Spontaneously Fermented Beer

posted on October 7, 2010 at 10:33 pm by Ken Valley in Homebrewing



I’ve been brewing for over two years, and I’ve made everything from Pale Ales to Stouts, Red Ales to Belgian beers.  I felt it was time for a challenge, so I decided to create a spontaneously fermented ale, similar to a Belgian Lambic beer.

It started yesterday, when I brewed a very light beer, with a bit of organic wheat from the local co-op.  The wheat, which has not been malted, is used for the long fermentation by the natural yeasts.  Since lambics do not have any hop profile (bitterness, flavor, or aroma), low amounts of aged hops are added only for antiseptic properties.  I decided to use what was left of my homegrown hops, dried and aged to reduce the amount of bitterness displayed in the beer.

After the beer had been brewed, I poured it into several aluminum roaster pans on our three-season porch.  Then I opened the windows, and let the breeze in.  This is similar to the Belgian brewers, who pump the boiling hot wort into a device called a coolship (the Americanized way to spell it).  The liquid is allowed to cool overnight, then placed in a fermenter, usually oak barrels.

Spontaneously fermented beers take at least one year to mature, because the wild yeasts and bacteria take a very long time to do their thing.

Have you ever tried to make a Lambic or a spontaneously fermented beer?  What was your result?

EDIT: This beer and the technique used were featured on the October 20, 2011 episode of Basic Brewing Radio.


  1. […] episode) about brewing.  He (and two of his regular guests) interviewed Austin and myself on the ‘spontaneous’ beer I made last October.  We had a lot of fun, and enjoyed the beer on the […]

    Pingback by Basic Brewing Interview About Spontaneous Homebrew | Thoughts on Beer — October 19, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  2. If you wouldn’t mind posting your recipe, I am curious as to what your grain bill was.
    After listening to how much James Spencer & Co. enjoyed your beer I would like to give this a try for my first wild brew experiment.


    Comment by TheMark — November 15, 2011 @ 10:20 am

  3. For 5 gallons, I used 6 lbs two-row, 3 lbs organic unmalted wheat berries (from the local co-op), and used the last of my hop harvest from my back yard, which was less than 1/4 oz. I followed the mash schedule Michael Tonsmeire used here: http://www.themadfermentationist.com/2008/09/brewing-lambic-20.html. Then I let the Iowa air do the rest!

    Comment by Ken Valley — November 15, 2011 @ 11:22 am

  4. […] past weekend, I entered the spontaneous homebrew created in October, 2010 into a local homebrew contest, and it ended up taking first place in the […]

    Pingback by Spontaneous Homebrew Takes First Place | Thoughts on Beer — May 18, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

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