At least I know something about 2012. It will be the year of the barrel aging. There will be barrel aged barley wines. There will be barrel aged blondes. Norwegian brewers will be barrel aging everything-but-the kitchen-sink.
I have visited both Sundbytunet and Haandbryggeriet during december, and they both have bought plenty of oak barrels. I assume Nøgne Ø and Ægir are well stocked as well.
I expect limited editions of some of those beers. Partly experimental, partly more on the safe side.
As my fellow blogger Anders has pointed out, oak is a notoriously difficult material to work with. They are almost impossible to clean, so if there are micro organisms in a barrel, you are more or less stuck with them – bacteria, wild yeast, whatever. There are lots of good reasons for the phasing out of oak in favour of more stable forms of storage during the last century.
So, I hope for lots of lovely experiences. Lambic-like beers that are, by intention, bordering on vinegar. Rodenbach-inspired ales with vinous tones and barrel character. Beers soaking up the aromas from bourbon and aquavit, sherry and whisky.
The danger is that they will also open the door to yeast and bacteria that do not contribute positively to the brewing of beer. I think I’d do my barrel experiments safely away from the main brewing activities.
A few spoilt batches is what you’d expect in an innovative brewery. Closing down everything to sterilize is not what you want.