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NathanM
03/11/09 12:49 PM  
Harvesting Lambic Dregs
I'm preparing to embark on a project for brewing a lambic that I've dreamed about for a while, and I have a few questions that I'm hoping folks can help me out with.

What I want to do is harvest the dregs from several different brands of lambic/wild beers, specifically Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, De Ranke Kriek, and Russian River Temptation. Then pitch the combined slurry into regular lambic base beer, something like 60% Pilsner and 40% unmalted wheat at about 1.055.

But I've never harvested yeast from dregs before, so I have a couple of questions:

1. How long will it likely take to build up enough of a slurry to ferment a wort with this gravity?

2. Should I begin harvesting with a small starter, say .5 quarts of wort, and gradually build up to a couple of quarts or a gallon?

3. Is there a way of knowing when the starter is built up enough to pitch?

4. Are there any special steps I should take to harvest these dregs, different from creating a starter of Saccharomyces yeast?

Thanks for any help!

Nathan

Baums
03/11/09 03:17 PM  
Re: Harvesting Lambic Dregs
The thing is, lambic dregs are mainly the bugs that like to hang around at the end of a lambic or gueuze ferment. At the beginning, when most of the actual fermenting takes place, you've got populations of sacc (often strains similar to lager strains) basically dominating even though their numbers are still really small compared to "normal" beers.

Is your goal to make a lambic-like beer?

Or to make a good beer using strictly dregs to ferment?

Or is it something else?

Depending on what you're trying to do, it may be a good idea to add some sacc (or maybe a clean brett) to get the main attenuation done reliably. BTW the RR and De Ranke may have some bottling sacc?

NathanM
03/11/09 07:00 PM  
Re: Harvesting Lambic Dregs
<<Is your goal to make a lambic-like beer?>>

I guess my goal is to see what the resultant beer will be like if I am able to propagate sufficient yeast from the dregs of these various Belgian lambics.

<<The thing is, lambic dregs are mainly the bugs that like to hang around at the end of a lambic or gueuze ferment. At the beginning, when most of the actual fermenting takes place, you've got populations of sacc (often strains similar to lager strains) basically dominating even though their numbers are still really small compared to "normal" beers.>>

So do you think it would not be possible to fully ferment a wort using yeast cultured from such dregs? I had the impression that given enough time to build a starter, and healthy enough yeast to propagate from the bottle, that you could build a viable yeast slurry for fully-fermenting a beer.

I've seen folks here talking about harvesting yeast from bottles, but is the resultant yeast and slurry not sufficient for fully fermenting a wort? Or is it just unpredictable?

Evan
03/11/09 07:51 PM  
Re: Harvesting Lambic Dregs
Just an observation I had: I've been culturing every bottle I've had lately, Boon, Cantillon, RR stuff, etc. All my cultures started really slow except for one which was a mix of Cantillon Kriek, Boon Kriek, and Hannsens gueuze. I've cultured Cantillon and Boon before and never saw a strong fermentation to start, so I am guessing it was the Hannsens that did it. Started off just like if I pitched some straight Sacc. - strong ferment, high flocculation, yeasty smell.
Al B
03/11/09 10:23 PM  
Re: Harvesting Lambic Dregs
<<Or is it just unpredictable>>

Unless you know what your adding, I would say its unpredictable (and I do alot of harvesting). Its possible to make a good beer, but what you end up may need to be blended down the road too.

I think its best to augment the dregs w/ a lambic blend or sour mix if your looking to do a lambic. That way you'll be certain you'll have some of the necessary bugs like Pedio for that style.

Baums
03/12/09 12:09 PM  
Re: Harvesting Lambic Dregs
"I've seen folks here talking about harvesting yeast from bottles, but is the resultant yeast and slurry not sufficient for fully fermenting a wort? Or is it just unpredictable?"

Harvesting saccharomyces from beers in which it was the sole primary fermenter (Dupont, etc) is one thing. If you get viable cells then you can likely propagate up a batch of yeast that can ferment a wort in a relatively predictable manner.

But harvesting from a bottle of gueuze, I don't think you can be sure you "catch" the organism that was responsible for primary fermentation in that gueuze. Saccharomyces counts are generally way low in old lambic even though they were way high during the "primary ferment" (if you could call it that). If you don't "catch" the primary fermenter in your dregs, then no amount of propagation will change that.

You are certainly likely to catch many of the bugs that are responsible for the flavor developed during aging, however. Propagating these may get you a healthy mix of viable bugs that can "ferment a wort" even if that's not what they did in the lambic. As for the resulting beer... unpredictable seems like a good word.

For me: while I use dregs or pure cultures a fair bit to add character to beer, I always also add something that I know will be able to perform the bulk of the attenuation in a predictable way. But that's just how I choose to do it.

 
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