Interesting. Thanks for your insight. They definitely do a fair bunch of high grav beers. What does distilling a hopped beer do? Not sure if I've ever tasted that.
This is a great thread to read. I'm looking to do something similar to natbouman, but using local malted grains.
Regarding using someones existing beer recipe for a whiskey, I'm assuming you mean the beer recipe minus hops?
Adaptable, yes...but not adaptable in the sense that you could just throw a high rye wash into a busy production schedule. More like adaptable in the sense that "I've got a bunch of brewing equipment lying around, and we could make it do rye with some modification."
Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit, but doing a 51% rye wash will require lots of extra enzymes, rice hulls, and time...that a brewery may or may not want to mess with.
Before I transitioned full time into the distilling game, I was head brewer and production manager for some larger breweries. It was because I had distilling experience and willingness to develop a distillery mash program that one of them had me head up a distillery program...but we built out a mash and lauter program and equipment completely separate from the brewery because of precisely this issue...heavy adjunct production messes with schedules big time. Even just our big seasonal beers messed with production.
If you decided to do a malt whisky, or maybe something with less rye than you need for a straight rye whisky, or something else...then they might be more willing to play ball. Even better, drink their beer, and tell them you want to make whisky from one of their beers. Best would be if they do a high grav seasonal that you could turn into whisky once a year, or something. That's good marketing for them, and you.
Beer minus hops is best for them and for you. Hops are expensive! And when you run beer in a still, the hop oils foul the still pretty well, and it requires a bit more cleaning than usual. I've distilled quite a lot of finished beer, and great tasting beers don't necessarily make great whiskies. In fact, it's the sort of plain beers that make the great whisky, IME. If they don't have to boil the wort, and just sparge the heck out of it into totes, then this is something they can fit in on the tail end of a double-brew shift without adding more than an hour or two onto schedule. Not only that, but it's a great way to give an assistant brewer extra mashing experience without having QC issues on the line if they miss the numbers.
But using finished beer works. When I have to do that, I find that running all of the beer through in fast stripping runs is best, and then do a complete teardown and cleaning of the still. I've found that a good detergent like C16 or Simple Green works well for removing the hop oils. Then reassemble and do your standard CIP with caustic and acid. Make sure you do a really good job on shotgun condensers and dephleg units. Then you can run spirit and just acid rinses after spirit runs can remove any hop resins that get in there. Obviously, hoppier beers like IPA's are going to foul your still more. Here's a hint....porters make really nice whisky, as do big belgian beers. Pales not so much. Flavored beers and hefeweizens are not much fun. YMMV.
You have a lot of great breweries near you that might be willing to deal. In the Triangle, I'd maybe approach CrankArm or maybe talk to the guy at the Busy Bee (who owns Trophy.) A bit further out, maybe Deep River in Clayton would work, or talk to Seth at Bull City. Most of the others probably don't have much time in their schedule for that. Double Barley might. If you need intros to NC breweries, let me know...I've got numbers for most of those guys.
Actually, I'd go talk to Steven Lyerly at Olde Hickory. He self distributes, and trucking wort on his vans wouldn't be out of line. Not only that, but he has an extensive cooperage and even a foeder, and owns a couple of pubs. He's cool beans, too!
Thanks for all the leads. I've been talking with a couple soon to open brewers, but I may need to expand my options. There is a malt house close by, so I definitely want to be able to use their grains.
I've experimented with a malted rye heavy recipe and found it intriguing. I'm hoping to do something that could also serve as a maltwine base for an oude genever in addition to an aged malt whiskey.