keep the barrel for more than the one batch you could pull some lambic out to make room for fruit.

I would say that 50gal of lambic is a LOT of lambic. I like the stuff but not in great quantity. Its fun to share though.

[quote=“tom sawyer”]

I would say that 50gal of lambic is a LOT of lambic. I like the stuff but not in great quantity. Its fun to share though.[/quote]

Lennie’s the lambic guy, so he certainly has more experience than I…however, I will say with big beers, beers that need to age, and generally with beers where its a PIA to make them, I want to make as much as humanly possible so I can have enough to lay a bunch down and age it. With lambics especially, you can pull some and make a fruit lambic, and pull more in a few years to make a gueuze, which might be my desert island beer…but it takes a minimum of 3 years to make ONE.

A guy from one of my old clubs cracked a 3L bottle of gueuze he made during club night at the AHA conference, then cracked another at the social. It was pretty special stuff.

I say pull the trigger on this idea. I would echo Lennie’s sentiment of pulling it out of your solera/barrel for fruiting.

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