Here’s a recipe for a basic lambic beer. It can be used as the base for a fruit lambic, or it can be used as a blender in a gueuze. It can be enjoyed on its own too. Over the years, I’ve adapted traditional lambic brewing techniques into something that can be done with an average homebrew system. The main recipe is given in a stovetop extract formulation (countertop partial mash), but I also give an all-grain version.
Fermentation type: alcoholic
Primary fermentation: about 9 months
Total time: about 9 months
- Carbon-filtered tap water, with mineral content suitable to brewing a pale or amber beer
Malt and malt extractv(for an OG of 1.051 at 65 percent extract efficiency and 5 SRM)
- 3 pounds, 14 ounces Pilsner malt or Belgian pale malt
- 1 pound wheat malt (white)
- 1 pound, 2 ounces flaked wheat or torrified wheat
- 12 ounces dried light malt extract
- 13/4 pounds dried wheat malt extract
Hops (for approximately 10 IBUs)
- 0.75 ounces Saaz hops (fresh), or 1.5 ounces Saaz hops (aged 1 year), or 3.0 ounces Saaz hops (aged 2 years), or 4.0 ounces Saaz hops (aged 3 years)
Yeast and bacteria (for an FG lower than 1.010 and approximately 5.3 percent ABV)
- Wyeast 1056 (American Ale), White Labs WLP001 (California Ale), Fermentis SafAle US-05, or the neutral yeast strain of your choice (1 quart yeast starter)
- Wyeast 3278 (Lambic Blend), White Labs WLP655 (Belgian Sour Mix 1), other sour blend of your choice, or individual cultures of suitable Pediococcus, Lactobacillus, and Brettanomyces strains (don’t make a starter)
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast nutrients
- Make the yeast starter 2 to 3 days ahead of brew day. Place the crushed malts and raw wheat in a nylon steeping bag. Heat 8.9 quarts of water in your brew pot to 163 degrees Fahrenheit. Mash the grains in your brew pot at 152 degrees for 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, and add heat, if needed, to maintain the approximate mash temperature. When the mash is finished, heat the mash to 170 degrees, and then transfer the bag to a 3-gallon beverage cooler.
- While the grains are mashing, heat 9 quarts of sparge water to 194 degrees. Recirculate the wort through the grain bed. Then, run off and sparge with 194-degree water. Collect up to 4 gallons of wort, depending on how much you can boil. Boil the wort for 90 minutes, adding the hops with 1 hour left to go. Don’t let the brew pot volume dip below 3 gallons; add boiling water if needed. Shut off the heat, and stir in the dried malt extract. Take the temperature of the wort; it should be above 170 degrees. If it’s not, heat it to above 170 degrees (to sanitize the malt extract addition).
- Chill the wort to 68 degrees, and then transfer it to a bucket fermenter. Fill it to 5 gallons with filtered tap water, and then aerate the wort well. Pitch the ale yeast from the yeast starter. Ferment at 68 degrees. Add the wild yeast and bacteria after high kräusen. Let the beer condition, at ale fermentation temperatures, for at least 9 months. Don’t rack the beer to a secondary fermenter. In summer, the temperature can rise, but don’t let it exceed 80 degrees.
- Check on the fermenter at least once every other month to ensure that the water in the airlock doesn’t evaporate. The final gravity of this beer may drop as low as 1.004, given enough time to condition. A pellicle will form on top of the beer after a few months, but will eventually sink to the bottom of the fermenter in a year or so.
At 70 percent extract efficiency, the grain bill is 6-1⁄2 pounds pale malt, 1-3⁄4 pounds wheat malt, and 1-3⁄4 pounds flaked wheat. Mash at 149 degrees for 90 minutes. Sparge with 194-degree water, and collect around 6-1⁄2 to 8-1⁄2 gallons of wort. Boil to reduce to 5 gallons, adding hops for the final 60 minutes of the boil. Ferment at 68 degrees with ale yeast, and then add lambic blend after high kräusen. Age for a minimum of 9 months.
Learn more about lambic and the process of creating this unique beer in Lambic: A Beer Worth the Wait.
Chris Colby is a writer with a background in biology and brewing. He lives with his wife and their cats — including their new kitten with the Scandinavian name Lagertha — in Bastrop, Texas. Chris enjoys gardening and drinking beer while admiring his garden.