This last weekend was the 4 month mark of the Cider Keeve. I have checked in on this experiment at the 1 month and 2 month mark. Here is a re-cap what is going on and what has happened, but you can go back and read those previous posts.
Keeving is an old world cider practice that removes nutrients from the cider. During fermentation, the yeast runs out of nutrients and dies before it can eat all the sugar, resulting in a sweet cider. The experiment I am doing is seeing what happens when you use a lambic blend of yeast to ferment the keeved cider and if this nutrient poor environment would allow me to mimic the typical lambic fermentation process in cider. At month 1, I took a gravity reading and saw the fermentation tracking a slow fermentation characteristic of keeved cider. This indicated that the yeast was fermenting in a nutrient poor environment, but still left the question open as to what would happen when the nutrients ran out. Would the Brett continue to ferment or would it die along with the Saccharo? At month 2, I took another gravity reading and the fermentation was still on track. There seemed to be some Brett character when smelling the cider, but not much when tasting it. This indicated that there was at least some Brett activity in tandem with the Saccharo fermentation, but I still didn't know if it would continue fermenting and reach 1.000 or if the Brett would die out.
On Friday evening I had some friends over and decided to check in on it with them. Upon tasting, it was very clear that the Brett had continued on because there was an big earthy, barnyard flavor and aroma. The gravity reading was 1.000. Normally this would mean a thin body, which I feared, but to my surprise there was still plenty of body. I am going to give this some more time to see how it continues to develop. It seems like the Brett Brux dominated the other strains, so I'd like to see if any of the other strains will do anything in the next couple months. I'll likely bottle this around the 6-9 month mark.
I'm very excited about this brew. Its a whole new style of cider, and I really like the results. I'm hoping we will do a larger batch this coming fall and ferment it in oak barrels (possibly ones previously used for lambic?). I'll definitely be using East Coast Yeast next time instead of the Wyeast lambic blend smack pack. The Wyeast lambic blend is fine and served its purpose for this experiment, but I much prefer the flavor profile that results from ECY yeast blend. It would also be fun to tweak the apple variety blend that goes into the press.