Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ancient Ale - A Very Old Ale

I think I'll call this very old ale...Ancient Ale. Today marks 6 months of aging, and the longest I've ever bulk aged a beer. Since its original conception, I've significantly changed my attitude along side its progress. Since it's still "healthy," I've pretty much determined that its best to let it age in bulk...indefinitely. Periodic sampling will dictate my course of action.

On March 5, I wrote about how a pellicle was forming on the top of the tertiary fermenter. At that time it was still pretty cool in our dining room. Since then the average ambient temperature has risen. As a result, fermentation has really picked up. So much that the intensity of rising bubbles has caused the thin slimy pellicle to completely fall apart and into solution. I was really curious how it would grow...oh well.

Also we described its youthful state from sampling a bottle filled during secondary racking. Click here to see the entry "Pellicle" for the description (in small print). In that post I wrote about making flavor additions like dried fruit, rinds, dry hops, and spices. At this point flavor samples will help to confirm whether those additions will add any real interest.

Now that the blend of Lambic yeast and bacteria have been working on the residual sugars (1.030 before Lambic Blend) for 108 days, I'm please to see that the gravity has dropped around 6 points to a current gravity of 1.024. At this time I describe the Ancient Ale as...

An aroma of fruits and soft flowers (lily) malt and some citrus. It comes as a surprise that the bold hop flavors and aromas prior to the Lambic blend have vanished, or are too subtle for me to sense. The hop presence is only detectable within the bittering qualities. There is a very fast succession of flavor. It starts with a dark fruit flavor. A slit second after that a brett/"horse-like" taste rushes over the tongue and fades rapidly. Then the fruityness comes back with spicey flavors. In the finish there are malt notes and a lingering mild sourness towards the back of the tongue. An alcoholic flavor with a very slight oxidized quality hangs around. There is definitely a more thin and sherry-like quality. (Since my brother is very good at pulling out all the most subtle flavors in most food and drinks, I'm waiting to add his critique to my own.)

Though I'm positive the characteristics will evolve, at this point my ideas for this beer are to add some dry hops, but I'll wait until the flavors get more intense.

The recipe was formulated primarily by using the book Designing Great Beers, and other online sources. I like how Ray Daniels talks about how some versions of Old Ale can be aggressively hopped, and some can have a definite presence of bacterial souring. From what I could tell from the tables, I came up with a recipe that should fall within the range. The thing is, I've never had an old ale before. I'm not really sure how aromatic they are, nor how hoppy or malty. I'm going with what I think an old ale could taste like. So far I'm please with what's happening to it. It's definitely unique, and all my intentions for it are unfolding quite well.

Ancient Ale (Very Old Ale)
Brewed on 11/5/06 - 6 gallon primary
SG after Primary: 1.030

Bottled: 3/11/08
FG at bottling: 1.019
ABW: 6.72%
ABV: 8.4%

Grains (OG 1.083)
10.00 lbs. 2-Row Pale Malt
4.00 lbs. German Vienna
2.00 lbs. Belgian Aromatic
1.50 lbs. Flaked Wheat
0.50 lb. Belgian Special B
0.13 lb. Roasted Barley

Hops (57 IBU)
3 oz. Kent Goldings 6.6%, whole, 75min.
1 oz. Kent Goldings 6.6%, whole, 10min.

Wyeast 1728 - Scottish Ale (13 days in primary, 1 month secondary, 14 months in tertiary)
Wyeast Lambic Blend (added to tertiary on 1/17/07)


Thiago Valenti said...

Now, that's a big recipe, probably will become a great beer.

I´ve had a trappist (La trappe) myself on this Friday, and I´ve to say, these aged ales are just the best beer at all..

Ted Danyluk said...

thaigovanlenti, thanks for the feedback. Time will only tell. Do you brew too?

Initially I thought the 2 pounds of aromatic malt would cause this beer to be way too sweet. Now I know that with this extent of bulk aging with wild yeasts, the hop and sweet/aromatic malts can be added in quite high amounts. I think I could have added even more bittering and flavor hops. Some dry hops will probably go in at some point.


Thiago Valenti said...

No Ted, I dont brew, at least for now, because here (in Brasil) it´s not so easy to acquire the equipment and supplies.

