I recently got a group of guys together to start a barrel project. I'm pretty excited about it and they are all good brewers! What we decided on for our first batch is the Dark Dawn recipe I brewed over the winter, and since there isn't a Bugfarm blend available from AlB on BBB right now, we're using Roselare blend from Wyeast. I've heard from many sources that Roselare doesn't really get sour until the 2nd or 3rd generation, so I am building up one or two starter batches first.
The plan is that everyone is brewing the same Imperial Stout recipe and fermenting it clean with Ardennes yeast in their primaries. We'll then add it to our barrel. We'll fill the entire barrel with the clean version of the beer, then after a couple weeks, draw 5 gallons back out to see what the barrel added in a short amount of time, and I'll replace it with my buggy batch. We'll see how it's doing after about 6 months. At that point, the plan is to take it out and put another batch in, but we'll see how it is aging and decide from there.
We found a guy (Tom Griffin) who lives a couple hours away here in Wisconsin and supplies used spirit and wine barrels to many of the breweries around the country including Lost Abbey and Jolly Pumpkin! One of our guys gave him a call and he's apparently a really nice guy. He was happy to sell us a single barrel at the same price he sells in bulk to the breweries. Here's an article about him:
We decided on a brandy barrel for now. When we originally got together we wanted a wine barrel, but couldn't locate one at the time, so we were going to use a Jack Daniels bourbon barrel since they were easy to get a a hold of. By the time we got in touch with Tom we had already formulated a recipe that we thought could stand up to the bourbon character left in the barrel and bought yeast and bulk base grain. We decided, rather than scrapping the plan and starting over, to use the same recipe in a brandy barrel, then in a few months get a wine barrel as well. I'm hoping to do some farmhouse style ales in the wine barrel using just brett, rather than a huge bug slurry to start with.
As a starter for the bugs for this barrel though, I decided to brew a simple Grisette, but ferment it solely with Roselare blend to get it started. I'll probably do one more batch on this yeast cake soon, before the Dark Dawn batch. Here is the recipe:
brewed on: 9/20/2010
expected OG: 1.046
Expected IBUs: 23 IBUs
mash temp: 152F
7 lbs Belgian Pils malt
2 lbs 4 oz German Wheat malt
1.5 oz Hallertauer @ 3.5% (60 minutes)
0.7 oz Styrian Golding @ 3.4% (15 minutes)
0.5 oz Kent Golding @ 5% (1 minute)
Wyeast 3763 - Roselare Blend
10/4/10 - SG @ 1.006. Racked to secondary. Flavor is malty with maybe a hint of diacetyl in the nose. Hopefully it's just the beginnings of some lactic fermentation that I interpreted as a hint of butter. No noticeable sourness or funk at this point.