From the Brewer: Our First Traditional Turbid Mash

Just recently, Garrett and I attempted — and completed — our first traditional turbid mash for our very first Lambic. It ended up being a 12-hour day from dough in to clean up and was our most challenging brew to date, but in the end, the process was very rewarding.

So what is a turbid mash? In a nutshell, this mash technique consists of two grains: pilsner and raw un-malted wheat. It requires multiple “step” mashing, or increasing temperature on your mash to different degrees with specific “rest” times. The reason these steps must be done is due to the unconverted sugars in the raw wheat that must be obtained to achieve our specific gravity, or dissolved sugar. During our step mashing, we remove portions of the wort, called “turbid” wort, and heat it to 180 degrees F in our kettle. This is done twice during the whole process to halt any more conversion of the insoluble sugars and allowing for a complex, starchy and dextrinous wort.

When we have finished our step mash schedule, we then blend all of the remaining wort in our mash tun with the turbid wort in our kettle and boil for four hours. This condenses the wort by evaporating water — in our case 75 gallons — and raising our overall sugar content. During the boil, we also add aged whole leaf hops, as per Belgian tradition.

Now, why would we want to do such a laborious and intense brew schedule just for complex starchy wort? Easy. Lambic has been proven to be the most complex, microbial beer, shown to have over 50+ different microorganisms by some traditional Belgian producers to this day. With that much bacteria and yeast, there needs to be ample food for them to eat and stay alive as the beer is laid to rest for 1-3 years in oak barrels. For our beer, I can’t say we have over 50 different organisms, but I can say with confidence that our Lambic culture contains over 20 different yeasts and bacteria. During the resting period, multiple “waves” of bacteria and yeasts will slowly eat these sugars creating a complex and layered flavor profile.

We are very excited to see how our project evolves, but sadly, we will not be able to get a full idea of the beer for at least a year. We hope to continue this project on a yearly basis, slowly growing the size each year and incorporating more traditional techniques, such as using a cool ship to catch only native Ohio microflora.

Until next time,