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01/14/13 11:15 PM  
Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
Hi all, I've been reading stuff here for a while, but this is my first post on this great board. Thanks for all the useful info!

I recently cultured the dregs from a relatively fresh bottle of Cantillon Rosť de Gambrinus, which kicked off after 2 days. I then grew it up to a 700ml starter of wort and apple juice which fermented very actively and has now finished after a couple of weeks.

My question is whether this would produce a reasonable lambic on its own, or whether I should pitch it alongside a Saccharomyces strain? If going 100% dregs culture, how big a starter size would you recommend I step up to for pitching a 20 litre batch?

I'm asking because I've been a bit underwhelmed by the two sours I've made so far with Wyeast Roeselare, and am hoping for something a bit closer to the level of complexity in the Cantillon beer.



01/15/13 04:12 AM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
I didn't brew a lambic from it, but I did brew a saison from a complete mix of lambic bottle yeasts. I hate the word dredges, don't know why I refuse to refer to the bottle yeast as dredges. Anyhow, I pitched about 2oz. of resuspended slurry into 9 gal of a 1.040 saison. There was sacch in there I'm pretty sure and there like is in yours too.

I would suggest not stepping it up at all for a 20 litre batch. Just pitch the 700ml straight into the lambic. My reasoning for that is the cell count from the overnight rest in a coolship won't be super high. I am trying to look at some of the research articles to see if they outline typical cell counts. Anyhow, I think that underpitching makes a better sour because you stress the sacch more allowing for more ester development and that is used by the brett strains to make wonderful flavors.

01/15/13 10:02 AM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
"the cell count from the overnight rest in a coolship won't be super high."

remember to consider the inoculated barrel that wort goes into.

01/15/13 05:46 PM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
Yes. However aren't the barrels rinsed with hot water and so forth to remove sediment? The level of microbes inhabiting the wood even combined with the cell count contributed by overnight rest in the cool ship will give a much lower than what we consider standard pitch rate. When I have numbers to back up what I'm saying I'll post the sources.
01/15/13 09:36 PM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
Thanks guys, I had been thinking about going ahead and pitching the 700ml starter anyway, knowing that the bugs will catch up any missing attenuation that a low yeast pitch creates. I'm pretty certain that there's saccharomyces in it too as the growing yeast didn't look very much like Brett, despite the funky aroma.

Smokinghole- do you think that your lambic made from cultured dregs of multiple beers was good particularly because it contained a wider range of bugs? I'm wondering whether a few of the strains may have died out between Oct 2011 when it was bottled and now. In this case maybe I should be looking to add further cultured dregs when I can?

01/16/13 12:08 PM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
Rinsing with hot water will remove the trub and some of the yeast on the surface, but there is a lot of yeast in the wood. Even if you steam, you start to kill some of the yeast in the wood, but not what is deeper in there. I'm sure you know all this. I have no way of saying there are X ml's of yeast in the wood, but I would imagine it is significant. That would be interesting to find out how much yeast the wood holds.
01/16/13 08:12 PM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
I think the beer tastes good just because it somehow did. It was a total crap shoot when I pitched that slurry with out any propagation. I just said "why not?". Some of the weaker strains surely die overtime.

I need to grab my external harddrive and go through my journal artilces on lambic from Leuven. They might detail cell counts at various points in the fermentation.

I will admit I'm working on a gut feeling based off an assumption. I assume there is very little cells to kick start fermentation which is why it takes 3-4 days for a good lambic fermentation to kick off even with ideal conditions. After reading reports during colder months of 2 month or longer lags to fermentation would lead me to think the cell counts are low. As I said I'll share sources whether they agree or disagree with my statements.

01/17/13 11:14 AM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
Well, I agree the yeast count is likely lower than a standard brewing pitch. (although thinking about how much yeast could be in the wood has me second guessing even that).

I was more saying that the cell count is not only due to the coolship innoculation. My gut feeling would be that there is as much or more yeast coming from the barrel than the coolship. Also that yeast has been trained, so even more so it is the controlling fermentation source.

Did you see the recent FB pictures of frozen water in the Cantillon coolship? Its freezing cold over there. If you get a still cold night where there isn't much air movement, you might not pick up much yeast. And then you drop that VERY cold wort into a barrel. Those barrels are like insulated tanks. It would take a while for that wort to warm up to even cellar temp. And if its that cold out, your cellar might be 50 degrees.... Regardless of yeast count, that barrel is going to take a while to start fermenting.

But yes, to your point, I don't think there is much risk in "underpitching" a standard pitch level for lambics. I would be very interested to see some actual number of the cell count lambics get from a coolship and then an estimation of the cell counts retained in the barrels themselves from batch to batch.

This has made me think of the cider keeve I just did. The point of that is to remove as much nutrients from the cider. Then, once the fermentation is nearly complete, they say to rack it over until the fermentation stops. When you rack it over you drop the yeast count and the yeast has to spend energy reproducing which uses up even more nitrogen. What I am wondering is, if lambic traditionally have a low cell count, if they then burn up a lot of nitrogen in the wort and that effects the way it ferments/ages?

