Farmhouse Solera – Planning

For a bit of time, the idea of a solera has been rattling around in the noodle.

Like many homebrewers I only grazed the info of what other posters were talking about and pieced it together to create my kind of story. A lot of “sour soleras” for homebrewers means whipping up a massive 30-60 gallon batch, letting it age in a barrel, then at X number of months/years pull 5-15 gallons and replace with new. Headspace fills back in, you’ve got aged beer and fresh beer, it’s in a neat in a little package, and so it goes. To me this sounds like someone took the idea of what Rodenbach does with bottling for their Grand Cru and ran with it. Only, this isn’t really what on is, this a solera is:

12diagramofasolerasystem-1That. That blob of circles with arrows and all kinds of whatever the fuck. Technically, posted above is for making sherry at a particular winery, but what we’ll focus on is the bottom. Basically, you make a thing, put things in barrel and move it down and through the system to the bottom where you end up with a bunch of old product being bottled and increasingly younger product trickling down.

What does this do? Well for me, a few things. One, it’s a pretty bad ass ‘thought experiment’ put into practice. Two, it creates a blended consistent product. Three – maybe, someday,  it will create a system for having always badass delicious aged wild beer on hand.

How the hell am I going to do this? First and foremost, I’m NOT doing the lazy ‘one giant barrel’ approach. So that is out. Then I thought, brew the same beer every month for a year, then start blending down. Things get a little complicated when I want a real drinkable amount through. Why not two fermentors every two months? It suits me perfectly. I brew an unorthodox 8 gallons, and split, makes an ideal space in those amazingly cheap 5 gallon food-grade buckets widely available at hardware stores. Recently, I’ve loved the amount for blindly easy yeast experiments (more on these soon).

And, so, without further ado, my process:

solera-visual

Quick details: Brew 8 gallons of ‘house’ every other month for a year (solera -> 5). Bottle 4 gallons (solera), blend 2 gallons from each fermentor down newest (6) added to stack while birthing a 4 gallon one-off.

First thing one would likely notice is the painful vertical nature of my solera. I toyed with a building a ‘base’ solera first to then move build up and attempt to blend down, but this is simply a starter project. It’s really a peek into how much I’ll hate brewing the same thing over and over, how much I’d enjoy working a brewery, and an exercise in patience. I may end up not loving the idea after a year and a half and just bottle the thing and give up. It’s a working example.

The beer will be a slight variation on my personal favorite brew and attempt at crafting a ‘house’ beer – I could not think of a better candidate.

Photos, updates, and much more to follow. Brew day to follow arrival of the group grain buy.

UPDATE: 4.19.14
After a bit of thinking, prompted mostly by a ‘B’ below, and the grilling from my wife on why we needed 48 gallons in ‘the pipe.’ I worked on a new “design” of the solera:
solera-visual2

Update: 1.11.15
#1 and #2 stages are done and #3 is to be brewed in short order.

3 Replies to “Farmhouse Solera – Planning”

  1. If you think in an upside down pyramid, you could be pulling off 1, 2, and 3 year beer every brew. Perhaps 6 vertical is excessive, why not 3?

    Glad to finally see a post here.

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