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Old 09-17-2012, 02:23 PM   #1
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Default Lambic in an old wine barrel?

I have the opportunity to obtain a 60 gal wine barrel that was used to age cabernet sauvignon. It will be emptied right before I can pick it up. I've never made a lambic before, but my goal is to use this barrel to age some lambic, take out 5 gal or so at a time and replenish it when I do. So it will always have lambic in there.

I plan to soak it in warm water to remove the stronger cabernet flavors, but I think having such flavors in there should be OK. I plan to make a 5gal batch in a bucket and ferment entirely with White Labs WLP655 (Belgian Sour Mix). Once fermented, I will rack into the barrel. Shortly after, I plan to brew 50 gal of lambic and collect directly into the barrel. So the 5gal batch is essentially a large starter. I have several questions:

(1) Will pitching WLP655 right from the start be OK or should I use something more neutral?

(2) Is soaking the barrel in warm water for a bit enough to rid the barrel of most of the cabernet flavors? If not, what would you suggest?

(3) How might I go about sanitizing the barrel? I've heard of hanging and burning sulphur strips.

(4) Any other tips?

Thanks!

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Old 09-17-2012, 04:24 PM   #2
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Well, I've been looking on HBT for years, I guess its time I finally start posting. I'll start with yours.

(1) Will pitching WLP655 right from the start be OK or should I use something more neutral?
Go straight in with a WLP655 starter.

(2) Is soaking the barrel in warm water for a bit enough to rid the barrel of most of the cabernet flavors? If not, what would you suggest?
Personally, I'd hold on to as many wine flavors as possible. If you've gotten yourself a wine barrel, take advantage of the flavors it has! I recently filled two Riesling barrels that were in use for 10 years - and the flavors that come through are subtle but complex. However, doing many washes can eliminate some flavors - depends on how old the barrels are.

(3) How might I go about sanitizing the barrel? I've heard of hanging and burning sulphur strips.
As mentioned earlier, pitch it all right in. Hopefully you want those flavors, otherwise you could just use toasted oak cubes. When Allagash first started doing Curieux, they started with washing the barrels. After looking at the marvelous carmel colored water going down the drain, they realized that was their flavor leaving too.

(4) Any other tips?
Get a stopper and a blowoff tube. If you fill that sucker up, there is going to be a lot of junk coming out the top of the barrel. At least, that's what happened with mine.
Don't do anything to it unless it smells like crud. Use the wine flavors to help the complexity of your beer.
Brew as much of it as you can in one day.

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Old 09-17-2012, 06:41 PM   #3
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I also think it would be a shame to let the wine flavors go to waste. It might be a little overpowering at first but it will fade with time and as you replenish the beer. It will give you a nice evolving flavor.

An alternative thought to the lambic is to brew an oud bruin or flanders red in that barrel. The cab flavors might pair better with that style although it depends upon what you want to drink.

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Old 09-17-2012, 06:51 PM   #4
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Fill the whole thing at once. 55 gallons of headspace will almost certainly give it too much oxygen and you'll have an acetobacter runaway.

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Old 09-17-2012, 08:38 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M View Post
Fill the whole thing at once. 55 gallons of headspace will almost certainly give it too much oxygen and you'll have an acetobacter runaway.
i agree - you can whip up the 5 gal "starter" first and let it sit in a 5 gal carboy until the rest of the wort is ready. then rack the wort into hte barrel and top off with your 5 gal starter.
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bobby_M View Post
Fill the whole thing at once. 55 gallons of headspace will almost certainly give it too much oxygen and you'll have an acetobacter runaway.
I believe his plan is to brew 5 gallons, ferment it in a carboy. Then pick up the barrel and brew an additional 55 gallons and dump the lambic in the carboy into the barrel as a "starter".

(3) How might I go about sanitizing the barrel? I've heard of hanging and burning sulphur strips.
If you are getting the barrel that soon after dumping, there really isn't any need to sanitize it.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:34 AM   #7
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I guess I assumed more time for the shortly after part:

Quote:
Once fermented, I will rack into the barrel. Shortly after, I plan to brew 50 gal of lambic and collect directly into the barrel.
The only issue with making a starter with a lambic blend is that you grow the Saccharomyces out of proportion with all the other bugs. For that reason, it's better to start with several packs even if you do grow it a bit.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:02 PM   #8
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So if I get the barrel within hours after it is emptied, then sanitation is not an issue? That sounds OK to me...less work. The only issue is brewing 55 gal will take several days for me. Would sanitation be a problem if it sits, albeit sealed, for a week or two before I fill it? In any event, I plan to do 20 gal one day, 20 gal the next, and 10 gal the last day. Added to the 5 gal starter it makes 55 gal for a 60 gal barrel. So I should have some headspace for krausen. Or would it be best to fill the sucker up with very little headspace. I plan to have a blowoff either way.

I plan to brew a 5 gal batch with WLP655 and let it completely ferment. And as someone mentioned, I did plan to brew the remaining 50 gal and "pitch" the entire 5 gal batch (yeast cake and all) when collecting. But I understand the idea of also pitching a few more vials of WLP655 because of the increased saccharomyces concentration after fermentation. Question is, how many extra vials for 50 gal of wort?

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Old 09-18-2012, 03:45 PM   #9
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If you get the barrel hours after its emptied, letting it sit sealed for a week or two before filling it absolutely no problem.

If I were you, I'd fill the barrel with 50 gallons, and then have 10 gallons fermenting outside of the barrel. Once the violent part of primary has finished, then top off the barrel and bung it. Get a dual fermentation bung.

While saccro and lacto will be increased if you only pitch the 5 gal, this isn't to say pedio and brett is lost. In the long run, I would imagine you'd be fine, but you may want to pitch more WLP655, or even just brett and pedio? For all 15 barrels of lambic I've done, I pitched 1L of yeast per barrel. I'm not sure how this would translate to those little vials.

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Old 09-18-2012, 07:11 PM   #10
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you could get some no-chill containers and brew 5-10 gal at a time at your convenience - then dump it all in there at once?

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