How to make lambic (one ugly beer!)

Brewing beer — By on January 30, 2008 at 12:33 pm

My wife likes one beer – Lindeman’s Framboise.  Every other beer, she turns her nose up.  As an avid homebrewer, this is difficult to take because I haven’t made a beer that she appreciates.  Since she likes the lambics, I decided to take the plunge into the scary unknown and make it for her.

The wild yeast

The “scary” part of making lambic is the yeast.  Search on the internet, and you will find many warnings about making lambic with lambic yeast.  True lambic brews are not made with particular yeast.  The wort is just exposed to the local critters and Mother Nature does the rest.  If we tried that outside of Belgium, our results would be bad to horrible.  The reason is the wild yeasts and bacteria local to parts of Belgium are used to make lambic.  The rest of the world must use a commercial lambic blend.

homebrew lambic

It looks scary fermenting, but lambics are worth the scare.

The lambic blend includes Brettanomyces, Saccharomyces, and the bacterial strains Lactobacillus and Pediococcus.  There are other yeasts and bacteria, but science has determined that these are the critters that produce the flavor we want.

There are many myths surrounding these yeast and bacteria.  Since they are “wild”, it is assumed they have supernatural powers above and beyond the normal beer yeast.  Brewers worry the critters will lurk in every crevice of your home or brewery and infect every beer you ever make again.  If you are brewing in porous wood barrels, uncovered fermenters, and/or you don’t clean or sanitize anything you may have something to worry about.  Using proper sanitation and properly cleaning your equipment will protect you from these “wild” yeasts and any truly wild yeast living in your home brewery.  When you are finished, clean all of your equipment as you normally would.  If you feel extra worried, you can soak your equipment in star san a bit longer.  These micro-organisms are just as susceptible to the acid-based sanitizer as all other brewing critters.

Making the beer

The recipe I used is as followed:

0.5 lb Gambrinus Honey Malt
4.5 lb Belgian 2 Row
1.5 lb Belgian Wheat Malt
0.5 lb Flaked Wheat Malt
2 oz Saaz hops
American Ale yeast
1 can of Oregon Seedless Raspberries
Pectic Enzyme
Lambic Blend Yeast
4 oz natural concentrated Raspberry flavoring

Mash the grains at 150 F (65 C) for 90 minutes.  For the boil, add the hops from the start and boil the wort for 60 minutes.  The beer we are making is a very basic ale.  You can use any neutral ale yeast.

Ferment the beer using the ale yeast as you normally would.  Once the beer has fermented completely you are ready for the second stage.

Adding the raspberries and second yeast

In your secondary fermenter, add the raspberries, pectic enzyme (for 5 gallons), and the lambic yeast.  Rack your fermented ale on top of the raspberries and lambic yeast.  Seal the top of your fermenter, and store in a cool place.

The long wait

The lambic yeast will create a layer of bacteria on top of your beer.  If you have a clear fermenter, be prepared to be grossed out.  The beer will look infected—which it is, but in a good way.  Do not show this to anyone who might drink the beer.  The likelihood of them liking the beer will drop dramatically with every glimpse of the film on top of the beer.  The Belgians smartly store lambics in opaque wooden barrels. The lambic should be stored for about 6 months.

Rack and carbonate

Once the time has passed, suppress your gag reflex and poke a hole through the bacteria layer and rack your beer.  Add the raspberry flavoring at this time to taste.  You can rack it into a bottling bucket, add sugar and naturally carbonate, or you can just keg it and add the CO2.

There is some debate over how carbonated the lambic should be.  Authentic lambics are not very carbonated.  Lindeman’s has a cork and is very carbonated.  You will have to experiment to see what you like, and report back to us.

I am a avid homebrewer and winemaker. I’ve been making my own beer and wine for many years. I started making beer when I was in college (mostly because the drinking age in the United States is 21). My first few beers were horrible. The beers are much better now, and I often supply my neighborhood with free beer!

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  • http://www.youngwifey.wordpress.com Young Wifey

    I am a just like your wife, I'll only drink Framboise (and occasionally the Cherry Kriek). How did she like it?

  • http://twitter.com/foxxnet Tim Fox

    Any update on the result?

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    It went well. It’s a bit thinner than I’d hoped for. I was looking
    for the liquid sweet tarts that Lindenmans produces, but this is more
    like a traditional lambic. I’ll keep refining the recipe until I can
    reproduce theirs perfectly. :)

  • Pingback: Framboise Raspberry Lambic Beer : Inside the Mind of Micah Sparacio

  • Mackenzey

    If you are doing natural carbonation, with everything else, how long did this process take?

  • TJ Kong

    “The reason is the wild yeasts and bacteria local to parts of Belgium are used to make lambic.  The rest of the world must use a commercial lambic blend.” —-> that’s just a fable invented by Lambic brewers around Brussels. As they admit themselves (heard the Cantillon brewer admit it). of couse the cultures in that area might be just a little different….but they’re a little different everywhere (even from street to street). you can brew lambic anywhere on the world. and it’ll taste a little different as well…..isn’t that great? 

  • Anonymous

    I made a Kriek and a Framboise for my wife.   I won a 2nd place for the Frambroise in a very large competition, but she didn’t like it.    The Kriek is now 2 years old and will be entered in a competition this year.    She doesn’t like it either.    While this has been a learning experience, I think I will just buy her the Lindemanns at this point.    These were my most expensive beers ever (the fruit and the extra yeast, plus a dedicated keg, hoses, airlocks all being replaced).  It was not a total loss, but I really don’t like these types of beers that much and will basically stick to all malt beers at least for the next couple of years. 

    BTW, when I made mine, I did three stages.   I put the fruit in and let the yeast go at that for awhile before pitching the bugs.     My beer was also made to be very sweet, so that the lambic organisms would have plenty to work on (I think I mashed at 160F, used some crystal as well).    Both beers were quite dry.  I used Roselaire on the Framboise and Lambic blend on the Kriek.     Given that the yeast did most of the fermentation, there was not as much difference in the roselair/lambic blend as I thought.   The Rosellare had a very strong ‘horsey’ character.    The Kriek is more sour, but it’s still subdued (and neither beer was a sweet as the Lindemann’s beers.)

  • Usfmikeb

    It’s my understanding that Lindemann’s is backsweetened extensively, which would have to be done in the bottling bucket or keg to taste.

  • Pingback: Lambic Question - Home Brew Forums

  • Whitehurstj

    great blog, but I read your recipe list and realised that my marriage was doomed – unless I could make a “mock” framboise – any ideas, links that make beer taste like raspberries? 

  • buffalopam

    I have fresh raspberries I would like to use in a beer. I am not a brewer but do you have any ideas how to incorporate fresh berries into the recipe? My sons brew and I want them to make some while they are home..
    Tx
    Pam

  • john

    is this for a 5 gallon batch? doesn’t seem like enough grains – should i add some extract?

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    It’s a 5 gallon batch. You can add some if you like, but it wasn’t designed as a strong beer. The raspberries will also add some fermentables to the beer.

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    Maybe a fruity Kölsch? I’ve had a few turn out very fruity (fermented a bit too warm) without adding any fruit.

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    I just add them after the primary fermentation is complete.

  • http://www.fermentarium.com deege

    It took about 6 months. I kegged it, but I’m not sure that was the best approach. Mostly because it occupied a keg for a year. :)

  • john

    thanks

  • Leon

    After 6 months is there enough yeast left for natural carbonation?

  • shayneo

    There was a farmer down the road from me, an old belgian guy, in australia, who brewed lambics up in bath tub out the back of his farm in west australia. They where surprisingly good, although completely puzzling to the local farmers.