#11 Sambic the First

Eureka, its time for another recipe from the past. All started with a tasting of a lambic made by Timmerman’s back in 2007. It was the Blanche Lambicus with an ABV of 4.5%. I was so surprised about the complexity and sweetness of this brew that I wanted to give this style a go. Easier said than done. It turned out to be pretty hard to find some information about how to brew a lambic back then. However, I found a recipe in a book and went for it.

Recipe: Sambic the First
Numbers: Volume [L] 20 (5.3 gal)
Original gravity 16°P
Terminal gravity N/A
Color Around 9 EBC
IBU 0 IBU
ABV >7 %
Grains: Pilsner malt (4 EBC) 3.6 kg
Wheat flakes (0 EBC) 1.5 kg
Hops: Old hops (?% AA) 51 g and boil for 90 min
Yeast: #3278 Lambic blend
Water: Burgdorf Mash: 15 L (4 gal), sparge: 12 L (3.2 gal) @88°C (190°F)
Rest: Mash in @55°C (131°F), 30 min @ 55°C (131°F), 45 min @ 68°C (154°F), 10 min @ 78°C (172°F)
Boil: Total 90 min
Fermentation: Primary 365 days @ 20°C (68°F) in plastic fermenter
Secondary None
Maturation: Carbonation (CO2 vol) 3
Maturation time N/A

08/11/07: Brew day. Prepared all the malts and begun with the resting steps as described above. Did a pretty easy infusion mash, no typical turbid mash or decoction. Then sparged with 88°C (190°F) hot water and added the hops to the boiling wort. Concerning the hops. The hops aged for maybe a year or so. Can’t remember which variety it was. Then cooled the wort down, transfered the wort into a plastic fermenter and pitched a package of Wyeast’s #3278 Lambic blend.

I then left the fermenter in my basement for a whole year. After a year, a first tasting: It was extremely sour! Even more sour than any vinegar I know. I though about how to rescue this batch but in the end I dumped the whole batch down the drain… Pretty disappointing!

Well, this is just sad. I can’t really remember what kind of sourness it was. It is therefore pretty hard to investigate the source of the sourness. Maybe it has something to do with the fermenter I used. It seems possible that the fermenter (plastic) is not suitable to make sour beers because of the high oxygen permeability of the plastic itself. I already made a new batch of a Flanders Ale to test if the plastic fermenter I have leads indeed to a more sour pronounced beer (due to the higher oxygen permeability). One part of the Flanders Ale matures in a plastic fermenter and others maturate in glass carboys. A sensory evaluation of the different beers will tell me if there is a difference.

Looking back and having tasted a lot of different Lambics and Gueuzes since, the Timmermann’s Lambic is not a very typical Lambic in my opinion. A typical Lambic should be rather dry, sour and without any sweetness if you talk about the style. However, I have to admit, I really like the sweet Krieks from Lindemann’s as well. The process to get yourself a sweet Lambic is yet another story. If you just dump a package of Wyeasts Lambic Blend in your wort, you will get a dry beer. To get it sweet you could add some sugars or fruits and either drink it fresh or pasteurize it.

To summarize, I can’t tell what happened here exactly but further years of experiments might lead to an explanation. One thing is for sure: If you ferment a beer with a Lambic Blend, you get yourself a dry (maybe sour beer) one, no sweet one. No surprise here, right?

I already planned another pLambic brew with a typical turbid mash. Will post about the recipe soon. Stay tuned!

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3 thoughts on “#11 Sambic the First

  1. Ouch… that must have really hurt to dump down the drain. Dumping anything is disappointing… waiting an entire year in anticipation, then discovering you have to dump? Excruciating.

    • Luckily, I had to dump only two batches ever. One of them was the lambic, the other one my first stout which somewhat turned sour. Dumping your labor down the drain is nothing to look out for.
      Cheers, Samuel

      • I’ve been fortunate to not have any that I actually dumped… .but I did have two batches that I brewed in the summer and were victims of heat waves. They ended up way off targets and a lot of hot alcohols. I held on to them for a long time, one of them I still 1/2 the batch which is a couple years old now. While still not good by any means, it’s interesting to try it every 5-6 months and see how it has mellowed and changed with time.

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