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Home Brew Forums > Home Brewing Beer > Equipment/Sanitation > Barrels for Sours and Aged Ales
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Old 03-02-2011, 05:31 PM   #1
ThatGuyRyan
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Default Barrels for Sours and Aged Ales

So I would like to step it up and get two barrels in my system. One for Sours only and the other for just ageing stouts and such. I can brew up to 13 gallon batches at this point on my main system but still have my original 6 gallon setup if needed.

I was thinking about a used 10 gallon Whiskey Barrel for the beer and a new 13 gallon American Oak for the sours. My concern with the used barrels is the life span or leaking issues and with the new barrel would American Oak be too strong for long term ageing where a French Oak barrel would be better?
And are the sizes ok or should I just go for 2 new 13 gallons or larger?

Any tips, advise or ideas would be appreciated.

Cheers~!

Ryan

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Old 03-02-2011, 06:11 PM   #2
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I got a 3 gallon barrel from these guys once. It was bad-ass, it had aged a Rye Whisky and made a fantastic oak stout. Their customer service was also good.

The trick is that if you get a barrel and you don't want it to go south, you've always got to keep beer in it. When my beer was done, i drained it, rinsed it with whisky as I didn't want to put iodine or anything in there and let it dry. By my next batch it was sour. The sour was delightful for sour, but I didn't want a sour stout and ended up with one.

It was a better oak flavor than I had gotten with chips in the past, but the chips are the same thing, they just work a little bit differently.

Not to mention, 3 gallon barrel was 90$ with shipping for one good batch and then to go sour, oak chips are 3$ for a half pound that'll surely oak a beer.

In summation, it's easy to get a sour barrel, its alot of time an maintenance to keep a barrel and damn near impossible to empty it, not immediately refill it and keep it from going sour.

So the flavors are great and its pretty cool to say your beer was aged in an oak barrel but in the end for me it was more trouble than it was worth.

http://stores.intuitwebsites.com/Tut...Categories.bok

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Old 03-02-2011, 08:27 PM   #3
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One problem I think you'd run into with the barrel for the sours is the fact that it's new oak. If you put a sour beer into a new barrel, it would come out insanely oaky by the time the fermentation had completed.

Another thing I have heard is that as long as you keep beer in the barrels, leaking usually isn't a problem as the staves remain swelled. You may also want to remember to brew a bit extra of the beer to top off the barrel because with that much surface to beer interface you're going to get a lot of evaporation.

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Old 03-02-2011, 08:49 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by cyraxx View Post
One problem I think you'd run into with the barrel for the sours is the fact that it's new oak. If you put a sour beer into a new barrel, it would come out insanely oaky by the time the fermentation had completed.

Another thing I have heard is that as long as you keep beer in the barrels, leaking usually isn't a problem as the staves remain swelled. You may also want to remember to brew a bit extra of the beer to top off the barrel because with that much surface to beer interface you're going to get a lot of evaporation.
Pretty sure you AGE beer in the barrels, not ferment in them...

I hope to be able to get some barrels to age some home brew in once I've moved. I'm also thinking of making rumbullion, so maybe getting a barrel that had rum aged in it would be a good option... Once I get a recipe worked out, it's just a matter of getting it to ferment out fully, then age it for some time, then bottle it... I am planning on making it strong (18%+ ABV) so, it will need time to age out the harshness. 100% legal to home brew
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Old 03-02-2011, 08:56 PM   #5
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Many traditional sour beers are fermented in barrels so that's what I was commenting on, I didn't make myself clear. Obviously contact time won't be a problem if the beer the barrel is merely for aging. If that is his purpose, I can see why he'd use the whiskey barrel to age, but not why he couldn't just use chips for the sours. Are there any advantages to aging in an oak barrel rather than using chips?

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Old 03-02-2011, 09:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyraxx View Post
One problem I think you'd run into with the barrel for the sours is the fact that it's new oak. If you put a sour beer into a new barrel, it would come out insanely oaky by the time the fermentation had completed.

Another thing I have heard is that as long as you keep beer in the barrels, leaking usually isn't a problem as the staves remain swelled. You may also want to remember to brew a bit extra of the beer to top off the barrel because with that much surface to beer interface you're going to get a lot of evaporation.
Yea I wouldn’t be fermenting in them they would be for ageing but with the sour yeast cultures added for the sour of course. And using the new barrel for the sour is my biggest concern since it will need to age 9-12 months and I don’t want it too oaky. So I am trying to figure out what everyone else does.
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Old 03-02-2011, 09:03 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by TheBaconator View Post
I got a 3 gallon barrel from these guys once. It was bad-ass, it had aged a Rye Whisky and made a fantastic oak stout. Their customer service was also good.

