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Does wine barrel-aging = bugs?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by OneDropSoup, Jan 15, 2013.

  1. Got to thinking about this when checking out (but not drinking) Evil Twin's 9th Sympthony, a "blond ale aged in Austrian wine barrels". I know a lot of wild ales are made by aging in old wine barrels, but is it a given that, if a label reads "aged in French oak/Chardonnay/some other wine barrel", the brewer is purposefully trying to innoculate the beer with bugs?

    This could easily (d)evolve into a discussion about art & intent, but let's start here.
  2. ilikebeer03

    ilikebeer03 Savant (440) Texas Oct 17, 2012

    If I understand your question, then the answer is no. IPAs are sometimes aged in wine barrels (deliciously so in my experience) or stouts and what not. So the fact that it is being aged in wine barrels does not necessarily automatically imply bugs.
    claaark13 likes this.
  3. That's true. Also thinking of JW Lees Port Cask Harvest Ale as an exception. I guess part of what I'm looking for is if there's a "code" for telling if a beer's sour just by looking at the label.
  4. drtth

    drtth Poobah (1,180) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    Aging in wine barrels does not necessarily lead to wild ales. Usually the beers that become wild ales are either spontaneously fermented and then put into the wine barrels for aging so they pick up some of the wine and oak flavors, or they are "infected" in the barrel or at the time they are barreled. However, once the barrel has been used for wild ale aging, it is very hard to get rid of the "infection" so the barrels may be used again with a wild ale, depending on how much of the wine flavor the brewer wan'ts the beer to pick up.
  5. sweatervest27

    sweatervest27 Savant (280) Ohio Oct 13, 2009

    Generally the yeast type or beer style will indicate if you should expect a sour beer or not. Barrel aging and souring are different concepts. The "bugs" can be found or placed into any type of barrel.
  6. tewaris

    tewaris Advocate (605) Minnesota Jul 14, 2009

    From what I understand, winemakers are far too wary of bugs so a freshly spent wine barrel would (most likely) be devoid of bugs. Also, JW is pasteurized so if there are any bugs in the barrel that have not done their work already by the time of bottling (which can be tested/tasted), you are not going to have a "sour" in your glass.
  7. True, but not all labels list the style, & many fewer list the yeast. An example is Petrus Aged Pale - based on the provided label info ("ale aged in oak casks") I never would've guessed that it's a sour ale. I'm just trying to "crack the code" & figure out if there's a common nomenclature that indicates intentional souring.
    luwak and Zach136 like this.
  8. tai4ji2x

    tai4ji2x Advocate (640) Massachusetts Aug 10, 2007 Beer Trader

    there is no reliable nor consistent "code". doesn't make it easy for consumers (or retailers for that matter), but that's just the way it is.
    OneDropSoup likes this.
  9. brewbetter

    brewbetter Savant (420) Nauru Jun 2, 2012

    Simple question, but I'm not sure if there is a simple answer. If something says it has lacto, it will likely be sour in a Flanders style. If something uses Pedio, it will likely be sour in a lambic style.
  10. tewaris

    tewaris Advocate (605) Minnesota Jul 14, 2009

    aceto = Flanders
    lacto = lambic/style
    dvelcich likes this.
  11. brewbetter

    brewbetter Savant (420) Nauru Jun 2, 2012

    This is not true. Lacto is big in Flanders, not much in true lambic style.
  12. tai4ji2x

    tai4ji2x Advocate (640) Massachusetts Aug 10, 2007 Beer Trader

    huh? lacto is present in both. with some examples more so than others. but without it, neither would taste "right".
  13. I think I have my answer here, which is that, short of something saying it's a sour style or listing the specific yeast/bacteria, there's no way of telling without tasting or doing some research. Thanks to everyone for the serious & thoughtful responses.
    brewbetter likes this.
  14. So...does anyone know if Evil Twin 9th Symphony is a wild ale? Reviews note a tartness, but I can't find any evidence otherwise.
  15. tewaris

    tewaris Advocate (605) Minnesota Jul 14, 2009

    Yeah, sure. But Flanders style beers are stylistically acetic which is not a product of lactic acid producing bacteria (lacto/pedio). Similarly an overly acetic lambic would be a shitty lambic.
    Etan likes this.
  16. tai4ji2x

    tai4ji2x Advocate (640) Massachusetts Aug 10, 2007 Beer Trader

    heh, guess it's just a nitpick of using the "=" sign. acetobacter is a distinguishing characteristic of flanders, but not the only one.
  17. Wow this devolved into a lot of bad information.
    oregone likes this.
  18. awinkro

    awinkro Savant (380) Texas Oct 15, 2008 Beer Trader

    In barrel aging, beer is more susceptible to bugs in wine barrels due to the previous liquid aged in the barrel. Wine typically has an ABV range of 9-16%. Easily the most common barrel aged beer are those aged in whiskey barrels, more specially bourbon. Whiskey has an ABV range of 40-60%. Why is this important? Souring bacteria and wild yeast have a greater ability of surviving in wine barrels due to the relatively low alcohol level as compared to whiskey barrels. Long story short, no, not all beers aged in wine barrels are wild or sour ales, but have a much greater chance of becoming one than those aged in whiskey barrels.
    hopfenunmaltz likes this.
  19. rowingbrewer

    rowingbrewer Advocate (605) Massachusetts May 28, 2010 Beer Trader

    barrels can be treated with i think sulfur sticks, to kill off harmful bacteria/yeast in the barrels before putting a beer in. with barrel aging of any kind the risk of an "infection" increases
  20. tai4ji2x

    tai4ji2x Advocate (640) Massachusetts Aug 10, 2007 Beer Trader

    wine actually has a slight protective effect due to the presence of sulfites, both natural and added. it slows or prevents the growth of acetobacter and brettanomyces. i wouldn't say the difference from distilled spirit barrels as being blatantly significant.