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01/11/13 04:17 PM  
Topping off a Lambic Barrel?
I've got 1 year old Lambic barrel that I intend to age for another year or 2. Its got a bit more of a headspace than I'd like (too much sampling!), so I'm planning on topping it off with some wort from a new batch.

I'm curious, do brewers typically top of their lambic barrels over the 3 year period?

Also, whats the best way of doing this? I was planning on putting a tube through the pellicle as gently as possible and siphoning. I wonder if such care is even needed as a new fermentation will likely kick things up.

01/12/13 09:58 AM  
Re: Topping off a Lambic Barrel?
I've never topped up a lambic barrel, but I don't a little fresh wort would kick up too much fermentation.

I think some places will top up and some will not top up. That all depends on the lambic brewery.

As to the best way I would just rack it in there with no regard for the pellicle. As you know the pellicle is a reaction to oxygen in the head space. The addition of fresh wort will create more CO2 and push oxygen out the head space a bit. So I say go on with your bad self and top it up.

Nate P.
01/14/13 08:19 AM  
Re: Topping off a Lambic Barrel?
If you have a sampling valve on the barrel, you can underlet through it so you don't introduce as much oxygen.
01/14/13 10:18 AM  
Re: Topping off a Lambic Barrel?
well, I could use some 6mo old lambic as well. And then put fresh wort into the 6 mo old barrel. We are racking over the 6mo old barrels anyway...

Would it really kick up that much fermentation? I'm not exactly sure of how much volume would be required to fill it up, but even if it was 5 gallons, in a 60 gallon barrel that isn't that much new sugar. Adding about .004-.005 points if I am doing the math correctly.

01/14/13 04:28 PM  
Re: Topping off a Lambic Barrel?
It won't be much. If you think about the sugar addition in grams going into that volume it is a very little bit.
01/19/13 12:21 AM  
Re: Topping off a Lambic Barrel?
Can't speak to barrels but can speak to refilling my lambic solera in a better bottle, so not sure it would be any different.

When I have refilled the solera I only drain out 50-70% of the beer and refill it with fresh wort. I am not terribly kind about not disturbing the beer as I have to carry it down (and back up) a flight of stairs, then rack out and I pour the fresh wort in just like I would for any other beer. I don't aerate otherwise. I've done the process twice and I am not getting any acetic quality out of it.

The first time I replenished I went a year, pulled 2/3 and replaced it. There was basically no krausen so I think you could fill the barrel almost all the way to the top. Maybe leave an inch or so just to be careful. The second time I drained entirely, cleaned and re-racked half and replenished with some fresh saccharomyces yeast to make sure I still had something in there for primary fermentation after I dumped out about four inches of trub. With half soured beer there was about an inch of krausen, still very restrained on an otherwise vigorous Belgian sacc strain. I was not very oxygen conscious about the cleaning or racking the second time but I had visible primary fermentation and a pellicle quickly formed afterwards.

So I don't think you need to be too concerned about your process. You could just rack in by tube into the lambic using gravity to feed into the barrel out of a bottling bucket.

01/21/13 10:24 AM  
Re: Topping off a Lambic Barrel?
I have a 9 month old Belgian Blonde sour in my basement and i've always topped it off every couple of months. The reason I did this was because I was trying to hold off acetobactor by keeping oxygen out of that head space. I just rack it right into the top of the barrel with no regard to the pellicle as I fill it up all the way full! So far, no acetobactor, and the beer is tasting really good! Tart, very citrusy, maybe too dry like a Saison, but I can always blend back for body in the end.

I have noticed when I pull the bung to top off the barrel that I get a hiss, like it's under pressure from CO2, so probably not necessary to top, but I still do.

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