Feeling Spontaneous

image1 (2)There are two Belgian traditions of sour beer production that really fascinate us. The first is the mixed fermentation process which is traditionally used to produce the red and brown beers of Flanders. Baby Grand and Oud Bruin both fit into this camp. The second is the so called spontaneous fermentation of the Lambic brewers of the Senne River valley. Spontaneous fermentation refers to the fermentation of beer without any directly pitched yeast strains. In a way it is to the beer world what sour dough is to baking.  In the case of Lambic the hot wort is run into a shallow open vessel called a coolship and allowed to slowly cool down and be inoculated by the wild yeast and bacteria in the atmosphere.  The wort is then run into oak barrels and fermented long and slow.
It was always our goal to brew some spontaneous beers and about 4 months ago we started. Not having a coolship we came up with our own method borrowing heavily from the sourdough techniques used at our sister company Olde Beach Bakery. We made a 50L starter , allowed it to cool for a day in the brewery and then a night in our cold room before fermenting it for 3 weeks. We then pitched this starter into several barrels of a pale base beer we brewed for the purpose. We now have 600L of spontaneous beer slowly fermenting and aging and will be adding more to the wood cellar regularly. This beer will end up being released in several ways , young unblended, as a blend of older beer and younger beer and as a version aged on blackberries. The barrel membership will be the first to get a taste of our spontaneous endeavours when their first membership cases go out shortly.