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Sour Beer and yeast - pitching before or after the barrel

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A club that I am a member of has been using a standard American Burboun barrel for a couple of years to age beers in, and we now make an annual 53 gallon Flanders Red. We utilize the Wyeast 3278 Belgian Lambic Blend. It contains Belgian-style wheat beer yeast, sherry yeast, two Brettanomyces strains and lactic acid bacteria. David Logsdon suggested that since we will not be able to tear the barrel apart and clean it every few years that this would be a better blend to use.

It is time for the 9 brewers involved to make a new batch, age it for two months, then do the transfer.

One member has elected to use a neutral yeat (WLP001) for various reasons. He believes it should be fine because the beer will sit on the bugs and yeast for a year and pick up all the flavors.

I am concerned that the American yeast is a very attenuative and neutral yeast, and by the time the beer gets to the barrel, the sugars available to a yeast will be eaten, and the neutral character of the WLP001 will prevail. While there will be an opportunity for the Brett strains to impart their particular characteristics to the beer, the Belgian strains will be absent. It is the first two yeasts (wheat and sherry)  that will likely not provide any contribution to the barrel.
Now, a couple of other members of this group have chimed in and suggested that the ultimate blending of everyone's contribution is likely to dissipate any loss of character. I can't say with any certainty that I can refute this. I just have a concern that it potentially can have a dilutative effect.

What do others think? The beer was brewed mid-late October, and my offer of a slurry of the WYeast blend may be moot at this point, but I am looking for feedback as to whether I should relax and not worry, or break into said brewers basement and innoculate his batch  ;D

IMHO I would mash the 5 gal (I hope) of clean American yeast at a high temp to leave plenty of residual sugars for the little beasties to work on. This combination (5 gal and a high mash) I feel would be fine. 10 gallons represents nearly 20% of the total beer and I feel that it would perceptively change the character of the beer.  With 10 gallons I feel you would see some "dilutative effect".


I have made a decent Flanders Red using a similar procedure.  My yeast of choice is the wyeast belgian wheat, which is a well attenuating fairly clean fermenter (it has a bit more character than wlp001, but is not an especially assertive yeast).  Using a 10 gallon barrel, my usual procedure is to pitch the belgian wheat yeast and ferment 1 week (which is pretty much to completion) and then pitch the bugs/mix (wyeast roselare blend) in the barrel.  The souring of the beer is gradual, as well as the development of woody/oaky character, but the various bacteria/wild yeast in the mixture will ferment the dextrines that would not otherwise be fermented by the first yeast. 

To ensure that the bugs have something to ferment, I will point out that my grain bill contains about 20% crystal malts, so there is no shortage of dextrines in the mix.  That said the beer finishes very dry, and has a great flanders character (sour cherry, vanilla, etc.)

It's too late for this batch, but in the future it should be made clear to all involved that everybody follow group decisions, and NOT make some other beer to dump into the mix.
Having said that, with 1 out of nine parts it probably will be ok enough. On the other hand, a smaller batch sans the different one is still a possibility.


At the 2008 NHC, Greg Doss gave a talk on Brett.  One of my take aways was that the Sacch. Yeast can have an impact on the finished beer.  A combo of 3787 and a Brett innoculation was best.

You can find it here.  Best you read it, as you know I'm not a microbiologist.


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