Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oak Barrel Millennium Project

The Barrel Project

In early 2007, a bourbon barrel from Bowman Distillery (makers of Virginia Gentleman), filled with Millennium Barley Wine (~10.5% abv) was spiked with 1 Wyeast smack pack of Brettanomyces anomalous, and allowed to rest in a warehouse that was not temperature controlled. Approximately 9 months later, the contents were tasted and racked into a few ½ barrel kegs. The Brettanomyces “horse blanket” character was phenomenal, while plenty of residual sugar remained, making for the least dry Brettanomyces-spiked ale I had ever tasted. A 50/50 mixture of this creation with our standard bourbon-barrel aged Millennium produced an extremely complex and drinkable beer with only slightly diminished Brett character.

In early 2008, fresh bourbon barrels were obtained and filled with 2008 Millennium (~11.5% abv). Approximately 7 barrels were spiked with different Brett cultures, including a starter culture of a revived 2007 Wyeast Brett anomalous smack pack, a fresh Brett bruxellensis smack pack, fresh Brett lambicus, and the Wyeast Roselare blend. The barrels were allowed to rest for nine months under the same conditions as before. After nine months, the barrels showed a Brett character much diminished as compared to the original experiment (perhaps due to higher abv?). With the exception of one barrel, they were excellent, even with the diminished character. These barrels were blended together and subsequently blended with approximately equal parts of Brett-free barrel-aged Millennium and unoaked Millennium. This was subsequently dry-hopped for several months and packaged in April 2009 as the ’09 Oak Barrel Millennium. The Brettanomyces character is subtle, the bourbon is present, and the oak is forward. It will be very interesting to see how this special beer matures.

provided by Tim Pohlhaus

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