The trick is that if you get a barrel and you don't want it to go south, you've always got to keep beer in it. When my beer was done, i drained it, rinsed it with whisky as I didn't want to put iodine or anything in there and let it dry. By my next batch it was sour. The sour was delightful for sour, but I didn't want a sour stout and ended up with one.

It was a better oak flavor than I had gotten with chips in the past, but the chips are the same thing, they just work a little bit differently.

Not to mention, 3 gallon barrel was 90$ with shipping for one good batch and then to go sour, oak chips are 3$ for a half pound that'll surely oak a beer.

In summation, it's easy to get a sour barrel, its alot of time an maintenance to keep a barrel and damn near impossible to empty it, not immediately refill it and keep it from going sour.

So the flavors are great and its pretty cool to say your beer was aged in an oak barrel but in the end for me it was more trouble than it was worth.

http://stores.intuitwebsites.com/Tut...Categories.bok
Thats the site I was looking at for the used barrel. They do look good and the price is not bad at all.
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Old 03-02-2011, 09:09 PM   #8
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**Are there any advantages to aging in an oak barrel rather than using chips?**

It just gives you different flavors. Barrels aren't completely airtight so that allows for just the slightest bit of oxidation, which in turn produces flavor profiles that you can't get in carboys.

This is also true of the brett that you get in a barrel. You can use a regular yeast, age in a barrel and get great sour flavor from the natural wild yeasts in your area and the barrel. In that way you end up with something no one else can exactly replicate.

The downside is that its hard to control, you don't know how much air is getting in there, so maybe 2 months aging is perfect but 4 gets gross. Same with the brett. Because the wild yeasts will continue to grow and change in the barrel and you can't sanitize a barrel, you can't control them. So it's not like you can just add a smaller amount of brett and get a less sour beer. You'll have to get used to the kind of sourness your barrel produces and control it via time and the amount of fermentables left in the beer.

So barrels are certainly cool and they have their place, it was just alot to keep up with and hard to plan for.

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Old 03-02-2011, 09:10 PM   #9
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For the sour, I would use chips, cubes, or spirals... I'd save the barrel for something monumental like a high ABV barleywine that you want to age in oak for 3-6 months before you bottle it up (or keg it)...

From what I've heard, once you use something for a sour brew, you can't use it for anything else. With barrels, you also want to keep them wet, so they don't dry out on you. I know of people that pour the alcohol (or the same type) into them, then seal them up in large plastic bags when not in use. I would store them someplace cool too (like a basement/cellar) until you want to use them.

With all the other oak options though, you might want to use one of those before a barrel... You can get the staves from barrels to use, if you wish... Just get the right toast level and use it. I would also suggest experimenting on some other brews before you go to age the big boy. That way, you have a better idea about how long extraction takes, as well as how much oak to use. I'm sure you'll only get so much from chips and such. No idea how much from a barrel used once you will get...

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Old 03-02-2011, 09:30 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by ThatGuyRyan View Post
Yea I wouldn’t be fermenting in them they would be for ageing but with the sour yeast cultures added for the sour of course. And using the new barrel for the sour is my biggest concern since it will need to age 9-12 months and I don’t want it too oaky. So I am trying to figure out what everyone else does.
Okay, my point still stands that if it's aged for any period of time on new oak, it will get too oaky imo. If you could find a used wine barrel then it wouldn't have nearly as much oak flavor, and would add another layer of complexity to your beer. That might not be what you're looking for, however.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheBaconator View Post
**Are there any advantages to aging in an oak barrel rather than using chips?**

It just gives you different flavors. Barrels aren't completely airtight so that allows for just the slightest bit of oxidation, which in turn produces flavor profiles that you can't get in carboys.

This is also true of the brett that you get in a barrel. You can use a regular yeast, age in a barrel and get great sour flavor from the natural wild yeasts in your area and the barrel. In that way you end up with something no one else can exactly replicate.

The downside is that its hard to control, you don't know how much air is getting in there, so maybe 2 months aging is perfect but 4 gets gross. Same with the brett. Because the wild yeasts will continue to grow and change in the barrel and you can't sanitize a barrel, you can't control them. So it's not like you can just add a smaller amount of brett and get a less sour beer. You'll have to get used to the kind of sourness your barrel produces and control it via time and the amount of fermentables left in the beer.

So barrels are certainly cool and they have their place, it was just alot to keep up with and hard to plan for.
Okay, that's pretty much what I thought the differences were. My response was predicated on the fact that the contact time on the new oak would have to be about a week, and I wasn't sure how much oxidation/"barrel character" he would get out of it.
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