I'm considering trying to brew a simple lambic, which requires some open-air time for wild fermentation and souring of the wort prior to pitching yeast.

I'm wondering if I could use a carboy as the vessel for this, or if its small mouth would prevent the desirable bacteria and wild yeast from making it into the wort.

  • Good question, upvoted. – TinCoyote Jan 20 '11 at 20:57
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    @TinCoyote - thanks for the tip about pre-blended packs. I found that Wyeast sells these and they seem like a much better idea. – STW Jan 20 '11 at 23:23
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    Leaving the question open, I'm still curious if a carboy would/wouldn't work (if I decide to try a true wild fermentation later, I think I'll use the pre-mixes for now) – STW Jan 20 '11 at 23:23
  • Yes, a carboy would work. – Denny Conn Jan 28 '11 at 16:54

You will have a much better chance of success if you ferment the beer first with a neutral ale yeast, and then pitch "bugs" (brett, pedio, whatever you like) into it. Simply open fermenting and seeing what happens is seldom successful.

  • Good advice that I'll almost definitely follow (TinCoyote got me on the trail to finding out that Wyeast actually sells a pitchable all-in-one for the bugs). – STW Jan 20 '11 at 23:22
  • Agreed with Denny here. If you want drinkable beer, buy Brettanomyces/Bacteria/Lambic yeast from White Labs or Wyeast. – Hop the Mad Alchemist Jan 21 '11 at 13:50

I imagine that you could put a portion of the wort (a gallon or so) into another vessel with a wider open surface overnight (maybe a big kitchen pot or something), and then pour that into the main portion of the wort once it has gathered up some bugs.

Are you inocculating at all, or just trying to see if your "house bugs" are any good?

  • I'm just putting my foot in the door to see what would happen... sour beers are a favorite, and I've heard of lambic/kombucha blends--so I'm just starting to experiment to move into that arena – STW Jan 20 '11 at 20:39
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    You could just leave it in the kettle, lid off, for a night. Then transfer into the carboy. Or even just do the whole fermentation in the kettle. – Hopwise Jan 20 '11 at 20:53
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    There are also a number of pre-blended lacto/brett lambic style strains you can buy that do not carry with them the possibility of other contamination. I've thought about making lambics too, but generally they need to be blended and age lot, meaning a three year production time. Too much putzing for me. – TinCoyote Jan 20 '11 at 20:57
  • @TinCoyote -- that sounds like a much better option – STW Jan 20 '11 at 23:15

What I've found so far is certainly not conclusive, but it appears that lambics (probably the most common spontaneously fermented beer) are innoculated in vats with a very large surface area of the wort exposed to air.

It's conjecture, but to me this implies that having a very large unrestricted exposure to fresh air (which is at least mildly circulated) is a best-practice, if not absolutely necessary.

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    You're spot-on about how it's done, and why it works, but the key ingredient to wild fermentation are the latent bacteria and yeast in the air. Lambics, brewed in a particular part of Belgium, have a very specific natural balance of certain bacteria and wild yeast that, over centuries, have been determined to taste good. The likelihood that the same, or similar, distribution of organic particulates exist in your backyard are low, unless you live in Pajottenland. – Marc Bollinger Jan 30 '11 at 16:43

I made a Lambic once from a recipe that called for the yeast out of a bottle of Chimay. I saved the last couple of inches of beer in the bottle and built the yeast up to pitching volume through a series of increasingly larger starters over the course of about a week. It worked pretty good, and the beer turned out great!

  • good to know! I'd heard (via Wyeast marketing materials) that re-pitching from a previous batch wouldn't carry over the same ratios of bugs/yeasts--so hearing a success story is great! – STW Jan 29 '11 at 2:22
  • But Chimay is not a lambic. I am sure a great beer can be made culturing up some yeast from a bottle, you just aren't making a lambic with it alone. – brewchez Jan 31 '11 at 18:40

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