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Old 12-19-2009, 02:33 AM   #1
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Default Barley wine: Bulk aging vs aging in the bottle

I'm brewing my first barley wine this weekend - I'll be dry hopping as well as adding some oak chips to the secondary. I plan on leaving it on the oak for around 4 weeks and the dry hop for the last two weeks of that time prior to bottling.

I have a couple of options, I'm not sure what's best or recommended:

1) Add the oak chips at the start of secondary fermentation, two weeks later add the dry hop, and two weeks later bottle and age in the bottle for several months.

2) Add the oak chips at the start of secondary fermentation, two weeks later add the dry hop, and then rack to a tertiary carboy to bulk age for several months.

3) Let it mature in the secondary for several months, then add the oak chips, two weeks later add the dry hop, and two weeks later bottle.


Any thoughts on what the best method is? I'm leaning towards option #1 simply because it would free up a carboy for other brews... but I'm not so sure that's what's best for the beer (though I don't know it would "hurt" it either).

Thanks for the help.

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Old 12-19-2009, 04:07 AM   #2
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Anyone have any thoughts/opinions?

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Old 12-19-2009, 04:18 AM   #3
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I think option 2 and 3 will yield similar results. However, option 3 is appealing since you get the bulk aging benefits, with one less transfer. I tend to try to avoid transferring beer since you risk contamination and oxidation at each step.

This summer, I brewed a big old ale and the recipe called for the addition of dried fruit in the secondary for a few weeks and then rack to tertiary for bulk aging. Instead, I waited for primary fermentation to slow down, added the fruit to primary and let it sit the recommended amount time. Then transferred to secondary for bulk aging. The beer is turning out amazing and I did one less transfer than recommended. Hope my experiences will help.

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Old 12-19-2009, 04:24 AM   #4
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Oh, and another reason to do option #3 is that you'll have more of that great "raw hops" flavor since you'll be bottling right after dry hopping. Yeah, I'd definitely do option #3.

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Old 12-19-2009, 07:13 AM   #5
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+1 for option 1 or 3. You are into extended aging and oxygen is not your friend. Aging in secondary vs bottle would probably yield flavor differences. But it's hard to predict what kind.

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Old 12-19-2009, 07:32 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yeoldebrewer View Post
Aging in secondary vs bottle would probably yield flavor differences. But it's hard to predict what kind.
Meeeeeh I dunno if that would make that big of a difference in flavor. Bulk aging would just allow it to age faster, IIRC.

+1 to #3
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Old 12-19-2009, 08:20 AM   #7
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From a fellow who just got judging sheets back from an Old Ale submitted to a BJCP-sanctioned competition, I'd actually suggest doing #2, so that you can get the perceived benefits of oxidation, which fit within the guidelines.

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Old 12-19-2009, 02:17 PM   #8
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Personally I'd go with number 3 but only because I bulk age my big beers in secondary for months and then bottle. I just cracked open my first bottle of barleywine that I brewed in February. One month primary, six months secondary and I dry hopped the last 10-14 days of secondary.

Edit: Another good reason for bulk aging is because I wasn't sure if I could trust myself from not sampling from time to time. If its in a carboy in a crawl space then its out of sight and out of mind.

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Old 12-19-2009, 03:05 PM   #9
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How about a 4th? Oak right away then bulk age. Then two weeks before bottleing add the hops. That way the oak had time to age and the hops are nice and fresh.

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Old 12-19-2009, 03:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by khiddy View Post
From a fellow who just got judging sheets back from an Old Ale submitted to a BJCP-sanctioned competition, I'd actually suggest doing #2, so that you can get the perceived benefits of oxidation, which fit within the guidelines.
I agree that for an Old Ale, oxidation is an important feature, but you usually get it from extended bottle conditioning. For an Old Ale, you take it to a friend that doesn't drink, tell him to hide it and then forget about it for 2 years. At the end, when you eventually remember about the beer, you'll have an amazing product. But in this thread, we're talking about a barleywine which shouldn't reveal oxidation. I vote for the minimal amount of tampering. Beers like that need to be left alone.
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