Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Je suis un homme Français - The champagne method for beer

I've had this 2013 pLambic aging on apricots for several months. I wasn't liking the flavor because the wild yeast I picked up seemed to pick up a rubber flavor for a period of time before smoothing out. The crabapple portion of this beer has been great for a few months now, but this one took a long time to get normal again. I originally wanted to pick a bunch of crabapple blossoms to age with this beer, but ended up using chamomille instead. I bottled it up, but to my dismay it had a thick layer of apricot chamomille sludge at the bottom of the bottles. I tried opening one for a sample but it ended up gushing and turning into a smoothie of fruit, yeast and beer.

I am a stubborn man. I didn't want to give up on this beer after this long of waiting on aging, then waiting for it to get past it's pubescent "screw you, I'm going to taste like rubbery butthole" phase, then bottle carbonation. I wanted to get rid of the sediment, and that how I came upon "Le methode champagnoise" (the champagne method).

The method to "disgorge" the schmutz goes like this: you let your bottles sit upside down at an angle, and every day you twist them to loosen the sediment and make it accumulate at the cap of the bottle. Then, you freeze it using a brine, and pop the cap off - shooting the plug of yeast stuff out, then you plug it with your thumb, top it off a bit and recap it.

The brine is traditionally made with a salt brine which lowers the freezing point ( see this awesome page for an explanation of the theory). For my brine, I decided to use ~ 22% salt, which translates to 220g NaCl to 1L of water. Importantly, I made the solution with near boiling water to encourage the salt to dissolve. I set the solution in the deep freeze at about -20 C. (0 F)

After a few days, the broth turned to a slush, and measured -18C. 

I decided to space it out over several days, since the brine would warm up after a few beers and need to be replaced in the freezer. I only had 24 beers to go to, and I just ended up doing about 4 a night until I was finished. A much more efficient method would be using dry ice and ethanol or acetone (with proper washing to avoid contamination) which is mentioned in this Maltose Falcons article on beer champagne.

Here is an awesome video on champagne disgorging being done:

Ultimately this gets rid of the fruit/yeast junk, and should still leave an appreciable amount of bacteria and wild yeast in solution. I will post again with the tasting notes and discussion of the results of my disgorged chamomille apricot sour.

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