Monday, December 14, 2009

Allagash to release a lambic?

Clay Risen is on the case of some wild yeast experiments going on in Portland:
To anyone versed in conventional beer-making, the koelschip process is an exercise in madness. After boiling the wort and adding a dose of aged hops, the steaming liquid is pumped into the koelschip and left overnight, with the windows open. Wild yeasts and bacteria float in on wind gusts or drop down from the ceiling, which is made of untreated wood boards to give them a hospitable waiting area. The next day the wort is pumped back into a fermentation tank for a year, then into French oak barrels for even more aging.

This is no job for the impatient. Natural fermentation can take a few weeks to get started, and it can last for months or even years. And Allagash only uses the koelschip in the fall and spring, when the Maine climate is closest to that of the Zenne Valley, home to the best of the Belgian lambics; during the summer the air is full of unfriendly bacteria, while the temperature is too high to let the wort cool sufficiently.

Hmmm... that does sound kind of crazy. I can't say I have much experience with lambics... only ever had the fruity ones, and I can't say they do a lot for me. Of course, I'm an Allagash fanboi, so I'll try it regardless of any misgivings about the style.