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PhiLambic Solera Year 3: Top Off Wort

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Last week I shared the tasting notes for my two (plus) year old Solera and how things had been progressing to date. The sample I took was prior to bottling some unblended and racking some onto Blueberries. But before I actually racked and packaged the beer I had to brew the next top-off batch to have it ready ahead of the packaging so the Solera didn’t sit half full for too long.

Sampling prior to brewing the top off batch gives me the opportunity to make adjustments to the composition of the wort to keep the Solera tasting the way I want it, or possibly fix issues that may arise. I mentioned in the previous post about how I felt the adjustments I made the year prior made a positive difference and I enjoyed the way it was tasting, save for a lingering ethyl acetate aroma. I am just hoping that doesn’t increase over time, I will do my best to keep o2 at bay but currently it is my biggest concern with this project.

Steamy brew kettle next to the open window.
Steamy kettle next to the open window.

With no glaring issues, I didn’t feel there were adjustments to make so I went with a fairly simple wort comprised of 6-Row and Wheat in a single infusion mash plus some Maltodextrin and steel-cut oats for added dextrins. I choose to add the Maltodextrin and steel-cut oats because this was a split mash (mashed at 150f) with a portion of the runoff going to a separate boil for an IPA. The steel-cut oats were steeped in the boil kettle at 170F all the way up until I reached a boil and the Maltodextrin used as a late boil addition. The beer was bittered with a 1/2 pound of aged hops in the boil for the 11 gallon batch, some of this batch was racked into separate fermenters for aged sours for blending down the road.

pile of aged hops
I have so many aged hops from a sale a couple years ago I don’t even know what to do with them.

After the boil, I left the kettle out in my garage next to the open window to cool naturally and encourage some local microbes. The high that evening was 36F (one of the very few cool nights this fall) and the 11 gallons of wort took ~10 hours to cool down to ~60F. Once cool I drained the kettle into the fermenter(s) and added Bootleg Biology Sour Solera (Summer 2015) blend to ferment out for a week or so before I would rack it into the Solera. I’m excited to see what this blend adds to my own Solera but also disappointed because I won’t get to truly experience what it brings to the table on its own. The added biodiversity of locally caught microbes from the ambient cooling and the Bootleg Biology blend will hopefully add some variation for next year’s bottling.

carboy with krausen
Top off wort just starting to krausen.

The bulk of primary fermentation had finished when I racked the top-off batch to the Solera, or so I thought, within a few hours refermentation took off pretty aggressively in the Solera. I knew there would be a fair bit of complex sugars to work on over time but didn’t expect to see such a significant krausen in the Solera itself since the bulk of primary fermentation had completed. There are tons of different microbes in this thing after a few years, dregs, commercial blends, wild-caught stuff, who knows what is dominating after all this time. But it’s all progressing nicely.

solera beer in better bottle carboy
Solera’s 2nd year in the Better Bottle,after it began life in the sanke.

PhiLambic Solera Top Off Year 3

Brew day: 10/28/2015

Recipe Specifications


Boil Size: 13.50gal
Post Boil Volume: 11.50 gal
Batch Size (fermenter): 11.00 gal
Measured OG: 1.050 SG
Estimated Color: 3.0 SRM
Estimated IBU: Pfft, who knows?, 0 I guess.
Brewhouse Efficiency: 70.00 %
Boil Time: 75 Minutes


77.8% – 21lbs – Rahr 6-Row (2.0 SRM)
14.8% – 4lbs – Great Western White Wheat (3.5 SRM)
7.4% – 2lbs – Flaked Oats (1.0 SRM)


Pre Boil steep – 8oz of Steel Cut Oats (removed after a boil was reached)
Boil: 75min – 8oz aged hops via HopsDirect
Boil: 15min – 1 tsp Wyeast Yeast Nutrient
Boil: 15min – 8oz Malto Dextrin


Bootleg Biology Sour Solera (Summer 2015) Blend – No starter
Ambient cooling for additional wild yeast.


Sacch rest – 60 min @ 150.0 F


Fly Sparge 9.00 gallons 170f


Filtered NJ Tap water, no salts.


Pre Boil gravity was 1.055, the 13.50 gallons of runoff was split into 2 separate boils, half being used for this top-off batch and the other half for an upcoming IPA. The half for the top-off beer was watered down to 1.045 pre-boil, and after the boil and Malto additions, OG was 1.050. 8oz of Steel Cut Oats were steeped in the kettle as it reached a boil for some added low fermentables.

A bit of a hodgepodge I know but I like to get the most out of my brew days.

Here is a crap video of me adding loads of aged hops. Boiled this in my mash tun with the false bottom to keep those hops out of the fermenter.

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