I Aged Homebrew Beer For 20 Months – Here’s What Happened

by Karl S Updated on December 20, 2022

In a closet at the back of my basement I’ve been aging two sour beers for 20 months, a Lambic and the Flanders Red. They weren’t really intended to condition for this long, but honestly, I’m a bit afraid of them.

You see, both beers were brewed with a different culture of souring bugs, and if I’m not careful, those bugs could infect my entire brewery.

So where can I find some actual experts to teach me how to package these?

Home brewers of the internet I need your help. And help me they did with a ton of great suggestions.

I’ve got two beers, so I’m going to pick two methods, one conventional and one a bit more out there. And we’re going to get these beers packaged up, carbonated, and ready for tasting.

Lambic

So let’s start with the simple packaging method on the lambic, actually that’s a simple beer. I brewed this one using extract.

Now hopping this one was interesting because I wanted to use Saars hops, but I wanted to age them. So for that I used the paper bag trick. And then after the yeast was done, I soured this using bread.

Now flip top bottles, they are very convenient, but there is some concern that if you have a really carbonated beer, you can end up popping these tops off. Lambic is not a particularly carbonated beer style, so I’m not intending at least to create too much fizz with this.

So I’m not too concerned about the tops. Now, first thing I need to do is sanitize these. I’ve got some Star San here, shoots out the top of this guy.

Now the beer itself has not been cold crashed, so I’m going to basically do the cold crash when it’s in the bottle. This is part of a theme I think of doing the minimum amount of work for this packaging, you’re going to see more of that in a moment.

Okay, now I have a auto siphon, which I’m going to use to get the beer out of here and into the bottles. I did get a bottling one, but actually I’m not going to bother with that. I’m just going to fill these bottles up directly from the end of this.

Well, 10 bomber bottles, clearly not enough, I could probably get another 10 out of that. I might siphon the rest of this into a keg actually just in case this doesn’t work.

So now we need to get these beers fizzy. I can just put yeast directly in the bottles and hope there’s enough fermentable sugars left over. I’m not so sure about that. I think most of the time the way people bottle conditions, they create kind of a sugar solution and then put that in with the yeast. I’m going to take the easy option again, carbonation drops.

Pick a scientific dose of one per bottle, which should probably do the trick. Now the packaging does have some guidance on this, it says one for a 375 milliliter bottle, and you’d use actually two for a 750. But I am just going to go with one because this beer start is not supposed to be very fizzy.

Now, as for the yeast itself, you could just use a champagne yeast, something like that, you don’t really want to add a yeast that’s going to add any character. What I found is this, this is yeast specifically for cask and bottle conditioning. It’s CBC1. Now the packaging does suggest that you rehydrate this before adding it to your wort or your beer.

But I did see on the Lallemand website that you could actually add it directly in. So that’s what I’m going to do. Not really sure how much to add in. So I’m just going to pour a little bit in each one.

And I’m going to keep these at room temperature for about two weeks to make sure the carbonation is complete and cold crash. And then this will be ready to serve.

So that is the down and dirty, easy way to get from here to here. For the second beer, the Flanders red, I’ve got a bit more of an interesting solution.

Flanders Red

The second beer is a Flanders red topped with baked marshmallows. That’s the pellicle. And this one is a base of Belgian pilsner and Vienna malt. And really of the two, I’m most looking forward to trying this one.

Now I’m going to put this one to a keg. And what I could just do is transfer this straight to a keg, force carbonate and be done. But then I’m a little bit concerned that I am potentially putting all of the bugs of that into my keg and then potentially into my beer lines and so forth.

So in order to kill off the bugs without ruining the beer, I’m going to pasteurize it. To do that, I have a novel solution.

So this is my Spike Flex+ fermentor. And I have here a heating element that is part of the Clawhammer Supply 120 volt system. And it turns out rather fortuitously that this fits just perfectly into this port here. So I can heat this beer up in here. Just need to siphon it in.

A few bits of yeast in there. Again, I didn’t cold crash. I did just realize that I missed an important step, which is, although this fermentor was clean, I didn’t actually sanitize it with Star San. So just as well we’re pasteurizing.

Now, there is a fair bit of oxygen exposure at the moment. And before I heat this up, I want to minimize that. So I’m going to put this lid on. And then I’m going to flush this with CO2.

I’m going to flash pasteurize this. So what that means is I’m going to bring the beer up to 162 Fahrenheit or 72 Celsius and get it there just for 30 seconds. And that will give me the equivalent of 15 PUs or pasteurization units.

And it should mean that everything in here has pasteurized, I’ve killed off the bugs and I don’t need to worry about infecting stuff in my keg.

So I’ve set my Clawhammer Supply temperature control system to 162 Fahrenheit. I have it monitoring the temperature here. This is now on heating. And just got to let this warm up. So once I’ve reached 162 Fahrenheit, which didn’t take long, I’ve held it there and I should now be pasteurized.

This now should have killed off any bugs in the beer and I can transfer this without having to worry about any sort of infection.

One thing that was quite interesting was as I was heating this up, I just had a couple of PSI pressure in here and that’s built up to about nine PSI now as the beer was heated.

Now at this point, normally I would do a close transfer out of the fermentor into a keg, but this is missing. So I’m going to use my siphon and put it into this keg here, which I did remember to sanitize.

