Anyone who is familiar with the Allagash Brewing Co. here in Portland, Maine knows their quirky (or extreme, or adventurous, or whatever you’d like to call it) tendencies and quirkier brews. Well, now they’re taking that experimental habit one step further – last month Allagash brewed a 100% spontaneously fermented beer in the tradition of the Belgian Lambics. According to the Allagash website,

In brewing these beers we are using an authentic, traditional process honoring the classic Belgian Lambic tradition, including the use of a cool ship, which we built specifically for these spontaneous beers.

During the boil, rather than adding fresh hops as is common, Allagash added aged hops (aged a minimum of three years), which adds the stabilizing properties of hops to the brew without affecting the bitterness. Adding aged hops, however, necessitated an extra-long boil, lasting well over four hours.

After boiling — rather than cooling the beer in a sterile environment and adding a brewer’s yeast culture, which is how beer is normally brewed — the hot wort was pumped to a cool ship in a special room designed specifically to make these beers. A cool ship, for clarification, is a large, open basin – Allagash’s cool ship is 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 1 foot deep.

Once in the cool ship the hot wort spent the night cooling from near boiling temperatures to about 60 degrees Fahrenheit. To facilitate the cooling process, windows in the cool ship room were left open overnight. The cool Maine air, containing natural bacteria and wild yeast, drifted in and cooled the wort. As soon as the wort was cool enough, the natural airborne yeasts and bacteria were able to survive in what will eventually be the spontaneously fermented beer (it is these natural yeasts and bacteria which will ferment the beer, rather than a yeast added by the brewer).

After aging briefly in the cool ship, Allagash’s beer was pumped back into the brewery where it will age in special French oak barrels. After about one-to-three weeks in the barrels, spontaneous fermentation began and will continue for over one year. After the year-long fermentation, the beer will age in French oak for at least one more year, and fruits will be added to a portion of the batch (making a Lambic-style beer), before it is finally bottled.

The first tasting will be sometime in 2009; stay tuned. Click here for a You Tube video with more on the Allagash brewing process.

[tags]Allagash Brewing, Portland, Maine, Beer, Belgium beer, Lambic[/tags]



  1. Is anyone else in this country besides Ommegang doing this? It has worked out great for Ommegang (and, of course, for Belgium), but it’s all about the quality of the local wild yeast. A great experiment. Keep us posted.

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