Sunday, 30 November 2014
Brew Day: Bug County Solera
With that in mind, when my bottle of this year's ECY20 arrived I started thinking about the best way to use it. One vial is more than enough for several batches on the scale I brew at: last year I spread one vial between a number of beers, using some as a sole fermentor, some along with a sacch strain, and even adding some to beers that were already undergoing secondary fermentations. This year my fermenter space was much more limited---both in terms of the number of fermenters available, and the room I had available for buying new ones---so I knew I would probably be more limited in the number of batches I could brew. In the end I decided the best thing to do was to use most of it in another solera-style project, so that the diversity that characterizes the blend could be maintained into future batches.
What passes for a solera round here is pretty small fry: I brew two regular three gallon batches and combine them in a six gallon carboy. The idea is that I can then pull off half of this into a three gallon carboy some time later and replace it with a single three gallon batch. Later again, when I do the next pull from the six gallon batch, I could either pull from the three gallon carboy into smaller jugs and then top up with the pull from the main solera, or I could just pull into a new three gallon carboy so that I had beer at different ages readily on hand. I already have a few batches going on this system, and I'll begin pulling from them and topping them up again in the next few months.
With the ECY20 batch I wanted to brew something that I could use for cutting future saisons, where the aged beer could provide microbial diversity and sourness and give me a higher overall yield (since I can just about brew four gallons of saison on my current equipment, then age this with one gallon of older beer in a five gallon carboy). With that in mind I went for a relatively straightforward grist of 70% base malt and 30% adjunct, but to keep things interesting I varied the malts used in each batch: for the first I did a cereal mash with both spelt and buckwheat, hoping to provide some mouthfeel in the finished beer, and also perhaps some precursors for interesting flavours from the brettanomyces; for the second I went with a more typical blend of wheat and oats. I'm hoping this beer will get reasonably sour, so to encourage the LAB I mashed on the higher side and kept the hopping rate below 15 IBUs.
The O.G. for both batches was 1.044, and they are currently fermenting separately in two different buckets; in a few weeks, after some of the yeast has dropped out, I'll combine them into the six gallon solera. I'm hoping to be able to take the first pull in around 6-8 months and to use it as part of some blended saisons. Of course those will also have to age for a few months, so it will likely be almost a year before I get to taste any of this, but I'll at least have an ongoing source for future blends after that.