Once that transfer is complete, I’m going to seal up the keg, just flush it with CO2 again, and then put it in my chest freezer for a couple of days to cool down. At that point, I will force carbonate it. I will add about 30 PSI of pressure and hold it there for around 24 hours.

Beer Tasting

Are you set?

Lauren:
Yeah.

Speaker 1:
We’ve gone from unconvincing blanket to wood to the bricks that didn’t line up to anonymous gray.

Lauren:
Yes. Different.

Speaker 1:
So two beers.

Lauren:
Okay.

Speaker 1:
We’re going to start with the lambic first. I think when we did lambics before we tried fruit lambics.
Right, now this came with multiple flavors, so there’s raspberry, strawberry.

Lauren:
And peach.

Speaker 1:
And peach.

Lauren:
Woo.

Speaker 1:
Okay. So just a touch of carbonation maybe.

Lauren:
A little bit, yeah.

Speaker 1:
Almost nothing.

Lauren:
It smells pretty good.

Speaker 1:
Let’s see what you get on the aroma.

Lauren:
Are we not going to look first.

Speaker 1:
Oh yeah. Nice color.

Lauren:
Yeah, lovely color. I like how it’s kind of like a smoky hazy, you can’t see through it, but it has a nice light coloring to it.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. One of the aromas you can get from this, it’s goatee. I’m not sure what goatee is. Or horse blanket.

Lauren:
It’s like a farmyard animal.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. No, but it’s more fruity, isn’t it?

Lauren:
Not getting farmyard. Okay, I want to try it.

Speaker 1:
All right, let’s go for it.

Lauren:
Tastes farm yardy.

Speaker 1:
It does taste farm yardy, yeah.

Lauren:
I guess when you say farm yard, right, like how I just said that with hay and wheat and stuff like that. It’s a bit wheaty.

Speaker 1:
Yeah, this is a sour beer, but the sort of sour bite can be there or it can sort of fade with age. Are you getting much sourness?

Lauren:
I don’t think it’s that sour. It has a just a very … it is very subtle, it’s a very subtle hint of sour, but it’s not like burn your taste buds off sour.

Speaker 1:
I think it’s quite bland. I’m a bit disappointed in the blandness of it considering its age.

Lauren:
The aroma is way more stronger than the actual taste of it.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. But then I think when we were tasting the fruited ones, you would just get the fruitiness and nothing of really the beer. There is a bit of a wheat malt backbone to this.

Lauren:
I agree.

Speaker 1:
But there’s not much sourness. There isn’t any sort of complexity to the flavor. Well, I don’t think that was really worth the wait to be honest.

Lauren:
Don’t think so. I kind of forgot about it for another two years honestly.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. But the other one, the Flanders red?

Lauren:
I’m interested.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. Okay. Let’s get rid of these. Looks good, looks good.

Lauren:
Yeah. It looks pretty nice. Smells like chocolate bread.

Speaker 1:
Yeah, it’s got a bready smell to it, hasn’t it.

Lauren:
Really bready.

Speaker 1:
That smells delicious.

Lauren:
This is the most bready beer I think I have smelled throughout the whole 99 plus beers honestly. It smells like cake.

Speaker 1:
Yeah, bready cake.

Lauren:
Or oatmeal, there’s a lot going on.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. Color is sort of a reddish color, isn’t it?

Lauren:
Yeah, ambery orange, dark amber.

Speaker 1:
This is kind of officially the last beer of the 99 Beer Challenge. Even though I finished the challenge a year ago, we hadn’t tried all of the beers. We’d tried 97 of them, and we just tried 98, so this is really it. This is the last of the 99 beers.

Lauren:
Bit bittersweet.

Speaker 1:
I’ll see if the taste is the same.

Lauren:
Better be good. Wow. What is that?

Speaker 1:
There’s a lot going on there.

Lauren:
That is an explosion of flavor.

Speaker 1:
I don’t even know where to start.

Lauren:
Caramely.

Speaker 1:
You know what, we’ve got the book.

Lauren:
The book. Okay.

Speaker 1:
Let’s see what it’s supposed to be, because I just don’t have the words for this. There’s so much to it.

Lauren:
Second taste, I taste the vinegaryness now.

Speaker 1:
You do. Yeah. This is known as the burgundy of Belgium. It’s more wine-like than beer. Sour flavors range from complementary to intense. It can have an acidic bite. I don’t know about an acidic bite.

Lauren:
That would be sour, right? I said that I thought it was a … I said tart, like tart, it’s a little bit tart.

Speaker 1:
Yeah, it’s a little tart. Not too much. This one compared to the lambic has got so much character to it, so much complexity to it. I’m not sure if I like it, but I might. It’s just like, it’s such an interesting drink to drink.

Lauren:
I don’t think you could chug this one. I feel like it’s like you have to be in a mood, but this is not like, oh, I’m going to go get my Flanders red ale tonight. It’s just like you have to really want it.

Speaker 1:
It’s like an aperitif and it should come in a small little glass after dinner.

Lauren:
I thought you said a pair of teeth.

Speaker 1:
I think this one was worth the wait. I’m glad I did this one. Glad I kept it around. And I’m keeping this around longer because I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.

All right. Well, that concludes the 99 Beer Challenge completely now. So Lauren, thank you for trying 95 of them.

Lauren:
About that, yeah.

Speaker 1:
So let’s do a final cheers.

Lauren:
Cheers.