01/19/13 12:12 AM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
I have to imagine the barrels play a big part in the consistency of the beer. If you were just hoping whatever was in the air would get it done, you'd have more variance and some really crappy beers. Homebrew experiments from all over show open air fermentation attempts usually end up tasting like crap, at least over the short term.

I'd have to imagine that years of aging beer produced preferred flavors (my own experiments suggest as much) and decades of selection of those lifeforms within the brewery has produced a house collection. The only place that house collection really has to go is into the barrels. It's romantic to think that the bacteria and yeast descend from the rafters into the beer -- and perhaps they do -- but they are probably also hanging out in the wood of the barrels as well.

02/18/13 11:06 AM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
I've yet to find concrete numbers for cell counts after coolship rest. I know there's a horny tank which I still don't fully understand the roll of the horny tank. I know the wort heads there from the coolship but is it just used as a gravity fed wort receiver from the coolship where they fill barrels from? I haven't really found a good explanation of a horny tank. Most if not all of the papers on lambic I've found discuss the life cycle and variety of organisms. Some papers have discussed the density but they're not talking at 3 days. They are typically discussing cell counts far into fermentation and they're talking CFUs which do not directly translate into cells/ml. I'm sure there's a correlation between CFUs and cells/ml but I don't have enough experience of counting CFUs and cells/ml side by side to have any idea.

I am sure barrel/house cultures is what provides a great amount of consistency. This is why I also think that the coolship is less important however the barrel staves can only hold so much yeast. Everyone always repeats the surface area to volume ratio of the larger barrels. That would even further decrease the amount of yeast that remains in the barrel available to begin fermentation. So a 15gal lambic barrel would have a higher density of yeast per volume compared to a 60gal barrel.

Anyhow my subjective experiments of using very low (compared to conventional wisdom) pitch rates for sour beers has produced very delicious beers. So I will not mess with success and will continue my pitching practices. I just want others to try and not be scared of having a 3-5 day lag period when pitching a sour culture into wort.

02/18/13 12:30 PM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
Absolutely agree. If anything having a 3-5 day lag stressed fermentation is a good thing.

I would say there might not be as much yeast in the barrel as I was originally thinking due to the fact they clean the barrel out between uses, although there is still quite a bit. However, the yeast in the barrel is trained yeast. Not only that, but in cleaning the barrel, you kill off the weak strains and leave behind only the strongest strains. So, even if the cell count is low, these are the guys who will take over fastest.

Regarding "horny tank", the only reference I've heard to that term is at Russian River, where it is essentially a coolship in that it picks up wild bugs, but its quite deep and narrow and so I don't think they thought it appropriate to call a coolship. They likely cool the wort, at least partially, before entering that horny tank.

04/23/13 12:28 AM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?

Look at this recent paper that I believe was written based off Allagash. Sure it's comparing apples to oranges a bit because they're establishing a program where the Belgians have been doing it for decades with their present equipment. Anyhow should at lease loosely correlate to traditional lambics too. You can see in one of the first figures it shows a 144 week timeline. At the beginning of the timeline it's listing total yeast concentration at about 100,000 cells/ml at the start with a peak in primary fermentation to just above 10,000,000 cells/ml. Also it does appear that very far in fermentation the yeast population spikes however that's not due to any kind of a pitch rate. So there we have a documented case of cell counts, albeit not strictly a lambic.

I was looking at some old Leuven University papers about lambics and they did appear to have similiar cell counts if I was reading the graphs correctly. Those papers were more concentrating on the enterobacteria populations because in the 90s it was a hot topic for the producers and Europe due to food safety concerns.

So next time you go to make a lambic or sour of some kind pitch a similar amount to 100,000 cells/ml. I guess you could go a little more with similar results but I'd stay under 500,000 cells/ml.

04/23/13 09:04 AM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
I would think there is more yeast in the barrels than thought. Yeast live over 1/4" into the wood. All breweries clean there barrels differently. Cantillon's midevil chain turning thing is cool. Rodenbach scrapes wood, some breweries steam etc... This is removing beer stone, exposing more "fresh wood". Not really killing off the bacteria

In the instance of Cantillon, that is hundreds of years of building that culture, the whole brewery is a yeast haven, its everywhere.

Seeing some pitch rate directly from the coolship would be cool

04/23/13 03:38 PM  
Re: Lambic brewed 100% from Cantillon dregs?
Are you saying that 100,000 cells per mil at the start of fermentation is more or less than you thought would be there? I got the impression from that everyone thinks there's more yeast than is documented in that research paper. It seems that so many people think that pitching closer to 1mil/ml is appropriate for the lambic style. Here this paper shows the counts in the barrel are much lower at the start and only get to a concentration similar to a standard pitch when the yeast hits peak activity.
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