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Old 04-27-2013, 07:20 AM   #1
adamj
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Default barrel question

I have the opportunity to get a used bourbon barrel (200L) but I still brew small batch. Mostly 6 gal at a time. This may be an obvious question, but do I need to fill the barrel? What are the dangers to not filling the barrel all the way? Are there ways to prevent any damaging side effects?

Thank you in advance.
Adam

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Old 04-28-2013, 03:22 PM   #2
berebrando
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Hi Adam - there's a good barrel thread going on right now here:

http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f127/hel...l-fill-406494/

You should plan on filling the barrel for extended aging. In the thread I link to above, there was some discussion about using a single batch sort of as a yeast starter in a barrel, in order to (a) build up the yeast (like a stepped starter), and (b) create a CO2 blanket on the beer. The problem cited in the thread is that the top of the barrel might dry out in this time - an issue that might be cured by laying a wet towel over the top of the barrel.

So, if there is active fermentation in the barrel, I think you're fine leaving it partially full, but for extended aging, you want it to be up to the top. The obvious danger of not filling the barrel is oxidation. In order to prevent this side effect, fill the barrel up.

When I filled my barrel, I did a double brew day on my system (20 gallons) and my buds had their three systems producing 10 gallons each. Filled the barrel in one day.

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Old 05-01-2013, 03:17 AM   #3
spenghali
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You could always brew a number of batches in a row (even if it takes a few weeks) then transfer then all to the barrel simultaneously, once they have all finished primary fermentation. It would also be advantageous to share the barrel with a few friends if you cannot do larger batches. You have options.

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Old 05-02-2013, 04:17 AM   #4
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Thank you. Exactly the info I needed. I appreciate it.

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Old 05-02-2013, 12:40 PM   #5
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Between a friend and I, we have 4 "big" barrels.

Two of them are group barrels. Every year or so about 8 of us get together, everyone brings their share of fermented beer (5-10 gallons), we bottle the beer currently in the barrel, rinse, and refill.

The other two are soleras. Every year to 18 months we brew ~25 gallons of beer (multiple boils), transfer out 20 gallons, and then refill with the freshly brewed wort. We’ve been bottling 5 gallons plain, and then doing fruit, dry hops, and herb/spice on the rest. The extra 5 gallons is to account for evaporation and to have a bit extra to top-off after six months or so.

Those seem like the two most manageable ways to deal with a big barrel to me.

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