How to make lambic (one ugly beer!)

by Brewing beer

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.

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DJ Spiess

DJ Spiess

Beer buddy

I live in Denver, Colorado. This blog is everything about beer, wine, cider, mead and other spirits.
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! It is a great hobby!