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Old 07-06-2012, 02:56 PM   #1
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Default Preparing Used Wine Barrel for Beer Solera

I'm in the process of planning out my solera project and had a quick question about how to prepare the barrel.

A little background info - it's a 59 gallon, used, French Oak red wine barrel. It was sitting empty for about 3 years. I brought it home and filled it with water to get it rehydrated and make sure there were no leaks. It's currently sitting outside on my porch in the 95F heat, so I'd like to get it in to my basement as soon as possible. I'm planning on getting it filled with beer within the next month. Also, for what it's worth, I'm going to do the primary in 32 gallon Brute garbage cans, so the beer that goes in to the barrel will have already gone thru at least 1 month of primary.

So here's the question - should I use a sulphur stick before I take it inside? Is sulphur necessary if I'm not planning on storing it for an extended amount of time? Or would it just be a good idea to kill off everything, then introduce my own bugs? Should I dump in 5 gallons of Starsan to get the surface sanitized? Should I just not worry about it and just take it inside and just get it filled as soon as I can?

I have a whole bunch of other solera questions, so thanks in advance for the help!

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Old 07-06-2012, 03:57 PM   #2
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Google The Mad Fermentationist. He has done Solera ferments. He has a great site with alot of information about sours and the process.

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Old 07-06-2012, 04:04 PM   #3
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Thanks for the tip. I spent last weekend reading thru his entire blog. So much great info. He didn't really get in to too much about preparing his barrel, since it sounded like it was already hydrated and didn't have too much time to pick up nasties.

I've read all sorts of other conflicting info about needing to sulphur, using starsan or just rinsing it out. Since mine has been sitting and needed to be totally rehydrated, I wasn't sure what the best course of action was. Thanks!

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Old 07-06-2012, 04:41 PM   #4
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DM directly here to find out how he does his barrels. His username is OldSock

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Old 07-06-2012, 06:24 PM   #5
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If it's been sitting dry for three years I don't know if it's a good option for beer. Do you know how it was stored or treated after it was emptied? I'd be concerned that it didn't get properly dried out or treated and you may have some nasty mold growth in the wood. Even if you can kill off the mold it might have left behind some nasty off flavors. If the barrel ended up with some water in it there might be some rot inside.

I believe Wild Ales has a section in the back about preparing a barrel.

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Old 07-06-2012, 08:31 PM   #6
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Thanks for the advice. The guy I bought them from said he orders a semi truck full and stores them in a temp controlled warehouse, but who knows what they went thru before they got to him. They hydrated quickly and have no big leaks. They smell great - tons of oak, red wine and a little vinegar. The vinegar smell pretty much went away after they were rinsed. Based on some additional research it seems best to sulphur them, just to kill off as much as possible.

Other than taking the head off, is there any good way to look down inside them to check for mold? I'd be afraid I'd never get it to seal right again if I started taking it apart.

Thanks again for the advice! I'll have to go back thru that book again.

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Old 07-06-2012, 08:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillacandy
Thanks for the advice. The guy I bought them from said he orders a semi truck full and stores them in a temp controlled warehouse, but who knows what they went thru before they got to him. They hydrated quickly and have no big leaks. They smell great - tons of oak, red wine and a little vinegar. The vinegar smell pretty much went away after they were rinsed. Based on some additional research it seems best to sulphur them, just to kill off as much as possible.

Other than taking the head off, is there any good way to look down inside them to check for mold? I'd be afraid I'd never get it to seal right again if I started taking it apart.

Thanks again for the advice! I'll have to go back thru that book again.
I'd personally take the head off to see. I just finished wild brews and it is pretty thorough on the cleaning process. I've never inspected a barrel, but (if you actually have one -- I dont) you could hang one of those ice fishing cameras down the hole while trying to light the inside enough to see something.

Sorry I cannot be much help.
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Old 07-06-2012, 10:11 PM   #8
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Vinegar smell, even if it rinses out, usually means actobacteria are present. You won't be able to kill it off and if there is alot of it you might end up with malt vinegar instead of beer.

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Old 07-06-2012, 10:21 PM   #9
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Hmmm... I don't like the sound of 60 gallons of malt vinegar. I need to get a second nose over here to take a sniff and see if they can detect vinegar. I just opened a bottle of cabernet sauvigion to add to some oak chips for another batch, and the smells are pretty close (wine and barrels).

Thanks again for all the advice!

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Old 07-07-2012, 05:24 AM   #10
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Even if you wash out the vinegar smell that doesn't mean the acetobacter is gone.

Acetobacter is everywhere, like lacto and numerous other groups of bacteria, so it's not the end of the world if it's there. It probably got there just by nature of being exposed during emptying and sitting full of oxygen. Burning sulfur inside would probably take care of it.

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