I'm not much a fan of bittering hops, I like them more as aromatic in the beer.

Maybe the sweetness will become a very good thing on your beer, mainly if you converted a lot o sugar, and the ABV goes up (well, I like more than 6% beers, in the winter they´re amazing).

You could put a cork on some of these, and "forget" them in the basement for a while. Good luck.

Unknown said...

Good blog! I am getting ready to brew a pLambic and wonder what kind of odors come from the airlock... and how strong and long-lived they are. Am I looking for trouble with my wife by storing this in a spare bedroom closet for 6 months? What's your experience?

Ted Danyluk said...

Thanks Greg for visiting and for your question.

At this date, and after 197 days (over six months), the Lambic Blend yeasts are still showing consistent active behavior. The ring of bubbles you see in the photos in the "pellicle" post are still there. Though bubbling through the airlock is very slow.

I added the Lambic yeasts after primary fermentation, so it never really produced any pronounced scents/odors. Though if I stuck my nose right over the airlock I could get a sense of what the beer tasted like...still sweet with an interesting funk.

The carboy was kept in the corner of our dining room with no problems. Inside a tight/enclosed space may concentrate any odors, but you should have a problem.

If you introduced the yeast during primary or as your main yeast, you might get some interesting scents for a number of days. But aging with this yeast wont cause your place to get stinky. No worries.

Now it is in the basement, and I'm lucky to catch a bubble coming out. My curiosity is almost killing me. Luckily soon I'll get a taste when I rack it again to clarify before bottling in another month or two.


Anonymous said...

I just bottled an old ale that had aged for two years. It developed quite a variety of microflora. I inoculated with brett bruxellensis in secondary, and actually left the carboy open to the air for a month. After one year, the beer had stabilized, with the various cultures showing little activity. The funk was unmistakable, yet well balanced by the malt and the relatively high alcohol content.

How do you plan to bottle yours? I brewed a fresh batch and mixed fresh ale and the aged old ale about 1:3. I underprimed so the wild yeasts attenuating the fresh part of the mix wouldn't overcarbonate the bottle.

My next step will be aging in wood. Any thoughts?

I wish you the best on yours. Oh, and if you want a good commercial example of a real old ale, try to find a bottle of Gale's Prize Old Ale. And if you go to England, check out Greene King Suffolk Strong.

Ted Danyluk said...

Thanks for the comment...anonymous!

It has completely stabilized. No more activity. I've been procrastinating on bottling because I'm not sure what to do. I was going to simply mix a packet of dry yeast, priming sugar, and bottle like normal. But I have a fear that the yeast would very much dislike the hostile environment and die before having a chance to eat.

I was also going to age a gallon on oak. And can probably do that easily by blending like you said.

Your method sounds very good. And it is a more traditional approach. Did you add any additional yeast? I would very much like to know how it turns out. Please contact me soon here... redted8 at yahoo dot com

Thanks again.

Jason said...

Ted, Great blog. This beer seems to be pretty intense. Hopefully it will turn out the way you had hoped. Question on the yeast additions. You note that you used Scottish ale 1728 for the initial 2+ months. Did you add a new Wyeats activator at each interval you stated(13 days in primary, 1 month secondary, 1 month in tertiary), or just the one? I brew myself (Extrac with grain) and I'm looking to start some all grain recipes this spring.


Ted Danyluk said...

Hello Jason, thanks for your interest in my site and your inquiry. Looks like I'll pay many visits to yours.

I just bottled most of this beer, and just now updated the info. Turns out, I forgot to change the tertiary aging to 14 months. Letting it go this long has shown me it does take that long for the true brett characters to come out and mature. As I expected, it tastes great, and the age also brings out wonderful sherry-like flavors that no young beer ever could.

The Scottish strain was added in primary to ferment the main batch (down to 1.030). Then it sat in secondary to clear a bit. When transfered to tertiary, the Lambic Blend was added for the remaining 12.5 months (w/ very little sediment!). Hope that clarifies it.

I'll be writing about the bottling and results of all the old ale blends in the future. So stay tuned.

Let me know if you need any help with your progression to all-grain brewing. It truly is the best way to go. I just wrote about my approach to doughing-in and mashing tips (3/08).