Yes, bacteria! A few months ago at a Belgian beer event I stumbled upon a Vicaris Tripel-Gueuze and man, what an amazing beer. A perfect blend of a classic Belgian tripel and a funky brett-style lambic beer, really unlike anything I’ve tried before. I highly recommend picking this beer up if you happen to come across it. I’ve grown fond of sour beers over the past few years so, with a little inspiration from the Vicaris, I decided to add a little funkiness into a fairly standard Belgian Wit recipe (since I’m not so confident with tripels, yet) to see what’ll happen. I’m definitely no expert on lambics (or even regular ales), so every sour beer enthusiast will probably read this and think “ugh, what a n00b”, but hey, I figured it’d be a cool experiment to just dive into. WYeast makes lambic strain of yeast (the homebrew store guy informed me that it’s a mix of a Belgian ale yeast, a sherry yeast, and a few strains of bacteria that I can’t pronounce), so I will likely add it into the secondary after the beer’s done fermenting. The bacteria should eat up some remaining sugars and make it just a little funky, hopefully.
- 7 lb Belgian Pilsner malt
- 2 lb White wheat (Briess)
- 1 lb Flaked oats (Briess)
- 9 oz Belgian aromatic malt
- 8 oz Carapils (Briess)
- 1 oz German Hallertau (60 min)
- 0.5 oz German Hallertau (30 min)
- 0.5 oz German Hallertau (dry hop)
- 1 oz Coriander seed, crushed (7 min)
- 1 oz Dried bitter orange peel (7 min)
- WYeast 3944 Belgian Witbier
- WYeast 3278 Lambic blend
// Strike w/ 3.68 gal 164F water (1.33 qt/lb), mash at 153/154F for 60 min. Sparge to collect 7.5 gal 1.038 wort. Boil 90 minutes, adding hops at specified times. Add coriander seed and orange peel in two mesh bags, remove bags when half way done chilling wort after boil. Chill to 70F, pitch only the witbier yeast (no starter). Collected 4.5 gal, OG 1.055 //
From my experiences thus far, any kind of witbier yeast is a freakin’ tank. Equipped with bazookas and flamethrowers. Every beer or starter I’ve made with it takes off right away and is overflowing with activity. This one definitely acted up, but luckily did not overflow. Activity got going within a few hours of pitching.
UPDATE 11/27: Strangely, after 10 days in the primary at ~65F it was still bubbling about once every 20 seconds. I decided to rack anyway. As soon as I tasted it, I knew it wasn’t done. Still had that sticky, sweet, unfinished taste. Gravity read 1.031. I had already started to rack at this point, so I finished, then wound up dumping the yeast cake from the primary right back into the secondary. Gave it a good shake to aerate a little, and also added 1/2 oz hallertau hops. If the activity doesn’t kick up again, I’ll go ahead and add the bacteria. I might want to start fermenting in carboys since you can see what’s going on and not risk racking too early. Definitely a full head of yeast on top when I opened the primary.
UPDATE: This thing has turned into such a frankenstein beer. After another week in the “primary” (carboy this time), I took another gravity reading and racked to another carboy – 1.018. Still not done. At this point, my patience was worn down enough so I went ahead and added the lambic cultures, then gave it another week. It definitely picked up in activity, and a weird thin layer of foam settled on the top. Gravity was 1.010 after the next week.
Well this may seem ridiculous… but despite how long it took to fully ferment (~4 weeks), this is likely one of the most complex tasting beers I’ve made so far. The flavors and aromas from spices, fruit, dry-hops, yeast, and bacteria all come together to create a really exciting package. The lambic is just noticeable enough to give it a little funk in both aroma and taste. I won’t lie; I was pretty nervous about using that lambic strain. I like sour beers, but having a whole keg of one makes me squirm a little. Adding the lambic strain with ~10 gravity points left in the beer (1.018) gave it a little of that earthy, brett-y flavor without any noticeable sourness – similar to the Vicaris if I may be so bold :D. The beer is not as wheat-y as I anticipated, but that’s OK with me. Cheers!