Belgian Lambic and Gueuze are some of the most delicious and sought after of the “sour” beers. While production of true Lambic is not possible outside of Belgium you can approximate these beers at home. All it takes is your regular brewing equipment and a whole lot of patience. Below is a very easy recipe for creating your stock of beer for blending. Ideally, brew this recipe every 6 months and set it aside in a 6-gallon carboy. After about a year, this beer will take on Lambic characteristics that will continue to evolve as the beer ages. Gueuze is made from a blend of 1, 2 and 3-year-old Lambic. If you have been producing this recipe consistently and have beers of the various ages, you can start with a bit of the 3-year-old beer and blend in 1 and 2-year-old versions to develop your own “Gueuze” that will surely amaze your friends.
Extract “Lambic” Recipe
6 Gallon batch
OG = 1.056
FG = 1.010 or lower
IBU = 0 (Theoretically)
SRM = 3
ABV = Up to 5.5%
4 Pounds Wheat DME
4 Pounds Pilsen DME
3 ounces Well Aged Hops @ 90 Minutes
1 package Wyeast 1007 German Ale Yeast
1 package Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend
Bring approximately 8 gallons of water (depending on your system) to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir in the dry malt extract. Return to the heat and bring back to a boil. Add 3 ounces of aged hops and boil for 90 to 120 minutes. Cool and transfer to your chosen fermenter. Top up as needed to 6 gallons. Add the 1007 German Ale and a blow off tube. Temperature control is not as important as with your clean beers but place the fermenter in a location that will keep it below 70 degrees. Two days into active fermentation add the 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend. Replace the blow off tube with an airlock when it is safe. Set the fermenter in a dark cool place and forget it is there for 3 years. (except, keep the air lock full)
I use extract for this recipe because it is extremely easy and quick. I also find the residual sweetness that brewers tend to complain about in extract batches is just what we need to keep the bacteria going. If you would rather do an all grain version, I would mash at about 158° to leave some less fermentable sugars. Some recipes call for a ¼ pound of malto-dextrin, but I find it unnecessary.
A couple of notes to consider:
- Racking the beer off the yeast is not necessary when creating these beers. The combination of the Brettanomyces and bacteria will protect you from the off flavors associated with leaving the beer on the yeast for an extended amount of time.
- Some online information suggests you can age these in traditional fermentation buckets since the small amount of air that will enter is beneficial for Brettanomyces fermentation. I still use glass, but I am not fanatical about getting a little air in when refilling the air locks.
- Bottle dregs from your favorite Lambic or sour beers can be added to these batches to give you some variety in your blending stock. Often these beers are excellent to drink on their own but having a variety of related batches gives you more flexibility to create a beer that is to your own taste.
- Another good way to vary your batches is to substitute a different clean yeast for the 1007 German Ale. Various Belgian yeast can be great. Versions can be made with just the 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend as well.
- A small amount of oak in these batches can lend another layer of flavor that can enhance your final product. Just toss in an ounce or so when you pitch the yeast.
- There is no right or wrong way to make these beers. You can choose to ferment these beers spontaneously by leaving them out to cool and letting them collect wild yeast and bacteria. The benefit of using the lab blended culture is they minimizes any risk of turning out beer that needs to just be dumped after waiting a year for it.
- If you are just not patient enough to wait the 3 years, this recipe lends itself well to refermentation on various fruits. After about a year, you can rack your “Lambic” onto your favorite fruit. Typically, another 1 to 3 months will be needed to complete this step. The beer can be packaged and enjoyed at that point.
There are as many ideas about how to make these types of beers as there are brewers. This is just my way. Please experiment and try stuff that interests you. The only thing that is absolutely required to make good wild beers is patience. 😊